This video of a litter of kittens popping in and out of a bush, which has been making the cute internet video rounds worldwide this week. However, for those involved in animal rescue, it brings to mind a sad reality.
The Humane Society of the United States estimates that there are at least 30 million cats living outdoors in the U.S. Particularly in the spring and summer, known to many cat lovers as kitten season, that number can quickly rise. While older cats have relatively good chances at staying safe and healthy outdoors, young kittens are at high risk.
Outdoors, kittens can easily be separated from their mothers and quickly become extremely ill. Orphan kittens are at highest risk for euthanasia in animal shelters because of the constant care they need – round the clock bottle feeding, help urinating and defecating, and frequently treatment for dehydration and infections.
Hannah Shaw, better known as Kitten Lady, is a professional kitten rescuer and advocate. She documents the lives of the kittens she rescues and fosters on her enormously popular Instagram account, which has more than 450,000 followers. Her most recent rescue, a feral kitten she has named Douglas, was found by Shaw and a friend living in a row of bushes with his mother.
Shaw reported on her Instagram account that she has high hopes for Douglas because of his ideal age; at 8 weeks old, he is young enough to be socialized as an adoptable pet and old enough to be separated from his mother. While Shaw works with Douglas on his people skills before making him available for adoption, his mother is too old for socialization and will be spayed and returned to the area in which she was found as part of a trap, neuter, release (TNR) program.
While kittens playing in bushes are inarguably cute, their presence highlights the need for strong cat rescue and TNR community programs.