The other day, a young tortoiseshell kitten, around seven- or eight-months-old, mewed from my neighbor’s yard. I had not seen this cat before, but I have new neighbors renting the place next door, and so wasn’t sure if this was their family cat or a stray cat.
Whichever it was, I could tell the family loved this cat very much. I have a side deck on my place where I sit outside in the morning with my dog. It overlooks my neighbor’s front porch, and recently I overheard my neighbor saying, “Hey Turbo, you’re back.” That was my first clue this cat might not belong to her. The second clue was that tortoiseshell cats are always female, and she had given this cat what I considered to be a boy’s name. (Of course, someone can definitely name their female cat Turbo, so it was just a hunch at that point.)
The next chance I got, I found out from the woman that the cat had followed her home one day, and she had started feeding it. I told her she was a nice person, casually mentioned the cat was female and explained how I knew that little detail, so she would know my interest in her cat. Then I asked her if she planned to keep the cat, and that I would help with getting the cat fixed. She said she wasn’t sure what she was going to do. She already had two dogs and one cat in the house and the landlord would not allow anymore.
I took this comment as my segue to explain that cats can get pregnant as young as five-months-old and that she – or by extension of being her neighbor – we – could have kittens running around in less than 60 days (which most likely would not please the landlord). In fact, there was a good chance the kitten was already pregnant. “How can that be? she asked. This cat still looks like a baby.”
Educating people about when cats can get pregnant is always tough because it’s hard for them to fathom kittens having kittens. But kittens can go into heat as early as five months old and have their first litter of kittens by seven-months-old. Because they can get pregnant quickly, this cat could literally have two more litters in a six month period, potentially adding about 15 more kittens to the neighborhood.
Rather than pressure her to get the cat fixed, I told her I had access to free spay-neuter (I do not, but thought it might expect the process if she thought it wasn’t going to cost her anything) and that I would be willing to take her kitten to get her fixed for her. I explained if she wanted to keep the cat for herself and take the cat with her when she moved, I would get the cat fixed as a pet cat. If she wanted to care for the cat but didn’t plan to take care of the cat when she moved, I would have her fixed as a feral cat, so she would be ear-tipped and the other neighbors would know the cat didn’t belong to anyone and was fixed. She agreed to talk to her sister and get back to me on which route they would take. Either way, my goal was to get this cat fixed as soon as possible.
If you know someone who is feeding an outdoor cat or kitten, thank them for their kindness. But be sure to talk to them about getting that cat fixed soon. Otherwise, it won’t take long for the neighborhood to suddenly be full of kittens who will all also quickly be five-months-old.