Kittens, kittens, kittens!

That wonderful feeling when my R-code can help the local animal shelter with their hundreds of kittens.

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Fostering kittens to health and to a safe home; getting as many as possible of the street and neutered

I have been monitoring the number of foster kittens in our local animal shelter for 4 years in a row now, keeping track of how many come in and go out. While it’s impossible to predict exactly how many and when they will come in, it’s clear that there is a strong seasonality to the kittens: by May it takes off with the first bottle-feeders, and things rapidly accumulate till mid July, when around 100 foster cuties at the same time are being nursed towards a good home.

Number of kittens fostered on each day of the year by the foster parents of the animal shelter, from 2018 to 2021

But then there was last year, 2020 (the red line in the curve above), a year we all know as quite unique, with a global pandemic keeping everyone at home. A year that was different in many aspects and, turns out, also in its foster kittens: the peak stayed out, with number of kittens in the shelter around 60 throughout the whole summer.

Our hypotheses? Either 1) the animal shelter was actually winning the fight against the feral cats, and numbers of kittens would go down further, or 2) kittens were there in 2020, but there was nobody to find them and bring them in, due to that wretched pandemic.

Cute and off the streets, that’s how we love our kittens

The important consequence of those very different hypotheses? When preparing for the summer of 2021, we needed to know how many foster parents would be needed. Basically: fewer (in case of hypothesis 1) or more (in case of 2).

We thus decided to keep very close track of the numbers, using the nice little graph above, that I could update repeatedly. In early May we already started to see the first signs: the black line was peaking upwards faster than it’s red precessor. That’s when the red flags already started to go off: we were likely heading for scenario 2) and had to bring in a lot more help: a massive flood of kittens, as all those unchecked feral cats from last year had started breeding.

Now, mid August, the second hypothesis is clearly confirmed: we are already 25% above the summer peaks from last year, and the foster families are scrambling to keep up. The global pandemic indeed left its footprint on our data for two years in a row

Luckily we came into the year hypothesis- and data-based, as now we were a lot better prepared and ready to react quickly!

If you run out of human foster parents, get the animal ones on board!

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