With kitten season coming up, the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter is asking the community to step up to help save feline lives. Kitten season begins in April, when many litters of kittens are born, causing an already-packed shelter to be overwhelmed with more pets. “Kitten Season is a time of year where community support is imperative to lifesaving,” Shelter Director Misty Valenta says. “When the community takes advantage of our community cat spay and neuter clinics, keeps mothers and kittens together, fosters kittens too young for adoption, they are saving lives. It takes all of us working together to create the best outcome.”
April Peiffer, community programs coordinator for the shelter, says people shouldn’t “kit-nap” kittens from their mother, as leaving kittens with their mothers until they can be weaned is the ideal scenario. “They learn from their mother and siblings, like how to play well together and when they’re being too rough—momma cats will give corrections—which translates to better behavior in their forever homes,” she says. Once kittens are older than four weeks, the Shelter can begin the process of vaccinating, microchipping, spaying or neutering, and finding the right home for each.
The shelter relies heavily on kitten fosters to help staff keep the kittens healthy until they’re old enough to be altered and adopted out; around 8 weeks old or a healthy 2 pounds. Sending kittens to foster homes is the best thing for them so they’re not in the shelter environment any longer than necessary. The immune system of a young kitten is very delicate, so even a common cold could be detrimental to their heath. Because of this, limiting the number of other cats they are exposed by placing them in foster homes is essential.
Fosters are also able to keep a close eye on the kittens in their care, which helps shelter staff catch any illnesses early. The shelter recruits kitten fosters through social media and word-of-mouth advertising, many of whom are inspired by the Kitten Cam post featuring the shelter’s kitten nursery that April shares on Facebook.
Despite the influx of kittens the shelter experiences each year, the facility’s save rate for kittens increased from 89 to 94 percent in 2020, thanks to a new kitten coordinator funded by a grant from the Orphan Kitten Club. “Having a staff member devoted to their care while in the shelter and looking for foster homes for them before they’ve reached adoptable status was a major breakthrough in raising our save rate for kittens,” April says. With donations raised at the 2020 virtual Fur Ball and another grant from the Orphan Kitten Club, the shelter hopes to continue saving more kitten lives this year.
To learn about kitten fostering, contact Erin Duran, Shelter Volunteer/Foster Coordinator at email@example.com. Fosters attend an online orientation and sign up to be on the shelter’s email list for foster pleas when a litter(s) of kittens comes in and needs a foster home. Mentors are available to offer support and check in with new fosters. The shelter also offers specialized training regarding bottle babies, ringworm, medical cases (upper respiratory infections, surgery recovery, etc.) and socialization for terrified kittens. Fosters can also join a Facebook group for kitten care to get advice and support from each other.