This family weren’t planning any new pets, but this summer they have a new cat and five kittens in their house.

It started with a scraggy old feral tom cat in their back garden. He used to turn up in the evening, skulking around the place, and they felt sorry for him, giving him a bowl of food. He was a true feral cat, refusing to allow anyone to come close to him. One night, a few months ago, the old tom cat brought a young female cat with him: he let her share his dinner. She was more friendly than the tom cat, staying around in the daytime, and coming into the house.

Over a few weeks, the girls noticed that the female cat, now named Pikachu, was getting fatter, and it was soon obvious that she was pregnant. At the same time, she became friendlier, allowing them to pet her. They knew that she’d soon produce kittens, so they set up a kittening box for her in the main living area of the house, following directions that they’d found online. She liked the box, sleeping in it every night, and a few weeks later, they came downstairs one morning to find her lying purring in the box beside five newborn kittens.

At first she seemed contented, proudly showing off her babies to the family, but two days later, they all vanished overnight. When Holly and Lia came downstairs one morning, the kittening box was empty. They couldn’t understand how this had happened: the doors and windows were shut. Had Pikachu found a hidden exit? They searched everywhere for her, and eventually, they discovered that she’d made herself a new secret nest for herself and the kittens, invisibly tucked in between the television and a chest of drawers. It was clear that she was telling them that she wanted to rear her kittens in peace, away from the busy hub of the family home.

A new room was set up to be a quieter base for Pikachu and her new family, with the kittening box, toys and food bowls. They settled into this well, and the kittens grew rapidly. The five kittens have had plenty of human contact since the day they were born, so they’re well socialised, and they’ll go on to become friendly, playful adult cats. Holly and Lia have decided to keep three of them, rehoming the two others to a friend.

Holly and Lia have learned a lot about cats and kittens over the past few months. In particular, they’ve been astonished at the high number of kittens that are around in Ireland. Cats are seasonal breeders, with more kittens being born in the early summer than at other times of the year. Kittens are ready to go to their new homes when they are two or three months of age, and this means that in July, August and September, there’s a massive glut of unwanted kittens. It can be almost impossible to find new owners for them, and many end up as homeless waifs, fending for themselves, and turning into feral cats as they grow older. They end up having short, miserable lives, without proper feeding and with no-one to care for them if they fall ill.

The family¬†have already had Pikachu spayed, so she won’t produce any more kittens. But they have asked me to send an important message to other cat owners: don’t let your cat have kittens. There are far too many already.

Tips

  • There’s a peak of kittens born in the early summer every year
  • If ¬†you want a new kitten, the late summer is a good time to find one
  • Female cats should be spayed by six months of age to avoid unwanted kittens