Foster homes are urgently needed to help an animal shelter cope with a bumper crop of cats.
Forecasts of a cat tsunami due to Covid-19 lockdowns - where feral cats had bred like no one was watching - has the local SPCA shelter on high alert.
Cats that would normally have been brought into the shelter and desexed had multiplied during lockdown.
SPCA centre manager Margie Weddell said they were just coming into the busy season, between now and June next year, and they were bracing for record numbers.
Each year the SPCA in Levin managed to desex and rehome between 200-250 cats, euthanising around 6 per cent.
Weddell said already their cat numbers were increasing. Every day last week a litter of kittens had been dropped off at the Levin shelter - three on Thursday.
"We just need homes for them," she said.
"We rehome every possible animal we can."
Weddell said while their staff of four looked after and rehomed all animals, it was mostly cats they were dealing with.
Some cats, like 13-year-old Berta, were pre-loved. Her owners had gone into a home themselves and had to give her up for adoption.
"Once they bond they are the smootchiest of pets," she said.
SPCA's nationwide were urgently seeking new foster volunteer homes. Pregnant cats and kittens were already streaming into SPCA centres around the country, with some centres like Levin seeing a record number of newborns compared to previous years.
SPCA chief executive Andrea Midgen says it's an early glimpse of what's to come and is asking people who can temporarily care for an animal to please consider fostering.
"We've already had an influx of newborn kittens and right now it feels like we're standing on the beach watching the tide go out while we wait for the tsunami to hit," she said.
"We know we're going to need as many foster volunteers as possible this summer, so that we can have the space in our centres to help as many of these vulnerable animals as we can."
Midgen said research showed welfare outcomes were better for animals that spend time in a home environment, rather than shelters.
SPCA's foster parents provided a temporary home for animals that need additional care, treatment or socialisation, before they're ready to be desexed and put up for adoption.
All food, medication and equipment are provided for the duration of the animals' stay, as well as free vet care, training and ongoing support.
SPCA is especially on the lookout for people that could commit to fostering kittens, which need special care due to their age and size and required bottle feeding every few hours.
While fostering newborn kittens might feel a bit like caring for a newborn baby with the demanding feeding routines, it was rewarding to watch them grow, she said.
SPCA had hundreds of other animals that required foster homes, too. With many New Zealanders working from home and spending more time in their bubbles, there's never been a better time to foster.
"Anyone who's spent time with animals will know just how comforting it can be to hear a kitten purr or to pat a dog, and fostering is a great way to experience this companionship without the long-term commitment of adopting," she said.
Many of the animals arriving at SPCA centres have been born without homes as a result of unplanned litters.
Desexing, which is the surgical removal of part of an animals' reproductive system, prevented unplanned litters and protects the parents from a variety of health issues.
SPCA recently experienced its longest kitten season ever and is expecting an even busier season this summer, in part due to desexing being put on hold or reduced during Covid-19 lockdowns.
"Desexing is the single most powerful tool we have for reducing the number of unwanted and stray animals in our communities, and I'm asking owners to please, please desex their pets as soon as possible, so that no animal is born without a home," she said.
All SPCA foster parents received training and ongoing support. All food, bedding, toys and everything else to make the animals comfortable is supplied.
Anyone interested in becoming a foster volunteer could apply via the SPCA website.