Charlotte is about to get its first community nursery for kittens and it will be exactly what you’d imagine: A big room full of snoozing fur balls, wrapped in fleece blankets with stuffed animals by their side.
This cuteness explosion is the result of grant dollars awarded to help more of Mecklenburg County’s cats survive into the adoption phase.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care & Control Shelter is behind the nursery, which is opening this week.
It comes at a time when warmer weather has advanced the breeding cycles for cats, introducing more kittens earlier in the season to a program that needs more resources.
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Organizers say the nursery is an answer to that quandary, but success hangs on finding more volunteers to serve as kitty nurse maids, including cuddling and feeding. All types of volunteers (over age 18) are welcome, and the shelter plans to train them in the fine art of bottle feeding weeks-old kittens.
Annalise Black, who assists with an animal “foster care” program at the shelter, says the nursery represents an opportunity for animal lovers to sit down and enjoy the best part of having a pet – but without the responsibilities and clean up.
“Volunteers will find some very tender moments with the animals, who are just so tiny,” said Black. “You don’t have to take them home, but you’re still helping them, literally saving their lives.”
In years past, foster homes have been used to keep as many as possible alive, but volunteers are tough to come by when told they have to feed a kitten every three hours, she said.
The agency’s kitten nursery idea has been planned for more than a year, but became a reality only after the agency won an $11,000 grant from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Thirty kittens at a time will be housed in the nursery.
Melissa Knicely of Animal Care & Control sees the project as an innovative way to help one of the most vulnerable parts of Mecklenburg County’s animal population. Hundreds of kittens are born each spring in the county, and they cannot be adopted out until they’re big enough to eat solid food, she says.
Typically, the numbers of cats in the shelters triples in May and quadruples in July, which is the busiest month of the year.
However, the numbers could come faster this year, due to the warm weather, she said.
“This has been a dream we’ve been talking about for the last four or five years,” said Knicely. “This is something that has been done successfully elsewhere in the country and we’ve been wanting to be the first in the region to have one that includes incubators.”
Knicely says kittens helped in the nursery will be up for adoption at the end of April or start of May.
How to help
If you’d like to volunteer to help feed kittens contact the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care & Control Shelter or email Trisha Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org. To donate items, go to the website animals.cmpd.org, click Make a Donation and choose Kitten Nursery.