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The Rise of Kitten Nurseries: Saving Lives One Meow at a Time

The Rise of Kitten Nurseries: Saving Lives One Meow at a Time

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Newborn kittens are the most vulnerable animals entering shelters, facing a high risk of euthanasia due to their fragility and susceptibility to infectious diseases. However, some shelters are changing this narrative by establishing kitten nurseries. These nurseries provide the necessary care for newborn kittens until they are old enough to be spayed or neutered and put up for adoption. By doing so, shelter staff can save the lives of these precious little felines and make a difference in the animal welfare community.

The Importance of Kitten Nurseries:

Martha Smith-Blackmore, DVM, vice president of animal welfare at Animal Rescue League of Boston, emphasizes the importance of kitten nurseries in saving the most vulnerable animals among us. Newborn kittens require dedicated care and safe spaces where they can thrive. By providing this, shelters can save countless lives and make a significant impact on reducing the euthanasia rates of these innocent creatures.

Nursery Origins and Purpose:

Kittens in these nurseries come from various sources, including those found outdoors, relinquished by people who cannot care for them, or transferred from other shelters lacking the necessary resources. The San Diego Humane Society and SPCA has been a pioneer in this field, having cared for nearly 5,500 kittens since opening its nursery in 2009. The need for a kitten nursery can vary in different parts of the country, but in warm areas like Los Angeles, San Diego, and Florida, it is a year-round necessity, with a slight slowdown in winter months.

The Role of Volunteers:

Running a nursery requires the support of dedicated volunteers who help with tasks such as bottle-feeding and cleaning up after the kittens. At No-Kill LA, a Best Friends Animal Society initiative, more than 200 active volunteers contribute at least four hours a month to the kitten nursery. However, the demand for volunteers surpasses the current supply, highlighting the continuous need for passionate individuals to help in this life-saving endeavor. Similarly, the Jacksonville Humane Society aims to have two to four volunteers per shift for three shifts a day, seven days a week, to handle the anticipated influx of kittens.

Foster Homes and Collaboration:

Shelters with nurseries heavily rely on foster homes to provide a safe and conducive environment for the kittens. Raising kittens in a home setting reduces their risk of contracting infectious diseases and aids in their early socialization. Combining a nursery with a foster program serves to alleviate the strain on shelter staff and foster caregivers. By assuring foster parents that their task is temporary and providing them with kitten kits consisting of essential supplies and care guidelines, shelters can attract more individuals to participate in this crucial process.

Spaying, Neutering, and Adoption:

Once the kittens reach two pounds or two months of age, they are ready to be spayed or neutered and put up for adoption. This milestone marks their increased adoptability, and witnessing them find loving homes is one of the most fulfilling aspects of the shelter’s work. The dedication of shelter staff, volunteers, and foster caregivers culminates in the successful rehoming of these adorable kittens.


The establishment of kitten nurseries in shelters across the country has brought about a positive change in the fate of newborn kittens. By providing dedicated care spaces and nurturing caregivers, these shelters are saving lives and creating a brighter future for these vulnerable animals. The support of volunteers and foster homes is crucial in ensuring the success of these nurseries. Together, we can continue to make a difference in the lives of these tiny felines and create a world where euthanasia is no longer the only option.


Q: How do kitten nurseries help reduce the euthanasia rate?
A: Kitten nurseries provide a safe and dedicated space for newborn kittens, ensuring they receive the care they need until they are old enough for adoption. This reduces the burden on shelter staff and helps save more lives.

Q: Can anyone volunteer at a kitten nursery?
A: Yes, most shelters welcome volunteers to help with tasks such as bottle-feeding and cleaning. Simply contact your local shelter to inquire about their volunteer opportunities.

Q: What supplies are provided to foster homes?
A: Foster caregivers are typically provided with kitten kits containing formula, litter boxes, litter, care guidelines, and other necessities to ensure the proper care of the kittens.

Q: When can kittens be spayed or neutered?
A: Kittens can be spayed or neutered once they reach two pounds or two months of age. At this point, they are considered old enough for the procedure and can be put up for adoption.

Q: How can I help support kitten nurseries and their efforts?
A: You can support kitten nurseries by volunteering your time, fostering kittens, or making donations to your local shelter. Every contribution helps in saving more lives and giving these precious kittens a chance at a happy and healthy future.