Post updated at 5:21 p.m. Thursday, June 15:
The Lawrence Humane Society urgently needs fosters to take in dozens of kittens, with plenty more on the horizon as kitten season continues.
It’s important for the tiny floofs’ health that they move out of the shelter and into temporary homes.
“No matter how clean everything is or how careful everyone is, because kittens have such fragile immune systems, they can pick up diseases very, very quickly,” Elina Alterman, spokesperson for the Lawrence Humane Society, said in an email Thursday.
“In addition, because kittens under 5 weeks old cannot eat on their own and need to be manually stimulated to go to the bathroom, they need more hands-on care than shelter staff are able to provide given their intensive work demands,” she said. “As such, the absolute best place for kittens is in foster homes and we work hard to get kittens out of the shelter and into foster homes as quickly as possible.”
In Lawrence, kitten season — the time of year when animal shelters everywhere are overrun by kittens — typically begins in May or June and continues through October or November, depending on the weather, Alterman said. And one cat can have up to five litters in a single year.
During these months, the humane society receives stray and surrendered kittens from unintentional litters almost every day, with anywhere from two to 30 or more kittens coming in, Alterman said. In the last three weeks, the humane society has taken in 81 kittens, all but five of whom have required foster care.
“Most kittens come as orphaned litters, some come as orphaned singletons, and some are brought in with their moms,” Alterman said — but regardless of their circumstances, it’s not safe for them to stay in a shelter.
Kittens must be two months old and weigh more than 2 pounds to get spayed or neutered, and then they can be made available for adoption.
Some little ones that are bigger and older than that may still need foster care if they’ve had an illness or injury requiring medications, “or if they need some socialization to learn that humans aren’t scary,” Alterman said.
“We provide everything that a kitten foster parent might need – dry food, wet food, formula, bottles, scales (weighing kittens daily is super important!), litter and litter boxes, soft blankets, toys, kitten pens, carriers, heating pads, and even incubators for the tiniest and most fragile of kittens!” Alterman said. “We never want a foster to feel like they need to spend their own money to care for an animal and we will truly provide everything they might need. We provide all of the veterinary care and provide training and support for anything that a foster may encounter – medical, behavioral, or otherwise.”
Lawrence Humane does not euthanize orphaned and neonatal kittens, thanks in large part to community members who step up to give them happy, healthy, temporary homes.
Alterman said those who are interested in fostering don’t need prior experience. The humane society — and a private Facebook group just for fosters — will teach you everything you need to know and support you on your fostering journey, she said. Alterman didn’t grow up with cats and knew nothing when she started, but now she’s been fostering for eight years, “and at any given moment I have 5 to 18 kittens in various rooms of my house during kitten season,” she said.
Those who are interested can apply at lawrencehumane.org/foster. The foster coordinator will follow up to get you started, and then you can be added to an email listserv used to notify folks as quickly as possible when there are kittens ready to go to foster homes.
“Fosters will see everything from neonatal orphan kittens, older kittens that can eat on their own but need to gain a little more weight, kittens that are scared and need some extra socialization, nursing mama cats with kittens, and ill or injured kittens that need a safe place to recover,” Alterman said.
Staff members will work with fosters to determine ideal matchups, even for people who have full-time jobs, Alterman said.
“We have some fosters who work in an office, but whose jobs allow them to bring kittens with them and so they’re able to foster the tiniest kittens who need care every two hours. And some fosters’ jobs don’t allow for that but they can run home during their lunch break, so they foster slightly older kittens that only need care every 4-5 hours,” she said. “And for those fosters whose jobs don’t allow for any flexibility during the work day, they foster kittens that are able to eat and go to the bathroom on their own, but may need socialization after work!”
If you’re worried you might get attached — well, you might.
“It is completely normal to cry and feel a little bit of heartbreak when it’s time for the kittens you’ve raised to go back for their spay/neuter surgeries and be made available for adoption,” Alterman said. “However, human hearts are capable of so much expansive love and within days there will be more kittens that will need you and the safe foster home that you can offer them so that they have the best chance possible at a happy life.”