SPCA preparing for what could be its busiest kitten season ever

The SPCA is preparing for what could be its busiest kitten season ever.

Centres throughout the country have already started to receive litters of newborn kittens, at least a month earlier than usual.

Adding to concern, de-sexing operations have been delayed - as they're not considered an essential service.

Three-week-old kittens couldn't be any cuter, but their early arrival has come as a shock.

"The kitten season has started abnormally early this year. Normally we get a little bit of a break between the end of the last season and the start of this season but we've already had a litter of neonates come into the centre which is so early," says Christchurch centre manager Natasha Sutton.

The SPCA says it could be down to a mild winter or as a result of last year's lockdown.

"Desexing, unfortunately not being an essential service, was halted over lockdowns, and so a lot of cats went un-desexed unfortunately," Sutton says.

"Potentially we're seeing the cats that weren't desexed last year having kittens this year."

This is leading to an explosion of kitten litters.

"These cats, they go out and breed and you know they can have a couple of litters a season," says SPCA CEO Andrea Midgen.

"We desexed 28,000 last year, you multiply that out and you're talking about a 160,000-odd extra kittens around the country."

Now the SPCA is asking the public to volunteer as foster parents to help.

"SPCA, along with many other rescues across the country, get inundated with these kittens. Working with that many numbers is not best for them to be in our centres," Midgen says.

And what better time than a lockdown?

"It's really good because you get all the joy of having animals in your home but not that long-term commitment," Midgen adds.

Kitten season is set to run through to June.