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Although most refer to the mild months of April and May as spring, the time at the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association means something different: kitten season.
Each year employees work to find foster families for the dozen of litters of kittens that are brought in for foster care. Many come off the street, which means they may be sick or need extra help before they’re ready for adoption.
And often, said Bethany Hively, director of the Humane Association, people overlook cats and kittens in favor of dogs and puppies.
“We see it all the time that people don’t think about the cats and kittens as much as they think about the dogs and puppies,” Hively said. “I don’t get it – maybe because there are more of them, or, you know, they are cats and people think they can take care of themselves. But that is not the case.”
This year, the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association received a $ 20,000 grant from the Best Friends Animal Society to help care for sick and vulnerable cats and kittens. Hively said the money comes at a great time as the association emerges from operating under COVID-19, a year when its two largest fundraising drives were canceled due to security concerns.
“That was a blow and we weren’t sure how we should fare,” Hively said. “However, we couldn’t expect the support of the community. It blew us away. We are so grateful to the people who support us and have recognized the importance of our work. “
The scholarship also comes as the animal welfare association deals with its annual influx of cats and kittens. Hively said many of these cats are sick with viral infections that can be highly contagious from cat to cat.
A few years ago the animal welfare association converted a former cremation room for euthanized animals into an isolation station for sick cats in order to limit their contact and enable them to heal.
Some just need antibiotics and treatments, said Kristin Lilly, cat care coordinator at the shelter. Others, however, need more practical care. The more cats that are given to the shelter, the greater the need.
“With the number of cats we have, we’re seeing more and more sick cats and kittens without a mother,” Lilly said. “It’s hard to manage and make sure all animals get exactly what they need. This scholarship helps me a lot, especially with what I can do for the cats in my care. “
Hively said receiving a grant to care for sick animals is a sign of how far the shelter has come in a short amount of time. The Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association became a no killing shelter – meaning animals are not euthanized unless there is serious health or injury – in 2014.
The incinerator was taken offline and Hively said the organization has begun rethinking how it will handle the animals it is caring for. The quality of care has become more important than the quantity of treated animals.
“We don’t work like that anymore, and it was a conscious choice,” said Hively. “We still take care of any animal that comes in as best we can. If this is not possible, we will help find another shelter or clinic that can. It’s not an official ‘network’, but the authorities in the area rely on each other. “
Cat overpopulation and other challenges for the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association team are pretty common in most animal shelters, Hively said. Different agencies may also have different ways of dealing with them depending on their policies and practices.
With the Best Friends Animal Society scholarship, Hively said, communication with animal shelters in the area has opened up more to explore ideas and practices. The grant will set the Kanawha animal shelter in a role model for others in the state to step up efforts for life saving cats.
With the new connections and regular calls made to other animal shelters in the area, Hively said, best strategies and methods are shared and used. As these relationships develop, she hopes for further advances in the humane treatment of endangered cats and dogs.
“Our goal is always to be a resource for the community and their animals and the pets people already have,” said Hively. “Receiving a grant like this allows us to really examine what we are doing and gives us the resources to do better.”