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Haven Humane Society's Kitten Nursery

04/29/2020 09:53PM ● By Laura Christman

Kitty Care

May 2020
By Laura Christman
Photos courtesy of Haven Humane Society

Kittens are cute, but cuteness will only get you so far. An itty-bitty kitty not old enough to eat on its own requires constant care. 

Abandoned kittens in the North State are getting a chance at life thanks to Haven Humane Society’s kitten nursery. The nursery, which opened in 2018 at Haven’s facilities on Eastside Road in Redding, provides around-the-clock feedings and lots of love. It saved 98 cats the year it opened and some 200 last year. Haven CEO Mark Storrey hopes to help even more in 2020. “There are not a whole lot of shelters that have 24-hour kitten nurseries,” he notes.

A kitten nursery requires a dedicated space and a dedicated staff. The nursery, which takes up most of a new 1,200-square-foot building, supports nursing kittens and others not old enough to be adopted. Kate Musil is the kitten nursery coordinator. “I’m passionate about helping stray felines,” she says. “I’ve loved cats my whole life.”

Kitten season, when Haven takes in lots of litters, goes from April into November. “Most of the time they have been dumped,” Storrey says. In the nursery, each litter gets a cubby – a plastic storage tote retrofitted with a ventilated top and outfitted with a heating pad, fleece blanket and stuffed toy. The easy-to-disinfect cubbies were made by Redding Girl Scout Troop 70117.

The nursery has space for queens (mama cats) with litters, although most kittens brought to Haven come without a mother. “If you find kittens with no mom, wait,” Storrey advises. The mother cat may show up. And kittens with a mother have a much better shot at making it.

Sometimes queens are willing to nurse kittens that aren’t theirs, Musil notes. But most kittens in the nursery are bottle-fed. Feedings are every two to three hours, including through the night. Hygiene is critical with the tiny, fragile kittens. “We gown up and glove up for every single litter,” Musil says.

Staff and volunteers keep detailed records and closely monitor the kittens for health changes. It’s a lot of work, but rewarding, Musil says. “It is so satisfying to help the tiniest little baby … It’s the best. It’s giving them life,” she says. 

At its busiest period last year, the nursery had 35 kittens, Musil says. When kittens are old enough to eat on their own, they go to foster homes where they stay until large enough – two pounds – to be spayed or neutered and put up for adoption. The foster care is great socialization, Musil says. “They get a home to play in.”

The continuum of care provided from bottle babies to spunky youngsters results in kittens that are people-friendly and very adoptable. “They all find homes really fast,” Musil says. 

Haven helps cats and dogs, as well as the occasional rabbit, horse, chicken or pig. Its services encompass an adoption center, spay-neuter hospital and community outreach and education.

The kitten nursery is just one piece of Haven’s feline efforts. Four years ago, Haven added a community cat room, Sasha’s Playhouse. Up to five adoptable cats get the run of the room, which has beds, perches and climbing posts. They remain there until adopted. The project to convert the room was aided by shelter cats. By tapping a moving mouse image on an iPad, cats created artwork that was turned into note cards for a fundraiser for the project.

Adoptable cats at Haven that don’t reside in Sasha’s Playhouse are housed in cubicles called condos. The condos are being reconfigured to provide cats with more space and a less public area to retreat to. The goal is to ease stress, Storrey explains. Cats that aren’t stressed are happier, friendlier and likely to be adopted more quickly.

Volunteers are essential to Haven’s cat services, Storrey says. They clean condos and help with socializing by brushing, playing with or talking to the cats.

To blunt the breeding cycle in feral cat colonies, Haven has a trap-neuter-release program. It is an effective and humane strategy for dealing with wild cat populations, Storrey says. Haven’s goal is for the North State to have no homeless pets. The key to getting there is spaying and neutering pets, Storrey says. “We can’t do this on our own,” he says. “It’s going to take the whole community.”

Being a region with no homeless pets is attainable, Storrey says, adding he is “constantly surprised by the outpouring of love” from those wanting to help animals. “This community is amazing,” he says.

Ways to support Haven’s efforts include:

• adopting an animal

• volunteering 

• fostering

• donating money or supplies

• networking (sharing Haven’s social media posts about
  adoptable pets) •

Haven Humane Society •