Monday, May 31, 2010

How to End a Vicious Life and Death Cycle in your Neighborhood

This is the time of year for finding abandoned neonate kittens. A neonate is a newborn, and an orphan is a neonate without a dam (a female parent). Neonates are orphaned for a variety of reasons including death or illness of the dam or an inability of the dam to produce sufficient amounts of good quality milk.

It is not unusual for LA Animal Services to take in 1,000 to 1,500 orphans a month in April, May and June and around 1,000 a month in July through September. This phenomenon occurs at thousands of shelters across the United States every year. While many shelters, like LA Animal Services, have a robust foster program for taking in and nursing many of these orphans, no shelter can take in and care for all of them. It is best to not take these animals to a shelter if it can be avoided.

But if we don't take them to a shelter, what can we do with them? Most people do not know what to do when they encounter a litter of orphaned kittens in their yard. Yet, this happens all the time.

1. First, make sure the kittens are in fact orphaned. No one can take better care of these babies than the mother. If mama is taking care of them, let her continue to do so until they are weaned. You can provide her with fresh water and food daily. After they are weaned, (at around 8 weeks of age) take them to your local shelter or cat rescue agency to be spayed or neutered, vaccinated and placed for adoption. Ideally, after the kittens are weaned, you should trap the mother and take her in to be spayed too.

If there is no sign of the mother and it is clear that the kittens are in distress, it is best to take them in.

2. Call your local cat welfare, animal shelters and humane societies to find out if they have a kitten foster program and what their policies are.

3. Ideally, consider taking the kittens in and foster them yourself.  No community has enough volunteers to care for all the orphans found each year.  If you have kids of your own, this is an exceptional humane family project for teaching your kids about compassion.  But understand, this is a big commitment.  There are certain things that kittens really need, like the proper food, shelter and general care. It is important to even clean a kitten's genital area every few hours to stimulate them to urinate and defecate. It is important that you know what to do. Many shelters, like LA Animal Services, have classes that will equip you for effectively caring for these babies.

4. Here is an additional site with valuable information on caring for Newborn Kittens - Go to: Feral Cat Caretakers' Coalition.

Please share this information with your family, friends and neighbors.  Together we can end the vicious cycle of unwanted births and premature deaths in our neigborhoods by intervening directly to save these lives and ensure they are spayed or neutered and placed into loving homes.