Thursday, March 25, 2010

It's Kitten Season!

People who aren't involved in animal sheltering often laugh when I use that term. But it's a common phrase used by those of use who work or volunteer at an animal shelter -- especially in the northern climates where we actually have a winter.

While cats can have up to 3 litters a year -- up here in the great white north animal shelters get very few kittens in the winter. Part of it may be that un-spayed pet cats lucky enough to be kept in the house are less likely to go outside and get themselves in trouble. Part of it may be that the survival of outdoor kittens born in the wintertime is a long-shot.

Kitten season here in Wisconsin generally starts in March -- but don't stop in hoping to choose a kitten from several litters as we don't have many up for adoption. The kittens we're getting in right now are too young to be away from Mom. They're found by members of the community in sheds, under porches, and anywhere else that a mother kitten might think it's safe to raise a family. Most of the time they're brought in without their mother.

It might seem cruel for a baby animal to be taken away from Mom, but the reality is that it's better for the kitten. Most of the kittens being brought in are born to barn or feral cats -- felines that aren't used to interacting with humans and behave more like wild animals. If their kittens aren't handled at a young age they will become feral themselves.

We have a whole slew of human foster parents on stand-by waiting for kittens to come in. Our volunteers take them home along with kitten baby bottles, formula and heating pads to give them a chance at life. Foster parents get up for middle of the night feedings, worry about sick kitties, and occasionally cry over the ones who weren't strong enough to make it. But when the kittens reach 8 weeks and are old enough and strong enough to go up for adoption it makes it all worth it.

Stop in at HAWS in the middle of May -- that's when the kitten season for adopters begins!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Saratoga School Artists

Kids are very creative and love to draw. A few Monday's ago I asked my after-school Saratoga School students to draw their favorite animals. Here are a few of their creations:

Ashley loves dogs....

...and obviously has a good sense of humor!

I love that Tracy didn't forget about our non-feathered friends!

And I love giraffes just like Abbi!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Case of Multiplication

Math was never my strong suit - in school I much preferred reading and writing to 'rithmatic. When I was with the kids from Blair Elementary School in Waukesha on Friday for my after-school program visit, many of them felt the same way. Of the 10 kids present, only 3 raised their hands when I asked if they like math.

However, I brought along a math problem for us to work on together, and we all found it much more enjoyable and informative than math usually is. ASPCA has a website for kids called Animal Land. It has a ton of fun resources to educate kinds about animals -- cartoons, news stories and activity sheets are just a few of it's offerings.

Friday I used one of the activity sheets entitled Rabbits, Rabbits and More Rabbits to give the kids a frame of reference as to what can happen if an unspayed female animal is allowed to breed. After a year and 3 months you end up with 100 rabbits. While this is a great biological mechanism for a wild bunny where the survival rate is extremely low, this is a disaster for a pet.

I knew that some of the kids would get it after my presentation and discussion, but I was really impressed that most of them really understood the ramifications of over-population and not spaying or neutering. Before we did the math problem Joseph had said, "But what if you want to breed your pet?". And afterward when we were talking about how to take care of 100 bunnies and probably not being able to find homes for them all I could tell he was re-thinking his original question.

Activities like this are so simple to do, and yet open up a wonderful avenue for discussion with kids. Not only did we talk about spaying and neutering pets, but also about what makes a good breeder, the fact that just because animals are cute doesn't mean that they are healthy enough to be bred, and gave me a chance to review what HAWS is and why we take in animals.
And as always, the best part of the visit was the animal I brought - a rabbit of course. Beauty charmed the kids and had a blast trying to figure out ways to break out of the circle of kids. She was able to explore quite a bit of the library while performing evasive manuevers in the meantime.
I know meeting Beauty was the kid's favorite part of my visit, but I'm hopeful they will remember our math problem as they grow older and get pets of their own.