By Stephanie Nichols-Young, president of the Animal Defense League of Arizona

It’s kitten season in the Valley of the Sun. That means animal shelters will soon be overrun with kittens. There are some things that you can do to help alleviate the problem. If you have pet cats, please get them spayed or neutered right away. Even indoor cats can get outside and contribute to the problem.

If you don’t have pet cats, keep an eye out for any new cats in your yard or neighborhood and make sure they are fixed, too. You can tell if outdoor cats have been fixed by looking at their left ears. If the ears are flattened at the top, they have an ear-tip, the sign that the cat has been spayed or neutered.

Many first-time trappers succeed if they follow the Animal Defense League of Arizona’s instructions.

A Kitten Season Story of How Locals Can Help
Valley resident Larry noticed a skittish adult cat hanging around in his back yard. He contacted a local animal shelter and was referred to the Animal Defense League of Arizona’s Spay Neuter Hotline.

He learned about Trap, Neuter Return (“TNR”), the most humane and effective way to control the outdoor cat population and reduce neighborhood problems caused by yowling, fighting and spraying when cats are in breeding season. He followed instructions, fed the cat on a schedule, made an appointment to borrow a humane trap, and have the cat spay/neutered at a nearby clinic.

But he found a surprise when he was preparing to trap. The orange cat was a female and about six weeks earlier had a litter of kittens. The kittens were beginning to eat the food Larry put out for mom. After talking to a Spay Neuter Hotline Scheduler about this new development, Larry learned the kittens would be old enough to fix at two months when they weighed about two pounds.
He made an appointment for mom and the kittens. He spayed and released mom back in his yard. Two of the kittens were outgoing and met the two-pound limit for surgery. They got right into a shelter and were adopted in less than a day.

The other two kittens were a bit underweight for surgery and were shy. Larry had never had a pet, so just trapping mom was a bit out of his comfort zone. He didn’t know what to do with the two smaller kittens. Through word of mouth Larry found a volunteer who could foster the small kittens until they “made weight” for surgery and were ready to be adopted out to good homes. The volunteer was also able to work with the kittens so they came out of their shells. They also became tamer, liked to be petted and be around people. They used a litter box, one of the most important things to help get kittens permanently adopted. They also had a happy ending. They were adopted together into a loving home. The only thing better than a sweet, fixed kitten is two!

Where to Go for Help
The Animal Defense League of Arizona is a statewide animal protection organization and can help if you find yourself in a similar situation. Its largest program, the Spay Neuter Hotline, connects people to affordable and free spay/neuter services throughout the state and TNR’ed more than 150,000 cats in Maricopa County since 2009. To learn more, visit