Miami’s cuteness quotient is about to fly off the charts.
Over the past few months, as the weather has warmed, stray cats across South Florida have gotten, well, frisky. And now hundreds of furry bundles of joy are being born across Miami-Dade. Sadly, many of those kittens are abandoned by their mothers.
Miami-Dade Animal Services' new program, Kitten Cuddlers, aims to empower people in the community to care for these newborn — "neonatal" — kittens by serving as foster parents. Animal Services is providing training and supplies for all interested volunteers.
“We want to give these kittens a chance to survive and to become adult cats,” says Alyssa Dazza, neonate foster coordinator. “But it’s almost impossible for us to cope without the help of the community.”
Animal Services receives 20,000 to 30,000 animals per year. In the past, the organization has been overwhelmed during kitten season, when some seven to 12 kittens can arrive each day. Neonatal kittens are extremely high-risk and need around-the-clock care in the first weeks of life.
Thanks to a grant from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animal Services started the Kitten Cuddlers initiative this year.
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Ideally, volunteers bring a kitten (or multiple kittens) into their homes for five weeks, although shorter stints are also welcomed. The foster parents need to be available to feed the cats throughout the day and night, as well as help them go to the bathroom. The kittens will be scheduled for veterinary visits to receive booster vaccines and general wellness care until they reach adoption age. When kittens are adoption-ready, Animal Services helps them find new homes.
Animal Services is holding training sessions on the second and fourth Sundays of every month. It distributes newborn-kitten kits containing everything a foster parent needs to care for a kitty, including heating pads, feeding bottles, and kitten milk replacer.
To become a Kitten Cuddler foster parent, email firstname.lastname@example.org and type “Kitten Cuddler” in the subject line. If you’ve found a litter of unattended kittens, consult these tips for how best to respond.
Among Dazza’s main recommendations: Don’t feed kittens cow’s milk, and try to keep them warm. Newborn kittens “can’t even regulate their own body temperature yet,” she says.