Southern California's animal shelters are preparing for the annual spring increase in the number of kittens brought in from the streets.
- Read: Pet Adoption Agencies
"The shelters have a term and we call that kitten season," Jan Selder, director of operations for LA Animal Services told NBC4.
- Download: NBCLA Mobile App
People discover litters of baby cats on the streets and take them to shelters, hoping they will find a home.
"People find them either in bushes or they forget to spay their and cat and don't want to keep the kittens," Selder said. "They're worried about them being on the streets so they bring them to a shelter in boxes and carriers and we get overwhelmed."
Without the resources to take care of all of them, shelters are forced to euthanize many of the baby cats they receive.
- Photos: Adorable Zoo Babies
"Our biggest challenge is we're really trying to be no kill in the city of Los Angeles," Selder said. "So our biggest challenge is how do we find someone to take these kittens and help us raise them. We can't do it if the numbers are too high."
From July 2009 to January 2014, LA Animal Services was forced to put down 28,124 unweaned kittens. During that same timespan just 3,953 kittens were adopted.
Nationally, half of the 40 million feral kittens born this year will die, Becky Robinson, president of Alley Cat Allies, told the Associated Press.
According to Selder, this is a problem that people have created by not spaying and neutering their pets.
"It really does start in your neighborhood and your community," Selder said. "If you do have a pet cat make sure you keep it inside. That's the safest place for it to be. And the shelter offers all kinds of programs for fixing cats for free."
To combat the issue, some shelters have opened 24-hour facilities. The Best Friends Animal Society runs a round-the-clock, 100-kitten nursery at a no-kill shelter in Mission Hills. They need volunteers to bottle-feed the kittens, clean cages, prepare food and help socialize the animals so they can be ready for adoption.
At this time the nursery is full, Marc Peralta, executive director of the group’s Los Angeles chapter, told the Associated Press. Peralta said volunteers are needed to keep the kittens cared for 24-hours a day.
"They have to be fed every two hours and if there is no mom to feed them we have foster volunteers," Selder said. "We contact them to come pick up the kittens and with bottle and special kitten formula, they take care of them for us until they're old enough to adopt."
The feral kittens cannot be spayed or neutered until they are at least 2 pounds, which is when they become most adoptable.
Due to a mild Winter more cats were able to roam around freely and become pregnant at higher rates. This means shelters can expect a particularly big kitten season.
"We suspect that that this kitten season, which runs from April to September, to be pretty bad," Selder said. "We expect to take in nine to ten thousand kittens in just a single season."
For those interested in volunteering, visit the LA Animal Services website to find out about fostering and other ways to help.