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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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Lois Perkins

I also foster kittens (and puppies) and I think this is one of the best ideas I've ever heard. You people are wonderful.

Angela Rabin

Many thanks to the wonderful employees and volunteers at ASPCA who provide lots of love and care to these sweet kittens. When I read stories like this one, I am reminded of why I donate monthly to this essential organization!

Anne Taiz

I love kittens! Something that is totally great is live streaming kittens! You can set up a camera in and we can watch the adorableness. There is nothing cuter than kittens!

Debbie Dale

I remember when I worked with rescue that people could have left the litter with mama in the house but chose to turn it in because they didn't want the hassle. Momma would have taken care of everything and the humans would not have been bothered one bit. Once momma weaned them they could be turned in to a shelter and it would be better all around but there are a lot of people who don't have that kind of common sense. I met many people who would not get their cats spayed or neutered for free with free shots and wormer because they didn't want to get up early enough in the morning to drop off the cat. I'm not kidding.

Wendy Twigg

What a truly WONDERFUL thing! My husband and I adopted 2 sibling three-day old kittens eleven years ago and were thrown head-first into the wonderful world of taking care of neo-natal kittens. When they were 3 months old we got them fixed and decided to find them homes - but we couldn't adopt them out because there was NO-ONE who could take care of them as well as we did! How many times have you heard that one?! The bond we have with our 2 babies is second-to-none. As we were the first things they saw when they opened their eyes we are their parents and it shows in how they respond to us. Truly a wonderful experience.

But as a person who works with a non-profit feral spay/neuter clinic every month I am only too well aware of how many kittens are being born right now - and how many will not make it because there is no programme like this one to take care of them and their mothers.

I am in absolute awe of what the ASPCA is doing for this cause!!!
GREAT WORK!

Steve

Thanks ASPCA for all that you do! Also had a bit of a general question with the incoming of kitten season ---If you have 1 female cat and thinking of adopting a 2nd cat, is there any way to safely gage if a kitten might actually be a good fit (both for the current in-home cat AND for the kitten) - or is that a bad idea?

Teri

This is my dream job!

Judy B

I love cats and kittens, but I wonder if the ASPCA resources would not be better spent on the cats that are very much alive and in need of homes, rather than neonates that have to be fed every 2 hours. It seems like a case in which triage might call for attention to be paid to older kittens and adult cats.
Sorry to sound cruel, but I think it is less cruel this way than to cause other cats to be killed because of overpopulation. We took in a 10-month-old foster cat which we cannot keep - and, after six weeks, are still having trouble finding a no-kill shelter that will take him.

Judy

Its hard to catch the Moms. I worked where we had problems with ferrel cats and every time they had a litter we tried to catch the whole family and never could. We did catch the kittens and between myself and a coworker we'd take them, raise and find homes for them. Luckily I worked close to home so I could slip away, feed and get back to work. Needless to say I was careful who adopted those babies. They deserved good human parents.

Sandy

Thank you so much every one who is helping to save these babies. I love cats, and it is so kind that someone in the cruel world is making a difference. These kittens deserve a chance, and I am so glad that the ASPCA is helping these tiny kittens who still need their mama. Thank you for acting as mother to these precious creatures. You are making a huge difference. Keep up the great work!

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