December is National Cat Lovers’ Month, and there are so many impactful ways to love and help cats! Esther Neonatal Kitten Alliance, a new Asheville-based organization, is saving the most vulnerable in our community — orphaned newborn kittens.
Until kittens are about a month old, they can’t do much of anything on their own, so they’re completely dependent on a caretaker (whether it’s their mom or a foster parent) to keep them warm, feed them, and even help them use the bathroom! Each year, thousands of newborn kittens, otherwise known as neonates, are found outdoors in our community and brought to animal shelters and other rescue organizations.
Since kittens require around-the-clock care for the first few weeks of their lives, an emergency situation is created every time one arrives at a shelter as staff members drop everything to care for the kitten and work to find a foster parent able and willing to bottle feed every 2-4 hours, day and night. To top it off, neonates have weak immune systems and can become sick from viruses at a shelter that don’t affect older, vaccinated cats. The longer neonates stay at a shelter waiting for a foster, the more unsafe they become.
And as you may imagine, those foster homes are hard to find. With so many other animals in their care at all times, it’s nearly impossible for shelters to find the time and resources to provide neonate fosters with the extensive training and support needed to do the exhausting and hyper-emotional work of saving the most delicate little lives. Without that training and support, though, many volunteers who have tried fostering at neonates burn out quickly and choose to foster older, hardier kittens instead.
Without outside help, “kitten season” is hard on organizations, overwhelming for foster parents, and dangerous for neonates. That’s where Esther Neonatal Kitten Alliance comes in. Our team has worked on both sides of the aisle — both as fosters and as staffers at animal rescue organizations. We know where the gaps are, what types of support are most urgently needed, and how to build a community that’s working effectively and efficiently to save orphaned newborn kittens.
Our programs fulfill three essential needs: creating a network of trained and supported foster parents, helping other organizations build their own strong neonate programs, and providing free community education. With the extra layers of education, support, and relief, 2020 is sure to be the best year yet for orphaned newborn kittens in western North Carolina.
In order to live the long, well-loved lives they deserve, the kittens need your help! Please visit kittenalliance.org today and become a lifesaver by making a donation or signing up to be a foster parent. Every act of kindness helps, and together we can build big, bright futures for the tiniest kittens.
Andee Bingham is a founder of Esther Neonatal Kitten Alliance.