‘Tis the [Kitten] Season

Kitten - tabbyLos Angeles had a warm winter, which means one thing: an early start to kitten season. The little balls of fur are beginning to find their way into shelters and into our kitten nursery, foreshadowing a long, fur-filled spring and summer.

Perhaps surprisingly, the population with the highest rate of euthanasia in shelters is under-aged kittens (under 8 weeks old). By a lot. The reason for this is that 1) there are a lot of them – unlike owners who keep unneutered or unspayed dogs, owners with unneutered or unspayed cats still allow them to wander outside unsupervised, pretty much guaranteeing unwanted litters of kittens. And 2) under-aged kittens need round-the-clock care (depending on their age) and have fragile immune systems. Most shelters aren’t able to care for them, and often have no or very few foster homes able to care for them, so oftentimes euthanasia is the more humane option.

Thus, having resources to save under-aged kittens is absolutely necessary in order to even come close to being no-kill*.

[*For the purpose of this discussion, I’m considering “no-kill” to mean that at least 90% of animals that enter a shelter make it out alive. We can get into a “no-kill” definition discussion at a later time – it’s an interesting one!.]

The Best Nursery in Town

Best Friends Animal Society – Los Angeles has an on-site kitten nursery, complete with four incubators (for kittens under 1 month old), cages for the slightly older bottle babies, a gruel room for kittens mostly eating on their own, and a Mommy & Me suite for mamma cats and her babies. (By far the easiest kittens to take care of are the ones with their mom. Take care of the mom, and she does all the work with the kittens!)

Kitten - whiteLast year, Best Friends LA rescued over 1500 kittens, and this year, we plan to save 1800. And they’re already pouring in – the last week has seen over 20 kittens, all less than 1 month old. Bottle feeding “incu-babies” (the ones in the incubators) is done every 2 hours, while the slightly older kittens can be fed every 3 hours. The survival rate for kittens less than 2 weeks old (without their mom) is extremely low, even with the best care. But we give them the best chance possible.

The white kitten (pictured – right) was brought in with its three tabby siblings just a couple weeks ago. Unfortunately, only one tabby kitten remains, but she is doing well.

What to Do if You Find Kittens

If at all possible, keep the kittens with their mom. If you find kittens outside unattended, their mom might just be out hunting. (Especially if the kittens do not have their eyes open yet, they have a much better chance of survival with their mom, even outside!). Wait to see if the mom comes back, unless it is obvious that the kittens were abandoned by people (say, if you find them in a dumpster), or if the mom is deceased (if you see a female cat nearby that was hit by a car). If it is clear that there is no mom cat, you can try to bottle feed them yourself, or bring them to a no-kill shelter or rescue*. If there is a mom around, you can try to lure the mom cat inside with food and keep her confined to one room with her babies until they are at least 8 weeks old. Or, bring the mom and babies to your local shelter or rescue, if they are able to care for them.

[*This is not to say you should never bring them to a shelter that euthanizes – but be sure to understand whether or not the shelter will euthanize the kittens right away, or whether they have a foster home available or partner with a rescue that can take under-aged kittens. Once you know this information, use your best judgement.]

Kittens, Kittens Everywhere

All cats have it rough in shelters. Their survival rate (making it out of the doors and into a home) is still pretty low (often less than 50%). The best thing you can do, is make sure your cat is spayed or neutered. And of course, adopt your next cat instead of buying from a breeder. In the spring and summer months, there is no shortage of kittens in shelters! Some of the most loving, well-socialized kittens I know come out of the Best Friends LA kitten nursery, because they’ve been handled by many people every day since they were young.

A Tough, but Adorable Job

Sneaking into the kitten nursery to bottle-feed during downtime at the shelter is one of my favorite things to do. It can be difficult at times, since any given kitten may not make it, but it’s worth it to see the ones who do thrive finally make it into a new home!

