By KRISTEN LANE
It Happens Every Year
Every year, beginning in springtime, the Western PA Humane Society as well as other shelters across the country experience a steady stream of Good Samaritans bringing in hundreds of homeless kittens. This phenomenon known as “Kitten Season” occurs when un-spayed cats mate and give birth. And it’s not just one litter per cat. Many cats have two or more litters. A number of their kittens also will give birth, because cats as young as five months can become pregnant.
Throughout Kitten Season our shelter staff works very hard to find homes for all these kittens. Imagine how much work it is to feed and care for hundreds of kittens in addition to all the dogs, bunnies, and other small animals already being housed! This presents a huge financial burden on the shelter in terms of space and resources.
A Serious Problem
The Western PA Humane Society usually accepts all kittens weighing at least a pound. At that weight kittens generally begin eating on their own. However, many of the kittens brought to the shelter during Kitten Season weigh less than a pound and the shelter simply doesn’t have enough staff to physically bottle feed all those kittens. Too young to be vaccinated, these tiny babies cannot be placed with the rest of the cat population due to the risk of contracting and spreading disease. Space to safely house these fragile newborns is quickly overcrowded.
How You Can Help
The Western PA Humane Society is reaching out to the community to recruit loving, dedicated foster parents to nurture and care for these young kittens until they grow to the appropriate size/age to be returned to the shelter for adoption. Do you have what it takes to foster a litter of kittens? If you are willing to bottle feed every two hours, stimulate the kittens so they eliminate, and keep them constantly warm, you may be the perfect candidate. The Western PA Humane Society will train you and provide all the information you need to give these kittens a chance.
Before you say yes, you have to be prepared for disappointment. While it’s rewarding to care for tiny kittens, the sad reality is that a high percentage will not survive. Even while being cared for by their mothers, approximately 20% of kittens fail to thrive, so it’s understandable that motherless kittens can be at higher risk for mortality. However, the Western PA Humane Society has found that fostering saves more kittens than are lost.
For more details on becoming a foster parent, please visit wpahumane.org/foster-services, or call Foster Services at 412-321-4625 ext. 9.
And, finally, please spread the word on the value of spaying and neutering. If more owners spayed/neutered their cats, the problems that Kitten Season brings could be greatly reduced.
Other Ways to Foster
If caring for tiny kittens is not the right fit for you, please consider fostering some of our other animals. The Western PA Humane Society desperately needs the help of compassionate, kindhearted volunteers to foster:
- Cats with upper respiratory infections that need to be separated from healthy cats until they recover
- Dogs and cats who need behavioral training
- Dogs who need a break from the kennel routines
- Senior animals with physical limitations
Photo credit: Western PA Humane Society