MANATEE – At least 10 families willing to foster developing kittens are urgently needed by the Gulf Shore Animal League, which has taken its efforts to save kittens to a new level this year. Thirteen litters are currently being housed at Manatee County Animal Services, where they can be exposed to viruses that are especially dangerous to infant kittens, says Audrey Garrison, founder and president of Gulf Shore Animal League.
“We need them out of the shelter environment as soon as possible,” Garrison says. “They need to be in situations where they can be protected from viruses and will receive attentive nurturing.”Already this year, Gulf Shore and its network of volunteers have provided temporary housing and foster care for over 40 litters, totaling more than 120 kittens, Garrison says. The nonprofit group’s current volunteers can likely take in at least three of the litters, but Garrison said more help is needed as soon as
The rescued kittens are typically found abandoned in the wild or on Manatee County streets. Most need regular feeding from caretakers, and some need bottle-feeding. A few of the rescued litters are with their mothers but are still highly susceptible to upper respiratory infections and other viruses that are commonly found in shelters and are especially threatening to kittens, who have immature immune systems, Garrison says.
Gulf Shore Animal League provides formula, food, litter and cages for those volunteer foster families that need help, and also handles the early vaccination and pediatric spaying/neutering of the kittens.Garrison provides training on not only bottle-feeding but also tube feeding,which is sometimes necessary for kittens who struggle to adapt to bottle suckling and milk replacement formula.
Once the kittens are at least two pounds, they are spayed or neutered, then offered to the community through Gulf Shore Animal League or one of its artners. Adoption fees average $75 and include early vaccinations and spaying/neutering.
Gulf Shore Animal League typically focuses on feral and community cat trap-neuter-return (TNR) efforts. But the group decided to increase its focus on kitten rescue this year because the shelters are overloaded and understaffed.
“Manatee County is working toward becoming a ‘no-kill’ community, but we’re not there yet,” Garrison says. “Kittens under two pounds, bottle babies and nursing queens generally do not survive in high-volume municipal shelters. We need to intervene as a community to protect these most vulnerable lives.”