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Foster volunteers needed to help with kitten crisis in Jacksonville

Humane Society: Underage kittens too fragile to stay in shelter

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville is in a kitten crisis and you could be the key to solving it. The Jacksonville Humane Society and Animal Care and Protective Services are asking the public to volunteer to temporarily foster kittens in their homes. Combined, the two agencies have received 1,761 underage kittens so far in 2019, and 716 of those were in the month of May alone.

Foster parents are the key to saving these tiny lives. Underage kittens are too fragile to stay in the shelter. Foster parents take kittens into their homes to monitor their food intake, keep them warm, provide human socialization and help them thrive. Some kittens need to be fed by bottle every 2-3 hours, while others are eating on their own.

Some litters of kittens have a mother cat who nurses her kittens while the foster parent provides care for the mother. Both JHS and ACPS provide all the veterinary care needed for foster pets and supplies. Foster kittens should be housed separately from other pets and can easily be cared for in a bathroom, laundry room, spare room, or walk-in closet. 

The amount of time a kitten stays in foster care depends on the age of the kittens, but the goal is to help them reach 8 weeks of age and weigh at least 2 pounds. At this stage, kittens can be spayed/neutered and made available for adoption. Foster parents are encouraged to help find homes for the kittens but it is not required. Foster parents are allowed to adopt. 

JHS also has an option called “Foster First Responders” where a volunteer provides care overnight in their home and returns the kittens the next day. Foster First Responders assist kittens who cannot eat on their own or require urgent care. These kittens cannot make it through the night at the shelter and a foster home is their only option. By volunteering on a temporary, as-needed basis, Foster First Responders ensure that kittens survive.  

“Foster parents are lifesavers and heroes,” said Denise Deisler, JHS CEO. “Last year, JHS had to send more than 4,000 kittens into foster care. That would not have been possible without the hundreds of foster parents who answered our call for help. The past few years have been a challenge with the rising number of kittens, and Jacksonville’s kittens need foster parents now more than ever.”

JHS and ACPS are also asking that anyone who finds kittens uses the “Don’t KitNap” rule by looking for the mother cat before stepping in to help. If the mother cannot be found, the finder can still help the kittens by keeping them out of the shelter and fostering them on their own. Many local veterinary offices have offered support for this program. JHS and ACPS can provide resources (while supplies last) and rehoming support to these compassionate individuals. Currently, many good Samaritans have chosen this option after finding kittens and learning about the crisis in Jacksonville, keeping 295 kittens out of the shelters in 2019.

To sign up to foster, information can be found on JHS’s website, jaxhumane.org/foster, and ACPS’ website, coj.net/pets. For more information on ways to help Jacksonville with the kitten crisis, including access to low-cost or free spay/neuter programs and Don’t KitNap messaging for your neighborhood, visit jaxhumane.org/kittenhelp.