We are in the middle of kitten and puppy season, which means that we and shelters nationwide are experiencing an influx of puppies and kittens.
Shelters also experience more owner surrenders as people go on vacations and move without planning to keep their pets.
Fostering with LCHS
With so many animals coming in, we need fosters to welcome these sweet furbabies into their homes. Puppies and kittens need to be as isolated as possible from other shelter residents because they often haven’t received their shots.
By going into foster homes until they receive at least two rounds of shots, we can better prevent these babies from contracting severe infections. Many animals also become stressed in the shelter environment and need some time in a quiet home.
If you’d like to foster, please head over to our website at leecountyhumane.org/foster to fill out an application. We will reach out within 48 hours to let you know that we’ve approved your application.
Once you’re an approved foster, you may look at our available animals on our website, and to see the ones in most need, please view our Trello foster board.
How to help cats from home
However, there are also ways to help that can prevent animals from entering the shelter in the first place.
One way that all pet owners can help is by spaying and neutering all animals. We even have low-cost spay and neuter programs for Lee County residents, known as SNYP and SNYP Plus, that significantly cut down on costs.
Please visit https://www.leecountyhumane.org/low-cost-spay-neuter to learn more.
However, unowned animals also frequently have babies, with cats making up most of these cases that we see. Often, members of the community will find seemingly unaccompanied baby kittens and are unsure of what to do.
In most cases, these kittens are being cared for by their mother, but because she is afraid of people, she is hiding out of sight. Without knowing, concerned citizens will bring these kittens to local shelters even though the mother cat is hiding right around the corner.
While truly abandoned kittens need urgent intervention, baby kittens have a much better chance of surviving and thriving if they can stay with their mother. If the mother is feral, this most often means staying in the outdoor environment where she is most comfortable.
How to determine if kittens are being cared for
To determine if a mother cat is caring for found kittens, it may be helpful to hide more than 30 feet away from the kittens and wait quietly. It may take 30 minutes to an hour for the mother cat to appear.
Another method is to sprinkle a circle of flour around the kittens. Wait for an hour or two, and then check to see if the flour has been disturbed by footprints. If it has, then the mother cat is indeed caring for the kittens.
Of course, if the kittens show signs of urine scalding (a red rash around the tummy and groin), or if they are cold, then these are signs that the kittens need help.
Even if the mother cat is caring for the kittens outdoors, there are ways you can help keep them happy and healthy.
By providing fresh cat food, water and shelter options in a shaded area far away from foot traffic and doors to one’s home, you can support the cat and kittens. By doing this, you may also be able to build up the cat’s trust with humans.
If mom is friendly and you’re able to lure her indoors using an enticing food item, and you’d like to take the kitties to the vet (for dewormer, vaccines, etc.), then you can always care for them in your home.
Those with the means to do so can also provide the veterinary care that will give the babies the best start to life without ever having to enter a shelter. Limiting animal shelter intakes helps everyone because mother cats can become extremely stressed in a shelter.
At the same time, kittens are susceptible to viruses that are present in group-housing settings such as animal shelters. It also benefits animal shelters since most humane societies nationwide are quite busy during the summer months.
As the kittens become older, you may be able to encourage them to have positive interactions with people by luring them with canned kitten food or treats.
As the kittens get older, those caring for them may be able to spay/neuter both the kittens and the mom, which is a crucial component of preventing cat overpopulation. Those caring for feral cats may use our SNYP and SNYP Plus programs to have these animals spayed and neutered.
Local animal controls will lend traps to capture feral cats. Even if you don’t meet the income requirements for SNYP or SNYP Plus, please email us at email@example.com to let us know that you’re interested in using our low-cost spay and neuter programs for feral kitties.
After kittens are weaned and spayed/neutered
If the kittens have become familiar with people and especially if they have spent time indoors, services such as ReHome, which allows you to post the cat/kittens for adoption, can assist with finding them permanent homes.
If the mother or kittens are afraid of people and indoor environments, you can always become an outdoor cat guardian.
Feral cats can stay happy and healthy in their outdoor environment when a dedicated person, family or business offers the necessities of food, water and shelter, and by providing necessary medical care, such as spay/neuter and a rabies vaccine once every three years.
They may even become more familiar with people over time!
By fostering, adopting instead of shopping and caring for the animals within our neighborhoods, we can all make a difference and save lives.
Column by Kelly Daniel, volunteer coordinator with the Lee County Humane Society.