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We’re Expecting! New Nursery Will Help Curb Kitten Season

Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 12:00pm
ASPCA staff holding kitten

While most Americans are busting out the sunscreen, beach balls and barbeques in anticipation of summer, the ASPCA is preparing for a different kind of season: kitten season.

Sounds adorable, right? Unfortunately, there’s nothing cute about kitten season. It’s the time of year when felines begin to breed, flooding animal shelters across the country with homeless and newborn cats. It is a tremendous population explosion, and this year we’re expecting thousands of kittens to cross the threshold of the ASPCA Animal Hospital—all requiring round-the-clock care.

The seasonal influx of kittens is one reason why the ASPCA is opening a new facility near its 92nd Street Adoption Center in New York City. This brand new kitten ward will include a high-volume nursery for neonates and kittens to provide life-saving care for felines too young to thrive on their own.

 “We’re doing the mama’s job,” explains David Arias, an Animal Care Technician and regular caregiver to neonatal kittens at the ASPCA Animal Hospital. He gently pushes a syringe full of kitten milk replacer (KMR) into the wailing but eager mouth of a five-day-old neonate named Catsup, who drinks up as fast as his tiny throat can swallow. Catsup was No. 2 in a group of four baby kittens—including Mustard, Relish and Sauerkraut—dropped off at the AAH in their first days of life.

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But these four “condiment kitties” are just the start. The ASPCA will also be taking thousands of neonates from NYC’s Animal Care & Control (AC&C), where the annual influx of 4,500 kittens often overwhelms an already overpopulated system.  AC&C’s kittens will be transferred to the ASPCA nursery for treatment until they’re old enough to be weaned, spayed/neutered, and put up for adoption.

ASPCA Animal Care Tech feeding kitten

And because neonates must be fed every two hours, the ASPCA is providing special training to volunteers to help with this vigorous schedule.  “We keep track of how many milliliters each kitten consumes and stay consistent with that baseline amount until they want more,” says David.

His voice trails off when he sees that Catsup is getting feisty and wants more. He replaces the near-empty syringe with a full one. After 20 minutes, Catsup’s tiny belly expands. Before putting the 8-oz. ball of fur back in his cage, David applies a wet, warm gauze to Catsup’s rear end to encourage a defecation and urination—something a mama cat would normally do by licking her young.

Catsup complies. Then, eyes still closed and back in his cage, he clumsily searches for his siblings until he finds them, snuggles up, and goes to sleep. Two hours later, he’ll be hungry again.

The ASPCA is working tirelessly to save thousands of lives this kitten season. It is an urgent time of need, and even a little gift can help a lot of cats. Please consider making a donation to the ASPCA today.

ASPCA volunteers caring for kitten

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Emma

Thank you to David Arias and the many exceptional ASPCA employees and volunteers who are keeping these tiny babies alive and well. It sounds like round-the clock care and monitoring. The responsibilities are great. These ACTS (Animal Care Technicians) are tremendous.

Peter Matthews

Thank goodness for the wonderful job which the ASPCA do. If only all humans could be as compassionate as these people!

Cloegirl.

It would be nice if All humans would love,& care for the furry kids they have ,but sadly most of them don't... I am a good human,& I love my furry kids with all my heart .. I miss all the ones in heaven they are in my heart forever.

Yolanda Diaz Hamby

that is exactly how I also feel...they did not ask to be born..we need to become more responsible.

Dallas

Thank you Cloegirl, I wish everyone were as kind as you. There is too much suffering for all animals in this world because of cruel, ignorant people.

Annette Patrone

just wanted to say ditto to your comment, especially the part about being "a good human and loving your furry kids with all your heart...and oh how MUCH WE MISS ALL THE ONES IN HEAVEN AND THEY CERTAINLY ARE IN ME AND MY HUSBANDS HEART FOREVER!!" :-)

wendy

Just wondering why all those babies show up without their mamas?

Ltinny

My daughter-in-law fosters kittens for our local shelter, and there are many litters she gets without the momma kitten. Some people opt to keep the mom, but don't want the kittens.

Anne

That is the problem. People turn the babies into a shelter or pound and don't bother to try and find the mom or else keep the mom and don't "believe" in spaying her. I volunteer for Chicago Animal Control and am going to propose a change to the Animal Welfare Law requiring pound and shelter workers to attempt to bring the mom in - or require people turning in the babies to - when newborns are turned into the pound. I have adopted out probably 50 cats and kittens and I can tell you it is very, very tough to care for newborns without the mom. Mom cats rule . . . but we need them there with the babies!

Lanni

Anne, my initial reaction is much like yours, and I think it would be great for shelter workers to try to capture the moms (assuming they know where the kittens were found), but I wonder what would happen if people were "required" to bring in the moms when they bring in the kittens? Since feral cats can be notoriously hard to catch, would they then just turn to destroying the unwanted kittens, since they couldn't bring the mom in with them? I have a friend who is currently undergoing the rabies series, because she was badly bitten when trying to capture a feral mom. They couldn't catch the mom for quarantine, so she has no choice but to take the rabies series of injections. Also, the bite wounds are badly infected. She is also taking IV antibiotics.

As a nurse, I can tell you that cat bites in general are notorious for becoming infected, especially if the cat is feral. This is a reflection of their diet, which includes garbage, carrion, anything the poor things can find. Never try to just "catch" a feral cat. Get a humane live trap, bait it with some tuna, and you'll get your cat, without injury to yourself or the cat.

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