An adorable photo of snuggly wrapped baby kittens (aka “purritos”) on Best Friends Animal Society’s Facebook page not only invokes an “aww” but helps to spread the word about kitten season.
“Sometimes you have to go cute to get serious information out there,” said Best Friends Animal Society’s Holly Sizemore, director of national programs, community programs and services. “We are glad that people are enjoying the ‘purritos’ and especially glad to see the offers by people to get involved in being part of the solution.”
Sarita Carden has been a regular volunteer at the Best Friends Pet Adoption & Spay/Neuter Center in Mission Hills since it opened.
“There are so many kittens in the San Fernando valley and Los Angeles shelters. Last year, the Best Friends kitten nursery averaged taking care of about 155 kittens a day and I’m glad to say every single one of them has been adopted,” Carden said.
A national problem, kitten season technically lasts from February through November when shelters become overwhelmed with these helpless pets. The majority of kittens land in shelters without their mothers and need to be bottle-fed every two hours. They are usually weeks away from weaning, spaying or neutering, and being able to be adopted into permanent homes.
The workload for a typical animal shelter almost immediately outweighs what staff can handle and results in many kittens being killed upon intake simply because of a lack of resources.
“Recent surveys indicate something like 91 percent of pet cats are sterilized, which suggests that the vast majority of unweaned kittens are born to free-roaming, unowned community cats,” Sizemore said. “That is why Best Friends Animal Society and like-minded organizations are working together so hard to spay and neuter these cats, we want to break this tragic cycle.”
Sizemore explained the spay/neuter efforts are known as trap/neuter/return or TNR. Unowned cats are humanely trapped, neutered and vaccinated, then released into the community to live out their natural lives.
What remains true is often the kindest thing you can do if you find a litter of kittens outdoors is to leave it alone, Sizemore said.
“We want people to understand that if they see a litter of kittens, especially tiny ones, please resist that urge to scoop them up because the mother cat is probably nearby and will return to care for them. Taking them away from her severely lessens the kittens’ chances of survival.”
If you find a litter of kittens:
1. Observe and leave the kittens alone – make sure they have been abandoned before you take action. Take note of the exact location. That way you can share the address, and description of where the kittens are located if you find that they have indeed been abandoned.
2. Contact your local animal shelter or TNR group to see what resources might be available in your local area to help kittens and/or mother cat.
3. If the mother does not come back and you are willing to volunteer with your local group to care for the kittens, please first read Best Friends’ resource article “Feeding and Caring for Bottle Babies.”
4. If the mother does return, keep your eye on her and the kittens until they are old enough to be trapped, spayed or neutered and returned to the area they came from. TNR is not only the most humane method of preventing cats from entering the shelter system, it’s the most effective.
In addition to TNR programs for community cats, Best Friends has established lifesaving kitten nurseries in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. Through its community cat initiatives, Best Friends supports kitten nurseries at shelters in other key municipalities as well that are staffed with teams of dedicated caregivers and supported by a cadre of devoted volunteers.
To find out more about how you can get involved during kitten season and year-round to help community cats visit bestfriends.org/communitycats.
Best Friends Animal Society is the only national animal welfare organization dedicated exclusively to ending the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters. A leader in the no-kill movement, Best Friends runs the nation’s largest no-kill sanctuary for companion animals, as well as lifesaving programs in partnership with rescue groups and shelters across the country. Since its founding in 1984, Best Friends has helped reduce the number of animals killed in American shelters from 17 million per year to about 4 million. By continuing to build effective initiatives that reduce the number of animals entering shelters and increase the number who find homes, Best Friends and its nationwide network of members and partners are working to Save Them All®.