By Temma Martin
Best Friends Animal Society’s Kitten Nursery is up and purring for its third season, with the goal of saving 1,500 baby kittens in the coming months. As adorable as that sounds, this time of year is proof there really can be too much of a cute thing.There are many ways our community can participate and help save this year’s kittens. In 2015, more than 1,400 kittens were saved by Best Friends’ kitten nursery, thanks to hundreds of wonderful volunteers and the kitten nursery staff.
Among the most at-risk animals entering local shelters today are newborn kittens, sometimes called “bottle babies.”
Unfortunately, without additional support, newborn kittens are the animals most likely to be killed in shelters. Municipal shelters do not have the staff, facilities, volunteers and other resources required to offer around the clock care orphaned kittens require. To help save these little lives, Best Friends’ Kitten Nursery is open nine months of the year to provide a safe haven until these kittens are old enough to be adopted.
Once the kittens reach two pounds or two months and can be spayed or neutered, kittens are highly adoptable and find homes quickly through the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in Sugar House, at 1100 E. 2005 S.
During kitten season— March through November in Utah– a dedicated team of staff and volunteers at the kitten nursery take care of more than a thousand fragile orphaned kittens, as well as nursing mothers and their litters.
Because orphaned baby kittens are very fragile and need lots of love and care, the facility operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Volunteers work in two-hour shifts and are responsible for bottle-feeding, cage cleaning, socializing kittens, preparing food, laundry and general cleaning.
“Kitten season is, as the name implies, the time of year when unspayed female cats have most of their kittens,” said Dr. Frank McMillan, DVM, director of well-being studies for Best Friends Animal Society. “The reproductive cycle in the cat typically aligns with seasonal changes, and female cats will begin to come into heat—when they become receptive to mating with males–when daylight hours become longer.”
McMillan explained that with the duration of pregnancy being approximately two months, kittens are born in large numbers around the beginning of summer, with large influxes of young kittens into shelters between May and July.
The kittens come to the nursery from South Salt Lake Animal Services, West Valley Animal Services, West Jordan Animal Services, Murray City Animal Services, Sandy Animal Services, Davis County Animal Care and Control, and Salt Lake County Animal Services. As much as staff would like to help, the nursery cannot accept kittens from the public because the Best Friends facility is solely a support resource for the organization’s shelter partners.
There are many ways to get involved and help the kittens. Hundreds of volunteers are needed each season to help the kittens. Foster homes are needed for kitten nursery graduates who are old enough to eat independently, but not quite big enough to be spayed or neutered before adoption. Donations of supplies are also welcome, and the kittens appreciate items such as blankets, toys, formula and bottles.
“Kitten season is the most vivid lesson as to why spaying and neutering pet animals is so important, and just what the consequences can be when this isn’t done,” Dr. McMillan said.
Best Friends-Utah requests pet parents take advantage of the free and low-cost spay/neuter programs that Best Friends Animal Society—Utah has available at bestfriendsutah.org.
Sometimes it’s the little things that have a big impact on our effort to make Utah a no-kill state by 2019.