Five kittens rescued from beneath a burned-down house in Central Point are staying with a couple of good Samaritans who are hoping to socialize the tiny felines and find homes for them.
More people like them are needed, say local animal-shelter advocates.
Medford resident Donna Jones, who is providing foster care for four of the kittens, urges other local residents to step up and help provide space for animals in need.
While she already had seven animals at home — three of her own and four foster “assignments” — Jones stepped in to help rescue the litter when she saw posts on social media about the kittens peeking out from beneath the rubble of a recent house fire in Central Point.
Jones placed one kitten that showed signs of contagious upper respiratory issues with a Jacksonville woman who came to check on the kittens, and took four healthy litter-mates home with her.
Jones said the kittens, which she estimates to be around 7 weeks old, are “semi-feral.” Without immediate and constant socialization over the coming weeks, they would be less likely to “make the cut” and be placed for adoption.
“There’s just very limited space at the shelter, and they charge a $10 fee to accept a stray. If they can’t find a foster, (the kittens) have to be euthanized. They have to be socialized before they can go into adoption. It’s sad, but it’s reality,” Jones said, noting that after she spent three days catching the kittens, she wanted to “give them a chance,” despite knowing the Jackson County Animal Care and Control has more kittens in need than available foster homes.
“The shelter does the best they can do with the resources they have, but they’re stretched pretty thin with the numbers of kittens coming in right now,” she said.
Formerly a dog walker for the county shelter, Jones has fostered animals for local shelters since she purchased her west Medford home in July 2016.
“I have 11 animals in my house right now — four from the burned house and seven others, which are my own cat and two dogs, then a foster puppy and a mama and two babies from the county,” she said.
“The only reason I grabbed these was because this house had burned down, and we heard it was going to be bulldozed, and they were living underneath.”
Jones plans to find a foster family for the kittens, who are already eating regular food and are young enough to be socialized for adoption.
“They’re eating and everything. If you reach into the cage, they do the hissy thing, but you can hold them,” she said.
“The long-hair orangey one, I think he likes being held but he hasn’t admitted it yet. He mellows out in your hand pretty quickly. They all just need being held and talked to.”
Shelter Director Barbara Talbert said foster parents such as Jones help keep euthanasia levels down and drastically improve adoption rates.
Foster families are utilized for everything from dogs or cats recovering from medical treatment and litters of kittens needing to gain weight and be socialized to dogs that struggle with a kennel environment.
“The number of kittens in foster care is around 67, down from about 90, because some of them are getting older and are able to be adopted,” said Talbert, noting the shelter had 42 mostly adult cats available as of Monday morning. When the space is full, fosters are the only option that allow the shelter to help additional animals.
As of last week, the shelter boasted two dozen active foster families caring for kittens and a wider network of fosters caring for dogs. Volunteers are emailed almost daily with stories of animals in need.
“We just put a call out for three bottle babies that are barely 2 weeks old and have to be fed. They came to us without a mother, and they need to be fed every two or three hours,” she said.
“If we can’t find foster care for those kinds of cases within a day or two, we will have to euthanize. Fostering really helps to increase the number of lives we can help save.”
Even with a full house, Jones said her menageries of cats and dogs — some permanent and others just passing through — give her a sense of being able to help combat a far bigger problem.
“It’s hard when you show up and they say, ‘We have this puppy that’s been starved and he’s by himself,'” Jones said, gesturing to one of her four-legged roommates.
“So, of course, I’ve got him, and he’s being neutered this Friday. It’s his chance for a happy ending and find a forever home.”
Jones urged residents with animals to spay and neuter their pets. For those with extra space, she says fostering is a rewarding experience.
“If you take mamas and babies, mama does all the work. Some of the assignments are more involved than others, but you can find whatever fit you need,” she said.
“It’s a good way to test out if adding a cat or dog would be a good fit for your house, and you’re helping save a life. It’s a fun project to work on with your kids, fostering a litter during summer, and you’re teaching animal responsibility and care to kids.”
Jones added, “It feels pretty good to know you’re saving a life … or a few.”
— Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.