Saturday, Aug. 27, 2011 | 2 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
Among the victims in the avalanche of home foreclosures in Las Vegas are abandoned pets — dogs and cats that are left to roam the valley’s streets and fend for themselves.
Even more defenseless are their newborn puppies and kittens — and by some counts there are twice as many this year compared with last.
The Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is addressing the kitten problem with a foster program — “Feline Foster Force” — and is on the hunt for cat lovers to lend a temporary home. (Foster homes for at-risk puppies are sought as well, but are not as sorely needed as for kittens.)
The purpose of the campaign: for volunteers to help raise newborn cats and other special-needs cats that need care until they can fend for themselves. Once they are healthy or old enough, they will be placed at the NSPCA’s facility where they be cared for until they are adopted, whether it takes days, months or years.
“The need is incredible. This summer we have more than 200 little kittens with no mothers,” said Doug Duke, executive director of the NSPCA. “It’s absolutely essential with young animals that they get the loving care that a home can provide.”
The need for foster homes comes at a time when the NSPCA is pressed to its capacity in caring for about 800 dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals. The organization does not euthanize animals and frequently rescues animals from other animal shelters that would otherwise be put down.
“We’ve been challenged but we’ve never been challenged to this extent,” Duke said of the number of animals it is caring for this summer.
Cats that are too young for adoption, recovering from surgery or that are so distraught they stop eating are candidates for the foster program. In addition to animals that are left behind when residents leave their foreclosed homes, other cats end up separated from their homes by owners who allowed them to live outdoors, and the animals become injured or undernourished.
Once rescued, the young or injured cats are put in foster care where volunteers such as Lara Rodriguez care for and even bottle-feed them.
“I bottle-feed them every four hours and stimulate them so they can use the bathroom and sleep,” said Rodriguez.
Even with four foster puppies and three kittens, Rodriguez said she’s willing to take in more animals if it means they will live long enough to be adopted.
“It’s rewarding,” said Rodriguez, who works for NSPCA. “To see this little animal that you’ve literally raised and to see it grow up is just like watching your kids grow up. To me they are just like my children.
Along with being willing to bottle-feed kittens, Duke says foster parents need extra time and space in their homes to accommodate cats. In return, the volunteers will receive a discounted adoption rate if they chose to keep the animals they foster.
“It can be a very intense and rewarding form of volunteering, to foster an animal with a fragile hold on life,” Duke said.
Foster care lasts from infancy to when a cat is old enough to be spayed or neutered. Cats come with starter food and a liter box if needed.
Individuals or families interested in fostering can call the Nevada SPCA at 873-SPCA or stop by the shelter at 4800 W. Dewey Drive.
CORRECTION: This story has been modified to indicate a request for foster homes for puppies as well. | (August 27, 2011)