Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Kirsten McGill pets Amelia during a meet-and-greet while going through the adoption process at McKamey Animal Center on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. McKamey is currently at full capacity and has started an adoption event that runs through the end of August.

Many animal shelters cleared their kennels this past spring when pandemic lockdowns left people with more time for pets and an increased desire for companionship. But not even the coronavirus could slow down kitten season.

This week, Chattanooga's two largest animal welfare agencies reported they are awash in cats and dogs — especially cats — and are ramping up adoption efforts.

"It is peak season," said Mindy Kolin, director of development and external relations for McKamey Animal Center, referencing the most prolific breeding time for cats, lasting from early spring to late fall.

For McKamey, the unexpected influx of people looking to adopt or foster animals was "a positive impact in all that chaos at the beginning" of the pandemic, Kolin said.

"In April and May, and even June, we couldn't keep an animal in the building," she said. "But with schools opening up and many people back at work, [adoptions and fosters] are slowing down."

Learn more

* Humane Educational Society, 212 N. Highland Park Ave. Open noon-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday (all shelter visits are by appointment only). 423-624-5302,

* McKamey Animal Center, 4500 N. Access Road. Adoption Center open 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, Friday; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday (all shelter visits are by appointment only). 423-305-6500, ext. 100;


It's a similar story at the Humane Educational Society. When lockdowns began, "we had a ton of people step up to foster animals," leaving "maybe five cats and a handful of dogs," said Taylor Hixson, director of fundraising and special events.

"Now there are hundreds of kittens coming into the shelter," she said. "Literally hundreds. It's a cute nightmare."

Both agencies are taking part in a nationwide adoption campaign known as Clear The Shelters. The August ritual, now in its sixth year, is spearheaded by NBC and Telemundo television stations and Hill's pet food. Usually, the campaign lasts a single day at the end of August. This year, because of coronavirus restrictions, the effort is taking place all month.

McKamey is offering adoption specials for the remainder of August, ending with a 12-hour adoption blitz from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29. An appointment is necessary at all times to enter the building.

Adoption specials this month include two-for-one cats/kittens at $10, $35 dog adoptions, $30 for senior animals and $40 for pigs. All adoptions (excluding pigs) include spay/neuter, vaccinations, parasite prevention and microchip.

Did you know?

* The average number of litters a fertile cat produces is one to two a year, with the average litter bearing four to six kittens.

* An average dog produces one litter a year with four to six puppies.

* Female cats usually become sexually mature between 5 and 9 months of age.

* Depending on the breed, dogs can reach sexual maturity as early as 6 months old.



To see the more than 150 available animals and schedule an adoption appointment, visit Kolin said the application does not guarantee adoption or a specific animal, but it does start the process.

The Humane Educational Society also is offering a reduced adoption rate of $25 for all cats and for any dog that has been on site for more than two months. Rates include spay/neuter, microchip, tests and vaccines. More than 300 kittens are available, and 50 to 60 dogs, Taylor said. To learn more, visit

Also, through midnight Sunday, Aug. 23, HES and McKamey are included in a national effort soliciting donations for animal shelters through the website. The full donation will go to the designated shelter, and the 10 shelters that rack up the most individual transactions will receive $10,000 worth of Heartgard products.

Email Lisa Denton at

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Kitten season in Chattanooga