‘Tis the season to care for cats and canines, and the Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department is holding a virtual puppy and kitten shower through April 30 to accrue much needed supplies to accommodate for the nearly 2,000 kittens and 400 puppies they expect to take in during the warm months.
In previous years, “kitten season,” the time of year in which the shelter gets their vast majority of incoming orphaned or abandoned kittens, has only extended through summer months. But increasingly warm winters have greatly widened the window during which these animals are reproductively active. Last year, the shelter rescued 1,500 kittens between April and October, and they are expecting up to 2,000 this year from February to October, according to Nicole Vigil, senior veterinarian at the Animal Welfare Department.
“Our shelter is seeing up to about 2,000 animals in a year. That’s a sad but true reality that we’re dealing with in our community, and part of that is puppies and kittens, so we need the help from our community,” Vigil said.
The items needed to sustain the shelter through this period include things like formula, litter and heating pads to help keep animals of varying ages and medical states alive. Desirée Cawley, marketing manager for the Animal Welfare Department, said these items are used up incredibly quickly, and having these items can be a matter of life and death for the kittens which come into the shelter as young as hours old.
The shelter also highly encourages anyone with the extra time and space to participate in the foster program or to volunteer at their East Side Neonatal Orphan Unit, which opens May 2. Aside from kittens, there are a variety of pets with medical cases or who are geriatric, both of which would greatly benefit from loving homes.
Vigil characterized fostering an orphaned kitten as an excellent potential summer learning experience while emphasizing that fostering for just a few months could “literally save their lives.” She said it also offers perspective for those who are unsure if they are ready for the commitment of permanently adopting a pet.
“It’s amazing how they can actually flourish and be who they really are. Their personality just blossoms because of the opportunity of being in somebody’s home and experiencing love. Some of them just don’t experience love. You’d be surprised; we’ve had dogs walking in here that have never been on a leash, never been petted, just never had the security of a home,” Cawley said.
Even after the end of the puppy shower, Cawley said the welfare department has a year-round wish list that community members can donate to. They also accept monetary donations through their nonprofit affiliate Kennel Kompadres and are always accepting volunteers to help within the kennel and clinic.
Vigil mentioned other important services the welfare department offers, including a separate clinic that provides affordable spaying and neutering services for those who can’t afford to do it through a veterinarian.
“It’s actually a community effort. It’s not just the shelter’s responsibility; it’s the community’s. So we all need to work together, try to resolve this issue, but at the same time these pets are asking for our help, and we’re the voice, and we need public support, and we can help them flourish and be wonderful pets to somebody’s family,” Cawley said.
Zara Roy is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter @zarazzledazzle