ashland.news
May 23, 2024

Local shelters overwhelmed this kitten season

Friends Of The Animal Shelter kittens Oreo and Grayson have recently been adopted. Hundreds of kittens are available for adoption through FOTAS and other local rescues.
August 24, 2023

FOTAS steps up to subsidize sheltering kittens; what to do if you find a litter

By Midge Raymond

They are sometimes seen, occasionally heard, and often invisible. It’s kitten season in the Rogue Valley, and hundreds upon hundreds of stray kittens are overwhelming local rescues. Fortunately, there are myriad ways for the public to help.

Stormy was rescued from a storm drain and fostered by FOTAS volunteers before being adopted in August.

Kitten season is always a busy time for shelters, but rescuers feel especially overwhelmed this year. “During COVID there were fewer spays and neuters,” says Sandra Fowler, shelter manager of Committed Alliance to Strays (C.A.T.S.) in Medford. “Cats who didn’t get fixed had kittens, and then those cats had kittens.”

Like most rescues, C.A.T.S. is at capacity. “We have more than 350 cats in our program right now,” Fowler says. “It’s overwhelming, and we want to help them all. Financially, we just can’t take on any more.”

Ashland-based Friends of the Animal Shelter (FOTAS) is likewise struggling financially this kitten season, in part due to policy changes from Jackson County.

“This year, in the spring,” explains FOTAS executive director Sky Loos, “the county approached us and said that because all of their resources were being directed toward the dogs, they did not have available resources to care for kittens unless FOTAS was willing to step up and reimburse the county a certain amount for each kitten that came in and went through their system.”

FOTAS is reimbursing the county $187.50 per kitten, which covers spay/neuter, supplies and medical care, and has taken in more than 100 kittens so far.

Kitten Mae is available for adoption through Feral Cats Advocacy (FCA).

Other new county restrictions include not accepting kittens younger than 4 weeks old, and having no more than 40 kittens in the shelter system at a time, adds Loos. To be sure kittens in need receive care, she says, “We’re having the shelter direct calls to our cat foster coordinator, and we are taking in additional kittens and neonatals, and we are keeping them in foster care and taking care of them on our own until we can get them into the shelter system. We don’t want these kittens to be turned away, especially the neonatals who are just totally helpless.”

Other county price increases have affected FOTAS’s budget.

Friends Of The Animal Shelter kittens Oreo and Grayson have recently been adopted. Hundreds of kittens are available for adoption through FOTAS and other local rescues.

“FOTAS has historically subsidized the 2-fur-1 program for kittens,” Loos says of the popular program that encourages kittens to be adopted with a littermate or playmate. “The county recently raised the adoption fee for kittens from $90 to $150. So our costs for the 2-furs have gone up.”

FOTAS is also subsidizing the county’s animal surrender fee.

“So, in many cases good Samaritans find a box of abandoned kittens and they want to surrender them to the shelter, and historically that surrender fee was $10,” Loos says. “It has now been raised to $90, which is a really big chunk of change for a good Samaritan. A lot of people would refuse to pay that … so to remove any financial barriers, FOTAS is also, in addition to all those other costs, paying $80 of the $90 surrender fee for the kittens.”

With most shelters unable to handle new intakes, what should a good Samaritan do when encountering a stray kitten or a litter?

“It depends,” says Fowler, referring to the acronym CASE: condition, age, situation, and ability.

If the kittens are in good condition — clean, alert, healthy, and not in distress — then simply keep an eye on them and keep checking on them, Fowler advises. “Their best chance of survival is to stay with mom.”

“If someone finds a litter of kittens, their instinct is to help,” says Bonnie Waltz of Talent-based Feral Cats Advocacy (FCA). “You think you’re doing the right thing, but in kitten season it’s the wrong thing because their survival rate is much lower than if they stayed with their mom.”

