HANCOCK COUNTY — It’s officially “kitten season,” according to local animal rescue groups — the peak time of year for litters of kittens to be born.
That means many local shelters and foster homes are overrun with adorable little furballs, hoping that animal lovers will come forward to provide them as well as older animals with loving homes.
“This is a very busy time of year. These past two weeks we have taken in four different litters of kittens,” said Renee Schmidt, board president for the Partners for Animal Welfare Society in Greenfield.
At the start of June, the animal rescue was fostering about 30 animals, mostly kittens.
From May 25-30, Greenfield-Hancock Animal Management waived the adoption fee to ease overcrowding at the county’s animal shelter, which could have led to animals being euthanized.
“We are very small here where we’re at now, so the numbers we started with are actually a lot for us with what we can humanely hold. The adoptions and fosters made space enough that we did not have to euthanize any animal for space reasons,” said the department’s director, Amanda Dehoney.
The shelter started out with 21 cats and 16 dogs at the start of the free adoption event, which reduced the number of animals in the shelter by 27%.
“We wish they all would have been adopted, but adoptions are super slow and down tremendously, so we were happy that at least 10 animals left,” Dehoney said.
One of the ten is now living his best life on a sunny glassed-in patio overlooking a lake in Greenfield, where his new owner, Joy Pope, spoils him rotten with treats and belly rubs.
When her last furry sidekick — a reclusive but lovable cat named Lilly — died unexpectedly on May 21, Pope quickly realized that nothing would heal her broken heart quite like finding another pet to love.
Her family suggested she wait at least a month, but she convinced her daughter-in-law to visit the county animal shelter with her a week later “just to look.”
They came up with Pope’s new best friend — a 1-year-old gray striped tabby.
While she saw a number of cats at the shelter that day, Pope said it was love at first sight when she saw the affectionage gray cat she renamed Ash.
“He would just rub up against the front of his cage and want to be loved on. I took him in the visitation room and I thought, ‘This is it, this is the one for me,’” she said.
While she was thrilled to bring Ash home that day, Pope was also happy to help free up space at the shelter, which is temporarily located in a former veterinary office at 2195 W U.S. 40.
Space is especially cramped during construction of the county’s new animal shelter, which Dehoney said is slated to open in August or September.
Pope said finding Ash has been life-changing, healing her broken heart after her cat Lilly died.
“He is just the sweetest thing,” she said, as her new little buddy rolled onto his back and stretched, seeking out another belly rub.
An online search led her to Ash, as well as a number of kittens available through local rescues like PAWS, the Hancock County Humane Society, Frenzy Rescue, and Canine Castaways.
“It was love at first sight when I saw Ash, and I think he kind of liked me too,” Pope said. “I knew I wanted to take him and and give him a home and spoil him.”
Heather White, a longtime volunteer with the Hancock County Humane Society, said she’s thankful for people like Pope who give deserving pets a good home. Shelters and foster homes are especially full of adoptable pets this time of year, she said.
“May through August tend to be our busiest time,” said White, adding that the shelter typically stays at capacity in June and July.
“We are currently caring for 54 cats and kittens, including three nursing mamas and litters,” she said on June 1. “We have 22 animals that are available for adoption, and we have 21 kittens that will be available for adoption as soon as they are old enough.”
The Hancock County Humane Society — located in a glass-front building at 214 E. Main St. in Greenfield, where cats and kittens can be seen snoozing and playing inside — is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year.
The nonprofit has two events planned this month to fund-raise and celebrate — a Feline Fun Run 5K on June 11 and a Paint Your Pet event on June 18.
The Feline Fun Run is being organized as an Eagle Scout project by Matthew Hentz, who aims to raise awareness for the humane society.
The non-competitive, untimed event is for runners, walkers and anything in between, said Poncar, a humane society volunteer.
The pet-friendly race starts and ends at Depot Street Park in Greenfield, with registration from 7:30-8 a.m. In lieu of an entry fee, a free will donations for the humane society will be accepted at registration.
On June 18, the humane society will host a Paint Your Pet event at Scarlet Lane Brewery in McCordsville, where artist Zach Lowe helps people paint replicas of photos of their pets.
“Participants email Zach a few photos of their pet prior to the event, and he’ll sketch it out on a canvas. You don’t need any painting talent,” said Poncar. “Zach will bring all materials needed and will be on hand to assist painters.”
Tickets must be purchased in advance for $45, $25 of which is donated to the humane society. Sessions start at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
For more information, visit HancockCountyHumaneSociety.org.