Around the Clock Care for Kittens


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By Sarah Scorgie


Spring brings warmer weather, blooming flowers, and the hope of a brighter future. And at San Diego Humane Society, it marks the beginning of the busiest (and cutest!) time of the year: baby season.

Over the course of spring and summer, San Diego Humane Society will give thousands of kittens a safe haven where they can grow and thrive. But all that cuteness requires a tremendous amount of resource-intensive, lifesaving care. Shelter staff and volunteers dedicate themselves around the clock to giving these babies the second chance they deserve.

Kittens younger than 8 weeks old are, hands down, some of the most adorable animals you’ll find in shelter environments. They’re also some of the most vulnerable shelter animals in the country. Mother cats work hard for their babies—feeding them every 2 to 3 hours, helping them maintain an appropriate body temperature, and keeping them clean. Many communities simply don’t have the resources to meet these around-the-clock needs for orphaned kittens.

Every day, there are new kittens to care for, whose stories are less remarkable but whose second chances are just as meaningful. Tim is one of those kittens—Tim was cold, hungry and just a few weeks old when he was brought to San Diego Humane Society. Although underweight, he was healthy, so nursery staff warmed him up, bottle-fed him formula, then arranged for him to go to a foster home. Like thousands of kittens each year, Tim’s stay in the nursery was short, but life changing. PHOTO COURTESY: SAN DIEGO HUMANE SOCIETY

When San Diego Humane Society opened their Kitten Nursery in 2009, it was the first of its kind in the country, and the only place where orphaned, neonatal kittens could get the lifesaving care they needed. The facility provides far more than 24/7 blankets and bottles. Staff also use careful protocols to manage kittens’ susceptibility to disease and infection—especially since orphaned kittens aren’t benefiting from the antibodies in their mother’s breast milk. To keep these little ones healthy, members of San Diego Humane Society’s medical team perform rounds in the nursery twice a day.


Today, the 24-hour Kitten Nursery is the cornerstone of a Kitten Program that includes nurseries at two other campuses and hundreds of foster families that open their homes to animals in need. Combined, this program has changed the lives of tens of thousands of kittens, including one special guy named Pigpen.


At just 3 weeks old, fragile Pigpen was rescued from a recycling bin by one of San Diego Humane Society’s Humane Officers. His foot and tail had been severely injured, but this tiny kitten was a fighter. He was brought straight to the organization’s Pilar & Chuck Bahde Center for Shelter Medicine for emergency care, where veterinarians treated Pigpen’s injuries and bandaged his foot. He then settled into the Kitten Nursery for around-the-clock care, including medication to manage his pain. Fortunately, Pigpen made a full recovery—and he was adopted by the Humane Officer who rescued him.

Caring for this many kittens takes a community—and, to support its Kitten Program, San Diego Humane Society holds an annual Kitten Shower, during which animal lovers can choose a special gift from the organization’s online baby registries. To donate a gift or learn more about how San Diego Humane Society cares for kittens in need, visit

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