Kitten Sparkle is available for adoption through Feral Cats Advocacy (FCA).
Friends Of The Animal Shelter kittens Oreo and Grayson have recently been adopted. Hundreds of kittens are available for adoption through FOTAS and other local rescues.

Kittens should stay with their mother until they are at least 5 to 6 weeks old, Waltz says. When people pick up kittens without the mother, “Nine times out of 10, the mom is looking for those babies.”

Yet if kittens are in poor condition — dirty, flea-ridden, or sick — or if they are in a bad situation, such as a busy or dangerous place, Fowler encourages people to take them to a safe place or take them home. “Make sure you can take care of them or find someone who can,” Fowler says. Both C.A.T.S. and FCA are currently unable to handle new intakes, and FOTAS has a wait list for foster homes.

Even those who don’t encounter strays can help by fostering. “We need foster families that are willing to open their homes to kittens,” says Loos. “That’s what is going to keep them safe — if they have a home and someone to take care of them until we’re able to get them adopted out. It’s a lot of fun. It’s really rewarding. It’s a great way to get your kids involved with caring for another living being.”

FCA, which has 90 cats and kittens in its program, and C.A.T.S., which has more than 200 cats in foster care, both welcome new foster families as well. “We could not to this without the fosters,” Fowler says.

With local resources so limited, Waltz encourages people to be open to helping out. “It hurts our hearts that we don’t have an unlimited ability to help,” she says. “If people looked, they’d see that they have a corner of their room available to foster. Fosters can create their own expectations based on what they can handle.”

Where to find adoptable kittens:
FOTAS
C.A.T.S.
SO Humane
Feral Cats Advocacy
 
Online feline resources:
Feral Cats Advocacy (FCA)
Spay Neuter Your Pet (SNYP)
FOTAS
C.A.T.S.

Financial donations are always welcome — as well as simply spreading the word about these rescue organizations and the work they do. “We’ve been around since 1990,” says Fowler. “Let people know we’re here.”

And there may be other opportunities to help; Loos is looking at options for future kitten seasons, pointing out that FOTAS’s current reimbursement agreement with the county ends in September.

“As we know, the kittens don’t magically stop coming in September,” she says. “We’re looking at how we can make this more sustainable and more manageable. We’re looking into possibly taking in kittens and having them spayed and neutered on our own, working with local vets, and we’re working with SNYP as well. We’re really trying to build some new partnerships to serve not just kittens outside of the shelter but cats, dogs, kittens, puppies, and the community in general. We also need to have a place to adopt them out. Right now we are looking into possible businesses or spaces that would allow us to come in and hold a ‘kittenpalooza’ or some type of major adoption event. We’re just trying to be creative this year and get a plan down.”

Ultimately, spay/neuter is the only way to prevent unwanted litters.

“If you have neighborhood cats, get together with your neighbors and do TNR,” suggests Foster, referring to trap-neuter-release. “We can’t do it all. We need some help.”

Local rescues offer a wealth of information about TNR online and are willing to assist those who want to learn. “Think outside the box and see how you can be the help,” says Waltz. “If our assistance is necessary, we can guide you. If people are willing to be part of the solution and link arms with us, we’re willing to educate.”

Another way to help during kitten season — and perhaps the most fun — is to adopt one or two of the hundreds of bundles of joy awaiting new homes. Adoption fees range from $90 to $150 and include spay/neuter, vaccinations, microchipping, and more, depending on the shelter. In addition, many Jackson County veterinarians will offer a free office visit for pets adopted from a shelter.

Author and Ashland resident Midge Raymond is co-founder of the boutique publisher Ashland Creek Press. She is also a member of FOTAS.

Two of the three “singing kittens” — Mariah and Celine — have been adopted but Mariah and Celine have been adopted, Beyonce is still waiting for someone to “put a ring on it.” FOTAS volunteers who’ve had her in foster care report she’s a “gorgeous, playful, fluffy purr machine.”
Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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