Written by Karen Bauer –
MADERA – Jennifer Snyder of Oakhurst picks up three tiny little kittens who are mewing for their mamma and some food. There’s no mamma – but the food comes via a bottle every five hours.
With all three in her arms, Jennifer passes the bottle between each one, making sure they have had enough.
Your guess is as good as ours as to what happened to mom. But all over Madera County, bottle-feed fosters like Jennifer are answering the call and opening their homes to these tiny, vulnerable creatures.
Interestingly, all three of Jennifer’s kittens are from different litters and places. She received Ava first. Ava was pretty sick, and being alone without siblings to cuddle with was tough on her.
A week later, after Ava finished her medicine and was better, Friends of Madera Animal Shelter (FMAS) sent Jennifer two more kittens, Hildie and Tiny Tony. All three immediately bonded as if they were born together. Now, still missing mamma, they at least have other warm bodies to comfort them.
“Fostering ensures these guys get a good head start,” Jennifer says. “They all weighed less than half a pound. How can you not help them?”
What’s the hardest part for fosters, other than setting their alarm clocks for feedings? Letting go. But as Jennifer says, although letting go is hard, “I think it’s harder not to help.”
As soon as these kittens are ready – usually when they’re two pounds and eight weeks old – FMAS will deliver Jennifer’s kittens and many more to partner shelters in Northern California, Oregon and Washington, where they’ll be spayed, neutered, vaccinated, chipped and adopted into loving homes.
But we’re just entering dreaded “kitten season” here and all of our fosters’ homes will be a round-robin of babies for the next several months. We also desperately need more fosters.
Despite all the hard work of FMAS, our wonderful fosters and responsible pet owners, there are still too many kittens being born. According to the Kitten Coalition, every year in the United States, 3.4 million kittens and cats enter the shelter system. Of those, approximately 1.4 million are euthanized. And that’s not counting the ones who simply don’t make it.
Jennifer’s kittens are some of the lucky ones, because of FMAS’s relationship with rescues who are willing to take our adoptable animals. But the only way to truly stop the cycle, and eliminate the need for what we call our “transports,” is to do a better job of spaying and neutering, especially here in the mountain area.
If you see kittens:
- If they are well-fed and look healthy, don’t disturb them. Mom is probably just off hunting and she will return. Unfortunately we get quite a few cases of “abductions” where, although people mean to do the right thing, they are removing kittens from their best source of food and chance at life.
- Feed mamma if you can. Kitten food is best, since she needs all the nutrients and calories she can get.
- Are they feral? If so, call our Mountain Area Feral Coordinator Kimi Sonka at 724-633-7257.
If you have kittens:
- Get them “fixed” before adopting them out. Ask an adoption fee to cover your costs.
- Vaccinate. The rabies vaccine is automatically administered when an animal is spayed or neutered, but kittens will also need their first FVRCP shot. The FVRCP vaccine covers two viruses that cause URI and other issues like mouth sores. It also covers panluleulopenia, the kitty version of parvo and the much more deadly virus. This will set your kittens up for a healthy life.
- And as soon as mom is three months post-partum, have her fixed. And dad, too!
Do you need help, or even just some advice? Call me at 559-481-8609.
And if you want to help, volunteer to be a foster! FMAS supplies everything you need. You supply the love. We also have many other volunteer opportunities. Transport driver, anyone?
Karen Bauer is an FMAS volunteer in the Mountain Area.