Saving Kittens at the Pasadena Humane Society

The Pasadena Humane Society’s kitten foster program kicks into high gear.

Kennels inside the Neely Cat Center at the Pasadena Humane Society were filling to capacity. It was June 2018 and Isabelle Nidetz was barely a year into her new job as the shelter’s foster-care coordinator.

“There was a lot of pressure on medical staff as well as the animal care attendants,” says Nidetz, who was running out of options—and physical space—for the animals. As in years past, more foster volunteers and adoptions were needed than were available.

Humane society staff and volunteers were under pressure to quickly find placements for a staggering 777 kittens and cats. A month before, they had found just 127 fosters for 622 kittens and cats. “We needed so many foster volunteers to help with the population numbers,” Nidetz says. “Every kitten counts, and if we can have more kittens in foster then we can take more from other shelters.”

Throughout the spring and summer months—otherwise known as “kitten season”—litters are born across L.A. County, straining available resources and staff at animal shelters.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), 90 percent of the nearly 34,000 kittens entering L.A. County and L.A. City shelters each year come in during kitten season. “During the summertime it’s very much go-go-go,” Nidetz says. “We need to find space, we need to find fosters.”

The need to find fosters is even more of a priority because of a newborn kitten’s health demands and volatile mortality rate. With their weak immune systems and susceptibility to a host of health problems, particularly respiratory viruses and intestinal parasites, young kittens must be monitored closely, according to Michael Kwan, a staff veterinarian at VCA Foothill Veterinary Hospital. Kittens younger than four weeks require bottle feeding to obtain vital nutrients and ensure weight gain—typically every two hours.

Operating under an open admission policy, the Pasadena Humane Society is mandated to intake all animals from the Greater Los Angeles area. However, when it comes to kittens, until they reach a minimum of 1.8-pounds in weight to be spayed or neutered safely, they cannot be adopted. Therefore, fostering becomes a critical, lifesaving need.

The Humane Society covers the cost of vaccinations, food, supplies, and any unexpected medical issues, all of which “lowers the barriers for people to foster,” Nidetz says.

Photos by Manissa Pedroza

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