By Dr. Donna Watson
Here in South Florida, a vastly under-recognized phenomenon is Kitty Season. Stray cats tend to mate in our streets between May 1st to September 30th.
As a result, around 1,800 kittens will enter the Broward County Shelter by next October, and many will not make it out alive. In an effort to break this cycle, the Broward County Shelter has implemented a “Foster Program.”
Every kitten needs fostering until they are eight weeks old. At that time, they can be spayed/neutered, vaccinated, then placed up for adoption by the shelter. Currently, however, kittens arrive so young that they need to be bottle fed every two hours in order to survive. There aren’t the resources of employees or volunteers who can hand-feed hundreds of kittens a month. The shelter is no place for newborns as they are very prone to infection and many die from viruses while there.
They get there by local residents who trap them and bring them to the shelter thinking they are helping. It is tempting to try to save the baby kittens at the corner house. It pulls at your heart. But the reality is that you probably shouldn’t. Even the most well-meaning are actually creating a situation for those kittens that may lead to their death.
Generally speaking, unless they are in distress or immediate danger, it is always best to leave kittens in that place because there is a food source somewhere nearby. Remember, the mother has pick that spot for a reason. If mom is not there, it’s probably because she’s hunting or moving them. Kittens should not be moved or picked up unless it’s known for sure that she’s not coming back because of injury, etc. They need their mother’s milk to survive and build their immunity.
The Broward Shelter Director Thomas Adair states, “Kittens less than 4 weeks old cannot live without their mother, and must be bottle fed around the clock in order to survive and build immunity.” Here is a great link for teaching you what to do right from the experts:
All of which brings me back to the Foster Program. This is typically only a 2-4 week commitment for older kittens, while newborns are more like 6-8 weeks. Food and supplies will be provided to you. If you can take two, then you can save two lives, etc. Medical care is provided by the shelter.
The program is available for any Broward County residents; and if you have animals in your household, they must be vaccinated. As for the kittens, they can be kept in a crate or bathtub. They do not need much room. Just keep them safe inside the house and feed them twice a day.
We need your help now. Please, if you can just commit for just a few weeks, go to the shelter and register at the front desk, you can take them home right away. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions. Or lastly, you can call 954-359-1313 and ask for rescue.
Dr. Donna Watson is a Chiropractic Physician and Founder of Dr. Donna’s Pet Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization focused on animal overpopulation and animal welfare in the Tri-County area.