2018-06-06 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

“Hey, Lady, would you like a kitten? Look, they’re cute.” Long gone is the carefree, “Leave it to Beaver”- era when kids would stand outside the grocery store with a cardboard box of kittens, offspring of their pet cat. They’d stay there until they found a taker for each fuzzy one.

Jump back to 2018, rescue protocol for getting kittens ready for adoption is light years away from the grocery store give-away. There’s a tremendous investment of time, care and funds to prepare each kitten for a forever home. Here’s a behind the scenes glimpse of what’s done for kittens in waiting at Last Hope Animal Rescue in Wantagh. Keep in mind Last Hope placed 453 cats and kittens last year, and everyone is a volunteer except for the veterinarians:

*Managing Requests: During kitten season (April through November) Last Hope’s hotline averages up to 30 calls a day with most from people asking us to take kittens they’ve found outdoors. Space fills fast so as it gets later into kitten season, callers are put on a waiting list which must be monitored.

A Last Hope kitten being kept warm while recovering from his neuter surgery. A Last Hope kitten being kept warm while recovering from his neuter surgery. *Nurturing: Infant kittens fare better in skilled foster care than staying in shelter cages. Babies four –weeks –old or younger need bottle feeders or nursing surrogate mother cats. Groups must recruit foster homes, train these volunteers, provide supplies and keep track of where the kittens have been “out-sourced”. Experienced bottle feeders are hard to find, and easy to overwhelm during kitten season. Constant handling is the key to turning frightened, outdoor babies into friendly, socialized future pets.

*Veterinary Care: New kittens are examined by the vet. Weights are charted. Standard worming consists of three days of marquis paste, later strongid, and then drontal for possible tapeworm from fleas. Kittens are given flea prevention and treated for ear mites. Eye and upper respiratory infections are common problems. Every kitten is put under the wood’s lamp to check for ringworm.

Kittens receive their first combo vaccine at six weeks; rabies shot at 16 weeks. Feline leukemia/ FIV tests are given when kittens are at least eight weeks. Intake clinics take place at Last Hope twice a week. New entrants, fosters and adopted kittens attend by appointment. Scheduling appointments is a huge job. Handwritten notes during clinic are added to a huge spreadsheet maintained by one meticulous volunteer.

There is an isolation room at Last Hope for contagious cats. Certain volunteers work in iso; others administer daily meds. Kittens are transported to hospitals whenever necessary.

*Spay/Neuter: All rescue kittens should be spay/neutered before adoption. For pediatric altering a kitten should be at least 2.2 pounds. During kitten season it is difficult to get enough spay appointments at various vets. The times must be coordinated with the foster’s availability because the foster brings kittens to the vet. If there is room at Last Hope, they can recover there; otherwise they go back to foster to recover and wait for an adoption space at Last Hope or at a satellite Petco or Petsmart location.

*Mass Spay/Neuter Clinic: Group clinics are a practical alternative to individual spay appointments. Last weekend Last Hope gathered 29 kittens in our program at My Pets Vet in Huntington to be altered at a mass clinic.

Two vets did the surgeries while a team of volunteers did paperwork, prep, knock-down, recovery, microchips and return to foster parents or adoption sites for recovery. It’s crucial to keep kittens warm after surgery. They are placed on heating pads during initial recovery and carried around in heated blankets later in the day.

*Microchips: We prefer to microchip kittens while under sedation for surgery because the needle is bigger than a vaccine syringe. I stopped preparing chips in advance because there were too many mix-ups, so the syringe packets are labeled with the kitten’s name as each is chipped. Adopters are supposed to contact me for their free, lifetime registration, but few do. I’ve become a “chip chaser”.

*Seeking Homes: Finding homes is a full time marketing job. Kittens are listed on Face book, the website, print ads and Petfinder. The better the volunteers know the cat, the better they can match them to the right home. The stores have adoption weekends sponsored by Petco and Petsmart. As kitten season progresses, each kitten faces more competition from kitty colleagues all over LI. At times we have reduced fee adoption promotions or special days like NBC TV’s “Clear the Shelters” (Aug. 18 this year).

*Adoption Applications: A committee reviews adoption applications, checks vet and personal references and interviews applicants, while more of us review apps for red flags. Volunteers prepare “go home” bags and deliver the kittens to their new homes. The kittens are covered under our vet clinics for a specific period of time, or longer if a chronic condition exists. I also get follow-up info and new names when speaking to owners about microchips.

*Other Tasks: Cat volunteers work four hour shifts feeding, medicating, cleaning cages, scooping litter boxes, showing cats for adoption and socializing newbies. They go through at least seven rolls of paper towels each day. Each satellite store has a cat coordinator with a group of volunteers too. Other volunteers write grants and organize fundraisers to pay for preparing kittens for adoption. As you can see, rescue efforts have come a long way from handing kittens to strangers outside grocery stores.

*For Adoption at Babylon Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Gypsy” 18-216 resembles a young, gentle Whippet/Dutch Shepherd. She likes dogs and cats. “Skylar” 8-215 is a dilute tabbico kitten, a real beauty.

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