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Kitten season means extra work for local, feline foster caregivers

By Staff | May 29, 2009

The day starts early for Vicki Conn.
From 7-11 a.m. every day, she deals with the imposing task of feeding and cleaning up after 10 kittens, though, admittedly, Conn could handle more if necessary. After all, she has plenty of experience.
For 15 years the Cape Coral resident has been a foster caregiver for cats and kittens, working with nonprofit organizations and Lee County Animal Services in an effort to help control the cat population.
The 10 kittens that romp through the screened-in back porch are courtesy of LCAS, but they will not be there forever. Kittens come and go at Conn’s house.
She will raise the current bunch until they reach 2 pounds, then send them back to LCAS for adoption. Another group will follow, then another and another.
“I’m emotionally attached to every single one, but I don’t name them and that helps (when they leave),” Conn said. “It does get harder as they get older.”
Conn and LCAS are overflowing with cats and kittens these days. As summer approaches, so does kitten season — mating season for cats — during which unspayed females can go into heat once every three weeks.
During the summer, LCAS takes in 1,500-2,000 cats per month, mostly as strays.
The county recently instituted a trap, neuter and return program or TNR to help quell the growing feral cat problem, but it is always in need of more foster caregivers like Conn.
Foster caregivers provide temporary care for kittens that are too small to be adopted or sick, or when the LCAS facility is too full.
Conn warned that foster caregivers have to be of a certain ilk when taking on the responsibility of helping to rear young cats. She often takes on sick or ailing kittens that are often difficult to rehabilitate, and as a result some die.
“For some fosters, losing kittens would destroy them, but you have to understand it happens,” Conn said.
Conn has helped hundreds if not thousands of kittens during her 15 years. She puts her veterinarian technician degree to good use when helping to nurture the kittens that need medical attention, and she gives her foster kittens plenty of love and attention, something she is proud of.
With the LCAS shelter quickly filling, Conn urges the public to adopt a cat. Taking just one can make a huge difference.
“Cats that come out of this foster home make really great pets. They get lots of attention and care,” she said. “Even if you can take just one of the animals it would help. We are so overpopulated.”
Foster caregivers and LCAS are looking for food and cat litter donations. Like most food pantries in the the county, LCAS’ stores are running dangerously low.
The LCAS is also offering a $50 discount on adopting adult cats. At a regular price of $50, most cats are now free to adopt.
For those interested in volunteering as a foster care provider, LCAS provides all food, medicine and supplies. Volunteers can foster as many or few kittens as they like.
For more information, call 533-PETS (7387).