Matt’s Blog: The Best Way to Help L.A. Shelters and Their Cats Right Now? Foster.
Last month, a five-day-old calico kitten named Delta was brought into the ASPCA Foster Program at the Baldwin Park Animal Care Center after being found alone near a major L.A. freeway. Delta’s eyes and ears were not yet open, and she needed to be bottle-fed every two to three hours.
Delta was too young to be adopted or cared for in a standard animal shelter, so we matched her with a foster caregiver who could provide for her daily needs. Now eight weeks old, Delta is stronger and healthy, and she will soon be available for adoption from the ASPCA in Los Angeles.
Delta’s story demonstrates why Adopt a Shelter Cat Month is June, the height of cat breeding season, when shelters nationwide are flooded with newborn cats and struggle to provide care for them.
Orphaned kittens are at particular risk at L.A. shelters. Baldwin Park and Downey Animal Care Centers have the highest numbers of kittens of the seven L.A. County shelters, seeing hundreds of them entering the shelters each year. Kittens under four weeks of age like Delta was—often called bottle babies—are the most vulnerable because they require frequent bottle feeding, medical check-ups and ongoing socialization, which are resources many shelters don't have.
One of the best ways to help your local shelter and cats like these is to foster their animals.
Kitten fostering takes cats out of shelters, conserving space and resources for other animals and giving fostered animals more individual attention and socialization than they'd likely receive in a shelter. Fostering is also a temporary role, making it appealing and viable for animal lovers who can’t adopt but still want to help. Shelters are eager to train and provide ongoing support for new foster caregivers willing to care for kittens.
The ASPCA is doing what it can to help. Since 2017, the Los Angeles Kitten Foster Program— which works with a large network of foster caregivers in the area—has cared for 10,000 kittens from L.A. County Animal Care Centers. In that time, the number of kittens leaving Baldwin Park Animal Care Center alive has increased by 60 percentage points, while the euthanasia rate has decreased by 57 points.
The Kitten Foster Program’s 10,000th kitten was Delta—the freeway kitten—who survived thanks to help from a foster caregiver who tells us Delta loves to be held and cuddled.
But even with foster programs providing as much care for young kittens as they can, more Angelenos are needed to become foster caregivers to handle the influx.
The job comes with wonderful benefits, including a playful companion for the caregiver and a safe home for the kitten to grow and mature. New caregivers are often surprised by their ability to provide for the needs of young kittens, and many fostered kittens eventually find potential adopters within the caregiver’s circle of friends and family.
Animal shelters operate to their fullest potential when more animals are going out than coming in—and fostering creates a powerful opportunity for community residents to help their local shelters and homeless animals in a significant way. The key is getting the word out.
If you're interested in fostering in the Los Angeles area, sign up with the ASPCA and share that page with everyone you know. Also, if you find kittens outdoors and want to see if fostering is best for them, please use this guide.
When more people realize and act on the power of fostering to help animals, people and entire communities, more lives will be saved. In the City of Angels, that’s a goal we should all get behind.