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Kitten Season is Starting Again: What you Need to Know

The Cat Distribution System is at an all-time high.

Read on to learn how you can get involved this kitten season. Credit: Shutterstock/ChocoPie

As the warm sunshine and fluffy clouds of spring settle in, chances are more cats may pop up in neighborhoods for the next 7 months. You might also notice more TikToks under “#CatDistributionSystem,” a trend with over 800 million views. At the same time, animal rescuers and shelters are overwhelmed with homeless cats and preparing for the inevitable flood of kittens this year.

What is the Cat Distribution System? This phenomenon is known for cats “choosing” their owners and people randomly discovering strays, or multiple cats as they go about their day.

Stray and feral cats are very common in New York City but maybe you’re feeling unlucky if the Cat Distribution System never “chose” you. Perhaps you want to add Aoshima, Japan’s largest cat island, to your travel bucket list. But on a smaller scale, visiting cats at your local shelters and rescues is a great start too.

For New York City, animal rescuers and shelters consistently face this never-ending system, which is even higher during kitten season.

What is “Kitten Season?”

This may sound like the world’s cutest festival of precious palm-sized tigers and panthers. However, “Kitten Season” refers to the warmer months when cats mate and the birth rate of kittens is higher than usual.

From March to October, mom cats, some as young as four months old, can have as many as six kittens every two to three months.

But what’s wrong with kittens being born?

Homeless cats face many hardships in the outdoors. Food is scarce, diseases are easily spread between other animals, the dangers of passing cars, exposure to toxins and struggling to find warm shelter on cold, rainy or snowy days all factor into the lives of these fragile kittens.

Additionally, emergency vet bills can cost thousands of dollars, something animal rescuers like Samantha Knox are all too familiar with.

A colony of community cats and kittens in Queens. Credit: Priya Thakur

Kitten Season in New York City

From sleepy bodega cats to hungry colonies in neighborhoods, New York City already has an overpopulated cat problem. There are reportedly half a million cats that don’t have a place to call home.

These growing colonies affect the smaller hoods of Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx where there are little-to-no affordable resources to help community cats. Often, volunteers and non-profit rescue groups step in to save cats and pay out-of-pocket for medical and food expenses.

Rescuers may find cats and kittens in backyards or underneath cars, but also in unimaginable spaces like highways, hoarding houses, dumpsters, abandoned lots and more.

At the height of kitten season in July 2023, NYC’s largest animal shelter became overwhelmed with more than 200 surrendered cats past their intake.

Alternatively, rescued cats find temporary homes in independently-owned shelters, cat cafés and foster homes. Organizations like PuppyKittyNYC, Koneko and MeowSquad cover spay and neuter, vaccinations, food and other specialized care until they are adopted.

If fostering or adopting isn’t an option, cat rescuers advocate Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) to combat the overpopulation crisis in NYC. This method prevents community cats from conceiving more kittens by fixing and returning them to their familiar colony.

Cats looking into a rescue trap outside.
Animal rescuers use humane wire mesh cage traps with food to lure cats for TNR. Credit: Shutterstock/Bykofoto

Sam’s world of Itty Bitty Kitties

“The projects have a problem.”

From Beach 12 to Beach 83rd Street in Far Rockaway, Queens, approximately 750 domestic felines are regular dining customers. Samantha (Sam) Knox oversees these five colonies with food alongside lower-income resident feeders every month.

“Working with the feeders, we come up with plans to take care of groups of cats,” said Knox about TNR’ing them. “If they’re feral cats, my whole commitment to them is making sure they get their surgery, they recover and they go back.”

More than managing outdoor colonies, Knox is the director of Itty Bitty City Kitties, a non-profit rescue organization in Rockaway Beach. Founded in 2020, they specialize in caring for neonatal infant kittens and their mothers.

At the peak of kitten season last year, Knox fostered 38 kittens from July to August. “It was bonkers,” she said. The cats ranged from newborns to 16 weeks to a few mom and adult cats.

All three of Knox’s incubators were full of litters in July 2023. Credit: Samantha Knox

On the artistically cat-ified second floor of her two-family house, Knox transformed three bedrooms for her fosters: an isolation room for high medical needs, a neonatal room with incubators and a cozy playpen, and a big nursery room for the ideal cat enrichment.

Knox braces for this year’s kitten season expecting to bottle-feed newborns every two hours all over again. “I probably pull like 30 neonatal kittens during the kitten season here from ACC,” she said.

As a New Hope Partner, she specializes in neonates, mom cats and difficult kittens. Not to mention, the numerous phone calls of people finding kittens.

“I get tons of ‘there are kittens in a bush,’ ‘there’s kittens in a car,’ ‘there’s kittens at my barbecue,” Knox said.

Itty Bitty City Kitties. Credit: Samantha Knox

Helping kittens her entire life, Knox encourages others to foster from shelters and rescues.

“If you’re willing to open your home to this cat that’s terrified, but we can save it, be a foster,” she said. “If there were more fosters, more cats can come off the street.”

5 ways you can get involved

There are always kittens looking for homes. Credit: Shutterstock/IMG Stock Studio

Kittens are everywhere and require a lot of work to care for, needing our help. If you’d like to give them a happier life, here’s how to help out in your community this kitten season:


When committing to a life-long furbaby, adopting is the best way for cats to thrive in their forever home. Adopting saves lives and cats make the purrfect companion as you discover their vibrant personalities.

Fun fact: Did you know it’s easier to have two kittens instead of one?

Can’t adopt? Foster

Fostering is a great alternative if you’re unsure about committing or don’t have the financials to care for a pet.

However, these curious kitties will still have a home with you temporarily. Your job is to make sure the kittens are routinely fed, cleaned, socialized and get lots of love.

Organizations will train you, provide supplies and cover medical expenses.

Volunteer at your local shelter

Rescue organizations always need an extra set of hands to help feed, play, clean and more to make their shelter run smoothly. If you have the spare time, why not go hang out with some cats?

Tip: Use social media to find your local rescues.

Educate yourself

Check out Neighborhood Cats, Flatbush Cats and the Community Cats Podcast to learn how to care for cats and newborn kittens. You can even learn how to TNR yourself by attending virtual events.


Knox said it best, “If everybody sent five dollars a month to their local rescue, we would all be okay. Skip the Starbucks and save a kitten.”

Rescuers could really use the help that city officials fail to give them.

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Written By

I'm Priya, a recent graduate from CUNY Baruch College with a B.A. in Journalism. Currently a "Life" intern at Trill Mag & a Magazine Editorial intern at the New York Review of Books. I love writing, cats, The Weeknd, french fries, colorful pants and creating stickers!

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