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Volunteers work 24/7 to keep kittens alive during kitten season




A volunteer hand feeds a kitten at Best Friends Animal Society's kitten nursery in Mission Hills, CA.
A volunteer hand feeds a kitten at Best Friends Animal Society's kitten nursery in Mission Hills, CA.
Sara Fay / KPCC
A volunteer hand feeds a kitten at Best Friends Animal Society's kitten nursery in Mission Hills, CA.
A kitten takes a break in a small aquarium between feedings.
Sara Fay / KPCC
A volunteer hand feeds a kitten at Best Friends Animal Society's kitten nursery in Mission Hills, CA.
Volunteers bottle feed the smallest kittens every two hours.
Sara Fay / KPCC
A volunteer hand feeds a kitten at Best Friends Animal Society's kitten nursery in Mission Hills, CA.
Kittens are weighed regularly to monitor their eating and make sure they aren't losing weight.
Sara Fay / KPCC
A volunteer hand feeds a kitten at Best Friends Animal Society's kitten nursery in Mission Hills, CA.
A loss of just a couple grams can be a cause for concern.
Sara Fay / KPCC
A volunteer hand feeds a kitten at Best Friends Animal Society's kitten nursery in Mission Hills, CA.
Marc Peralta is executive director of Best Friends Animal Society in Los Angeles.
Sara Fay / KPCC


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Los Angeles is coming close to meeting its goal of becoming an official "no kill" city by 2017.

One remaining challenge is keeping newborn kittens alive.

Once they're old enough, kittens are some of the most adoptable pets, but getting them to that point takes a lot of volunteer hours.

During kitten season, the job becomes even more difficult.

Marc Peralta, Executive Director of Best Friends Animal Society in Los Angeles, helps explain what's involved in saving newborn kittens during kitten season:

What is kitten season?

As the weather gets warmer and the sun comes out more, breeding cycles for cats start and these little babies are born. So kitten season starts in March, ends generally around November, and there is a huge influx of kittens that come into the shelter because people are finding them, they feel bad for them. But the shelters just aren't equipped to handle these little guys. So they need help from people like us.

Why are newborn kittens at such high risk?

Kittens are the number one animals euthanized in city shelters. The issues are, like newborns, they just take a lot of care, so the youngest kittens have to be bottle fed every two hours. With almost about 50 thousand cats and dogs coming in, the city shelters just don't have the infrastructure to support this kind of work.

Before the kitten nurseries existed, there were about 7,500 kittens dying in shelters. There's still about 4,000, but the existence of the nurseries has been huge for our march to "no kill."

What's involved in the care of newborn kittens?

Volunteers feed, weigh, bathe, and help the kittens go to the bathroom, just like their mothers would.  The nursery here is open 24/7 and we usually try to get kittens into foster homes as well. Once the kittens are two months old they can be spayed and neutered and adopted, so it's just getting them to that point.

What can people do to help?

If you find kittens in your neighborhood, don't take them to a shelter right away. Wait and watch because mom is usually nearby and better able to care for her kittens than a shelter can. And if you want to donate to the nursery, foster a kitten, or volunteer, that's great too. You can find out more here.