Wednesday, October 27th, 2021

P Shopper Columns


Every spring, orphaned kittens flood animal shelters in an overwhelming tidal wave. Kittens under four weeks old must be bottle-fed every few hours just to keep them alive. Most shelters and rescues lack the staff and resources to support such vulnerable felines, making kitten season one of the most challenging times of the year. This is when everyday people become life-saving heroes! Foster homes prevent shelters from running out of space and allow kittens to get stronger in a healthier environment.

When kittens are found outdoors, our instinct is to help them right away. Kittens born outdoors face numerous dangers, from cars, disease, and predation to battling starvation and the elements. But their biggest threat is being separated from their mother. Waiting to see if the mother cat is around gives kittens the best chance of survival. The most positive outcome is when the entire family can be humanely caught and sterilized. Cats can reproduce litter after litter without stopping. Spaying the mom is just as important as helping the kittens-so dozens more kittens don't follow.

Many people don't realize
neonatal kittens are
one of the most at-risk populations
in animal shelters.

So how do you get involved? Think about how many kittens you're willing to take and how long you want to have them. Will you be available every two to three hours-including overnight-to bottle-feed them, or would you prefer kittens that can eat on their own? Can you take a nursing mom? Decide where you want to keep them: a small room with few places kittens can access works best. Some facilities might offer to loan a large wire dog crate so that you can keep the kittens in one area more easily.

Once you know what kind of commitment you're ready to make, get in touch with your local animal shelter. Most foster programs include any supplies and training you would need. You provide the most valuable tools of all-your time, support, and compassion. Many people don't realize neonatal kittens are one of the most at-risk populations in animal shelters. The diligent care they require may sound taxing, but it's worth every second when you think of what's at stake. With a little support during those crucial first few weeks, fostering gives these kittens their entire lives.

Breonna Loxley is an animal care technician at an animal shelter. She is an avid artist, writer, and animal-lover. She lives with her parents, a younger brother, two cats, and one dog.