For those who work in animal rescue, summer is more than the harbinger of baseball and barbecues — it brings the apex of the inevitable "kitten season," a deluge of felines at shelters everywhere.

"It's a nationwide problem — all the (shelters) fill up with cats," said Hilary Drake, volunteer coordinator for the Hayward Animal Shelter. "It gets really bad come right around now each year."

Kitten season is a natural phenomenon. When the weather turns warm, cats begin procreating, and the gestation period is about two months. Kitten season lasts about four months.

Whether the offspring of a domestic unspayed queen or a feral feline, the kittens are now getting big enough to end up at the shelter.

All told, the Hayward shelter has 110 cat and kitten cages, some of which contain two or three animals. Another couple dozen are at foster homes.

Shelter workers are hoping to unload some of their surplus this weekend at a special adoption event that will feature games, refreshments and educational programs, along with a showcase of the facility's cats, dogs and other animals.

Christina Gin, a Hayward shelter volunteer, said the facility is "busting at the seams with homeless pets." She has also seen kitten season getting longer, especially when the winter is mild and dry.

"Each year it seems to get worse and worse," said Gin, who also said she suspects kitten season is being augmented by global warming. "The last two months, it's been really popping."


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Shelter officials said they also have an abundance of dogs, which might be due in part to the collapse of the real estate market.

"It's because of all the darn foreclosures," said Gin. "A lot of the time when you lose a house and have to move into an apartment, you can take a cat with you, but a dog will need more space."

The shelter adoption event will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at 16 Barnes Court in Hayward. For more information, contact the shelter at 510-293-7200.

Reach Eric Kurhi at ekurhi@bayareanewsgroup.com or 510-293-2473.