CAMDEN — Now that it’s September, “kitten season” is supposed to be over. At least that’s what P.A.W.S. Animal Adoption Center thought. The staff had all been working long hours this first week of September, trying to process a slew of new rescue animals that came into the shelter when they received a visit from a gentleman who discovered a large cat colony living in an old barn he was about to dismantle in Liberty.
Most feral barn cat colonies are self-sufficient, except these animals were in dire straits.
“He recovered and brought in two nursing mothers and 18 kittens varying in age from 3 weeks to 12 weeks, all of which had acute upper respiratory infections,” said P.A.W.S. Executive Director Shelly Butler. “Their eyes were matted shut; they had ear mites and the majority of them would have died if he hadn’t discovered them.”
“When they have upper respiratory issues like that, they can’t nurse; they can’t breathe and they can’t get nutrition they need,” said Butler. With the staff and volunteers pushed to the limit, the kittens were bottle fed every two hours for 24 hours until they regained their strength.
In the last month, P.A.W.S. has taken in 36 kittens and seven young mothers, several which were already pregnant when brought in.
The two biggest issues this week are getting the fleas and ticks off the mothers and kittens, and the upper respiratory infections under control.
“If we can’t get the fleas off them, quickly enough, they risk becoming anemic,” said Butler.
With upper respiratory infection being so contagious, the mothers and kittens had to all be separated to get healthy and are now recuperating in various staff rooms, including the staff bathrooms, while they regain their strength.
In the women’s restroom, for example, a small 1-year-old calico mother came out from beneath the bathroom stall to greet us. She had arrived with a litter of four severely ill kittens. Three have since died, as their upper respiratory infections were so acute. Even with medical care and bottle feeding, their bodies were so weak, they couldn’t get the nutrients they needed to survive. Only one kitten, Cliff, remains with his mother, Olive, in quarantine. His eyes are still so glued shut by the mucus, that he lay there listlessly on a blanket by the toilet, one eye shut and the other trying to open to see who was calling to him.
P.A.W.S. in-house veterinarian, Dr. Jodie James, has been treating them.
“They’re all on medications now and I expect them all to do well,” she said. “It’s still a little early to tell, but the best thing is, we’ve got them all in different rooms so they’re not shut up in a cage. That quality of life is very important in their healing process.”
A large unexpected influx of cats and kittens such as this equates to a nearly $10,000-expense for P.A.W.S.
“This pushes our resources absolutely to the limit,” said Butler, explaining that with 36 cats, immediate care translates to roughly $200 per cat. “And that’s just to get them healthy, and ready for the adoption floor, such as flea and tick medication, and medicine to clear up the upper respiratory infection, vaccinations, and spayed/neutered. This doesn’t include their food, the additional staff time, and the strain on shelter supplies to keep everyone clean, safe and fed for the next few weeks until they can be adopted.”
While the staff is working to find additional foster homes for the recovering kittens, Butler is seeking help from the community.
“We absolutely need financial assistance with medical expenses to get them the care they need,” she said. “Flea and tick medicine alone is close to $20 a dose. On top of that we need special kitten food and formula and more kitty litter to change out.”
Those interested in fostering the kittens would need to go through an application process. For those who’d like to donate toward their medical expenses, visit: pawsadoption.worldsecuresystems.com/donate
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com