Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Paul Fraughton | The Salt Lake Tribune) Amber Randall of Best Friends Animal Society looks over one of the very young kittens in the feeding program at Salt Lake County Animal Services facility. Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Kittens are motherless, and they need Utahns to lend a caring hand

A flood of tiny orphans is expected at the Salt Lake County shelter.

First Published May 09 2013 10:27 am • Last Updated May 09 2013 09:47 pm

It’s not every day that you get the chance to save the world — especially that corner of it where the lives of tiny, orphaned kittens are on the line.

But that’s exactly the volunteer opportunity Salt Lake County Animal Services is offering now with its new Bottle Baby campaign.

At a glance

Volunteer to help orphaned kittens

Salt Lake County Animal Services and the Best Friends Animal Society welcome volunteers for their Bottle Baby program at the animal services shelter, 511 W. 3900 South, Salt Lake City. Volunteers must be 13 or older and complete a three-part training course. There is a special need for people interested in tending kittens during midnight and workday hours.

To volunteer for the Bottle Baby program, go to www.bfas.org/slckittens.

Salt Lake County Animal Services also has a section on its Web page for volunteers at www.adoptutahpets.com.

Anyone interested in fostering through the Humane Society of Utah should contact the Foster Care Department directly at 801-261-2919 or by stopping by at 4242 S. 300 West in Murray. On weekends, the Adoption Department can put prospective volunteers in touch with Foster Care.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"You are literally saving lives," says Talia Butler, special programs manager at animal services.

And that is a big draw, program organizers hope, for people willing to lend a caring hand. The kittens that need help are as young as 2 days old, still blind and deaf — and motherless, rescued by animal control officers.

Volunteer Jennifer Jaramillo has already warmed a bottle and preps a soft, clean spot to work with a week-old white and gray-striped kitten. Soon she gently wrangles the little one as it twists its face away from the dropperful of supplements she tries to administer.

Next, she’ll weigh, feed, weigh, potty and weigh the tiny wriggler — it’s the routine that takes place every two hours for each of the 50 motherless kittens now at the shelter.

Then, the payoff for her patience. The squirming baby tugs greedily at the formula-filled bottle she holds, and her face lights up.

In a room at the other end of a trailer where the program is housed, nine curtained-off kennels contain feral and homeless mother cats and their litters. Volunteers tend them, too, even though the moms do much of the work.

With around 100 cats and kittens already in residence, the Bottle Baby team knows more help will be needed soon. The yearly feline baby boom is just getting under way.

"There’s always an onslaught of kittens in the spring and summer," said Sandy Nelson, the shelter’s marketing and outreach director.

story continues below
story continues below

Through the summer, animal services and its partner, Best Friends Animal Society, expect to need around 400 volunteers to keep the kitten-rescue center running round the clock. The chores go beyond cuddling and include cleaning litter pans and other cleanup. And volunteers follow a strict regimen of sanitizing and using gloves and smocks to protect the babies from disease.

"We have our hard days," Nelson said. "But it’s worth it."

The Bottle Baby program is modeled on one in Austin, Texas. But, unlike that orphaned-kitten program and many others, this one is hosted by a government agency, county animal services. The others are hosted by private organizations.

The Salt Lake County program is part of an effort aimed at making the shelter — which sees about 11,000 cats and dogs a year — a no-kill facility. And, so far for 2013, the county shelter is on track, said Butler.

In the end, the shelter hopes to get these kittens ready to adopt as house pets. Mother cats, newly spayed and inoculated, also can be diverted to new careers as good barn cops and outdoor pest managers.

Across the interstate at the Humane Society of Utah, another kitten-saving effort has been under way for about a decade, said spokesman Carl Arky.

"Our approach is quite a bit different," he said. "We send our kittens into homes to be cared for instead of keeping them at the shelter."

One foster family, for instance, handles bottle feeding in shifts, with parents and kids working together day and night. They also pay for formula and veterinary care. And keeping the kittens in foster care eliminates the risk of spreading disease among all of the vulnerable kittens.

"We have built this up over the years and now have a dedicated, loyal group of volunteers," he said, "but we can always use more because the demand grows greater every year"

Nelson does have a warning for potential volunteers. They might be so enthralled by the kittens that they want to adopt whole litters.

"Just be prepared," she said, "for cuteness."

Next Page >

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.