The dedicated animal lovers at Best Friends Animal Society (Best Friends) have a clear goal—to end the killing of homeless animals in America’s shelters. Animal shelters are a necessity within our local communities as they help with temporarily homing lost pets, finding homes for newborn pets, providing important services like spaying and neutering, and helping pets find new homes in the unfortunate event that they can no longer stay with their families. But animal shelters can’t do it all. Rescue groups like Best Friends Animal Society and their Los Angeles based initiative, No-Kill Los Angeles (NKLA), work to fill the gaps in our current animal shelter system, protecting the lives of animals and working towards their no-kill goal.
An unlikely obstacle towards Best Friends’ goals are kittens. Marc Peralta, Executive Director of Best Friends Animal Society Los Angeles, took a few moments out of his busy day saving animals to explain to us why caring for kittens is such an important step towards making Los Angeles a no-kill city.
Best Friends helps many different types of animals. Which animals face the biggest struggle when it comes to being adopted?
In our centers in Los Angeles, primarily large dogs (over 50 pounds) and cats face the biggest struggle in getting adopted.
Large dogs because there are so many things that dwindle the potential adoption pool down for them, such as landlord restrictions on size, breed restrictions for renters and insured homeowners that are almost always primarily targeted against large dog breeds as well as misconceptions about certain breeds like Pit Bull Terriers, Rottweilers, etc.
For cats, it is that we have so many more cats entering our shelters then the city shelters can currently find homes for fast enough. Also, we get so many kittens in our shelters that may need to wait weeks to be able to be old enough to adopt. We are making large strides in both finding more kitty adopters and saving more kitty and large dog lives by working together as a community.
How did the Best Friends Los Angeles neonatal Kitten Nursery get started?
We looked at the statistics at our city shelters and saw that the largest portion of animals being killed were underage kittens. These kittens can take a lot of effort to care for (some require feeding every two hours) and take up a lot of resources financially.
For this reason, many rescues and shelters simply can't handle caring for underage kittens. We knew that this is an area where we could fill a void in our community to play a big part in seeing LA become a No Kill city. Best Friends opened the nursery and cared for over 1,700 in our first year and almost 2,300 in 2015.
Why is it necessary to have a Kitten Nursery? What kind of care do neonatal kittens require?
If we don't save more kittens, we will never become a No Kill city and that is unacceptable to Best Friends, the city, and community members of Los Angeles.
Underage kittens cannot be adopted until they are old enough to be spayed and neutered. That age is 2 months. So kittens that come in days old are bottle fed up to every 2 hours until 4 weeks, when they can start eating on their own.
Even after the bottle feeding, the care is immense - constant feeding and cleaning and care is needed. Either way, we must clean, feed and socialize these little guys until they are two months old.
How is the care for a neonatal kitten different if the kitten’s mother is present?
There is no replacement for a mother, but we try and are as successful as possible by doing everything a mother does including feeding, potting (helping the kitten relieve him or herself) and cleaning them. We also vaccinate and provide other medications like deworming and flea treatment that goes beyond the feline momma.
What happens to the kittens after they “graduate” out of the neonatal Kitten Nursery?
Two month old kittens are among the most adoptable animals anywhere. They are spayed and neutered, micro chipped and put up for adoption at one of our centers or adopted through their foster parents (volunteers who keep and care for the kittens in their homes).
How can people help support the Best Friends Los Angeles Kitten Nursery?
First, we need donations. We are a 501c3 non-profit and only do this work by getting donations. These lifesaving programs require a lot of resources to perform and we can perform them with the funding provided from animal lovers.
Second, volunteer. Our kitten nursery utilizes volunteers to help us with every aspect of care and cleaning of the nursery 24 hours a day/7 days a week.
Lastly you can foster. Kittens cared for in home environments are so much safer. It is so easy for kittens to catch disease when they are around another 120 kittens, so we really try and get them in homes during the time of their care.
If you have a bathroom and a couple of weeks, we can give you the supplies and training. We need you!
What advice would you give to people looking to adopt or foster a kitten?
There are a plethora of kittens for adoption between the months of May and November, so please go to a shelter and adopt during this time. This supports shelters and rescues plus you save a life.
If you are interested in fostering, you can go to our website here or connect with your near-by rescue or shelter and call or go and see them and talk to them about fostering, which is a critical need everywhere.
Best Friends also offers low-cost spaying and neutering of adult cats to help prevent cat overpopulation. To find a Best Friends sponsored low-cost spay or neuter clinic or event, visit our Clinic in Mission Hills here or you can go to NKLA.org to find another group performing low cost, high quality spay and neuter in your area.
What is a Kitten Shower? How does this help save kittens’ lives?
Kitten showers are an awareness and donation event. The next kitten shower takes place at the Best Friends Pet Adoption & Spay/Neuter Center in Mission Hills on February 20. For more info: visit la.bestfriends.org or click here to RSVP to the Kitten Shower on Facebook.
We want to bring in public members to inform them about the issue with kittens in shelters and also look to get donations that we need for the nursery to hopefully offset some of the high costs for the care of the over 2,000 kittens that we will care for.
Having more money to put into medical by not having to purchase supplies allows us to save more lives period. Anyone interested in helping can donate items from our wish list.
By Sara Stuart