Did I mention that they need round-the-clock care? You can volunteer at the Best Friends LA kitten nursery any time of day or night. We rely on hundreds of volunteers to keep the babies warm and full! Sign up here >>http://bfla.bestfriends.org/neonatal-kitten-program.html

kitten - black

The Cat Who Got Himself Adopted

This isn’t really my story, since I was a fairly passive participant in it—but it’s too good not to share. In fact, if I had been there for more of it, it very well may not have happened. So perhaps it’s just as well.

Jack the cat had decided that he was very well fed up with being in a shelter (even a nice one), so he took it upon himself to get adopted.

Several times a week, a few of the animals get taken on mobile adoptions. It’s a way for them to be seen in a shelter-less setting, to reach adopters who might not trek all the way up the valley to look at animals, and is a way to (cheaply) market the organization. The animals we take have to be fairly easy-going ones. Travel can be stressful, and often the dogs are going to be around other dogs, and the cats sometimes housed in large cages with another cat or two. The selection process is based on health and behavior, as well as overall adoptability.

Skittles the cat on the MAC at a previous mobile event.
Skittles the cat on the MAC at a previous mobile event.

So this past Friday, I went around selecting cats to go on Saturday’s mobile. The event was going to be on our MAC truck (Mobile Adoption Center), which is basically a giant trailer outfitted with cages and windows, so that people can see the animals inside. It’s a really nice unit, and the animals are housed individually, so they don’t necessarily have to get along. They only wanted six cats for Saturday (though they had space for eight) and I tried to make a good selection. I considered sending Jack, but he sometimes defecates in the carrier, so I didn’t want to stress him out.

Saturday morning came, and the adoption team that was working the mobile loaded up the cats. A couple of the cats were located in one of our free roam rooms, where multiple cats live, so they put down the carriers and looked for the right cats to load. Domingo was one of those cats and he was loaded into a carrier and they left, not knowing that Jack had already stuffed his large orange frame into that same carrier.

It wasn’t until they were transferring the cats into the MAC cages that Jack’s presence was discovered. (How they didn’t notice the carrier was absurdly heavy is a mystery, although loading up animals can be a bit hectic.) Since there were a couple extra cages, they decided to let Jack stay.

Jack the cat had taken himself on a mobile adoption.

It wasn’t until the afternoon that the cat team suddenly realized Jack’s absence at the shelter and were frantically trying to figure out where a very large cat may have disappeared to. When we thought to call the mobile team, knowing full well that Jack hadn’t been on the list to go, we were informed of Jack’s journey.

And that he had already been adopted.

Purrfect Picks: Xela

XelaNAME: XELA
AGE: 10 years old
GENDER: female (spayed)
DESCRIPTION: black and white short-haired MIXED breed

Xela is an unusual-looking older lady who, in any other shelter, might have been adopted ages ago. But she’s still with us at Best Friends Animal Society – Los Angeles and deserves a great home!

Xela is very sweet, calm and loves to lounge around. She’s not a huge fan of other cats, although she could probably tolerate living with another calm feline who gives her space. She has fur that needs to be brushed now and then, and she enjoys short brushing sessions. She only gets a little fussy around her hips and legs but gives you fair warning if she starts to get uncomfortable.

The staff at BFLA debate Xela’s breed, because she’s certainly more than just a domestic medium-hair. I think she’s part British short-hair, while others have said she’s part exotic, and still others think she might be part Persian (because of her slightly squished, round face). Who knows, but she’s certainly a cute cat!

Overall, Xela is a pretty healthy girl. She recently started some Cosequin for possible arthritis, which also means she may be a little older than ten (but who’s counting?). As with any older cat, an adopter should think about getting a bloodwork panel done just to be sure there’s no underlying condition.

Xela is one of my favorite cats, not only because of her beauty, but because she’s a mellow, gentle girl who can be picked up, and doesn’t require too much maintenance. She’s spent the day in our marketing office, and makes a wonderful office cat!

Xela has been at the shelter since May of 2013. This sweet girl deserves to be in a home where she can lounge in a sunny window and enjoy her golden years!

You can read Xela’s Petango profile here.

To adopt Xela, visit bestfriends.org/la.

>>>I am happy to report that my previous Purrfect Picks cat, Phantom, has been adopted!! Yay, Phantom!!