Protecting Every LifeComments Off on Protecting Every Life
How We’re Helping Save the Most Fragile Kittens
When the teeny kitten Cody first opened his eyes just nine days after he was born last August and saw the world around him, his first sight was likely the soft nest his mother created under a bush in a Laurel, Md. yard. Next, he probably saw the humans who found him—and whom he would grow to know well.
When Cody was found, he was neonatal, meaning that he was too young to survive without his mother’s care or the equivalent. If the mother of neonatal kittens is present, the kittens should always be left with her if it’s safe. When neonatal kittens are raised by people, they’re called “bottle babies.” It sounds cute—but it is much more. Watching a tiny kitten drink from a miniature baby bottle is a heartwarming sight. Caring for newborn kittens is also an incredible amount of work—and requires a special knowledge of neonatal kitten care.
Cody has been raised by humans almost his whole life, and you can tell by his personality—he’s ridiculously social and loves people. Like all bottle babies, Cody had to be bottle-fed a special kitten formula around the clock—including in the middle of the night. He was meticulously cared for and weighed daily since it’s crucial that infant kittens consistently gain weight. Bottle babies may even need to be burped after their feedings, much like human babies. This is just the beginning of what it takes to care for a neonatal kitten.
Caring for bottle babies can seem like a daunting task, and Cody is lucky that his foster parent-turned-adopter (an Alley Cat Allies employee) was up for it—and knew how to care for him. As a result of his top-notch care during those critical months, Cody is a strong, healthy kitten loving his life.
Many kittens aren’t so lucky. People who encounter neonatal kittens don’t always know how to care for them. They often take them to a shelter or a veterinarian. Unfortunately, many veterinarians aren’t trained on how to treat unweaned kittens, and if a kitten as young as Cody is taken to an animal pound or shelter, he is almost always “euthanized” (i.e., killed). It’s heartbreaking that these young kittens who have their whole lives ahead of them don’t have a chance in the vast majority of shelters.
Alley Cat Allies believes that every cat—no matter what her age—deserves to live and be safe. That’s why we’re working to protect the lives of these especially vulnerable kittens—one of the most underserved populations in shelters and rescue groups. Thanks to the continued support of our donors, we’ve launched a series of webinars on neonatal kitten care, with sessions geared toward veterinary staff, rescue organizations, shelter staff, and others who want to help save kittens. We want to make sure that anyone who cares for orphaned kittens is ready to provide the food, love, and care these babies need to survive—and to thrive.
Our webinar series is hosted by Feline Outreach, Rescue, & Education Co-Founders Rosemarie Crawford, a licensed veterinary technician who has worked in high-volume shelters and large veterinary practices and regularly fosters ill kittens, and Susan Spaulding, who has fostered thousands of neonatal kittens and advises numerous shelters on neonatal kitten care. From decades of experience, Crawford and Spaulding have learned countless tips for caring for kittens, including many practical, resourceful approaches.
“I’ve walked out of numerous shelters with neonatal kittens stuck in my blouse,” says Spaulding. “Body heat is one of the best ways to warm them!”
Attendees will learn the basics of feeding and housing neonatal kittens, how to identify when immediate critical care is needed to stabilize kittens, and how to recognize early symptoms of illness. They’ll even learn how to make a simple emergency kitten-saving kit so they’re prepared if they find an orphaned kitten. The expert advice and guidance in the webinars will help everyone from veterinary staff to community members save the lives of the youngest, most underserved kittens.