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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

Comments

Comments

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.

Justine

Maybe they shouldn't try to catch feral cats if they don't know what they are doing and not being a nurse but having a cat rescue with over 35 cats a third of which are feral, I disagree with the whole every general cat bite gets infected theory. Hat’s almost as bad as if you get scratched by a cat you will get cat scratch fever. I have had many scratches and a few bites (knowing how to properly handle a feral cat helps) I must say I have never had cat scratch fever and have not ever developed an infection from a bite. I am not saying that it doesn’t happen, but not cat bites in general.

Gracie

Notorious doesn't mean "every". Look it up.

Justine

But in general does (look it up)

Justine

Ok Lanni and Gracie do either of you even have a cat? how many? are they rescued or adopted or purchased? How long have you owned cats or worked with cats?

Karen

Many years ago my sister lived across the street from the town dump, where cats were routinely dumped by ignorant humans. She was experienced and careful, rarely got bitten when she caught feral cats in humane traps for spaying, but the one time she did get bitten, landed in the hospital.

Nancy

My daughter's 13 year old friend got cat scratch fever from a tiny scratch by a kitten on her neck. The doctors thought she had cancer because of the swelling on her lymph gland.

Jo

I must have a great immune system as I have been scratched and bitten so many times I've lost count. Let it bleed, rinse with water and never had any more problems. These happened when I was moving ferals from traps to cages where they would have time to heal (after surgery) and get built up before going back to the colony.

Angie

My son rescued an adult female cat from a Kroger parking lot that was trying to eat a french fry box. While I was upset with him for bringing home a female cat, I understood his heart. He could not walk away from an abandoned animal. I have a point I promise. My husband is a bit of a jerk about it though and after the cat became pregnant, refused to pay to get her fixed. She has had 5 litters of kittens all of which were raised in the house, at least until we found them homes. So there has been a lot of kitten playing going on. Every scratch by every kitten has become infected on everyone of us who has been scratched, every time.

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