Abby Almond was driving to the Gainesville Regional Airport at 5 p.m. May 18 when she received the phone call.
Eight litters of kittens had been brought to the Alachua County Humane Society, and at three weeks old, they were too young to stay in the shelter overnight. The shelter needed her to foster one of the litters.
The 23-year-old Gainesville flight instructor picked up a litter of three kittens that were found on the side of the road. With an hour until her next flight lesson, she gave them a quick bath in the sink, left them in the bathtub and rushed back to the airport.
Almond said last-minute calls like this are common during kitten season, which is between April and October, when kittens are most likely to be born.
Since April 1, the ACHS has received more than 75 litters of kittens, and with kitten season in full swing, so is the shelter’s foster program, said Grace Olivier, the foster and adoption coordinator at the shelter.
She said the program plays a large role in keeping the ACHS a no-kill shelter, since some shelters will euthanize kittens if they can’t care for them overnight.
“We’re actually ahead of a lot of other counties,” Olivier said. “We save all that we can.”
The ACHS has about 300 animals, but the shelter can only support 150. The rest stay with about 380 foster families, and of the 163 animals in foster care, 149 of them are kittens.
Finding caretakers for bottle babies, or kittens younger than three or four weeks old, is difficult because they need to be bottle-fed every two to three hours until they are weaned.
“Believe me, I’m scared of boxes now,” Olivier said. “If we get a box left at our front door half the time there’s kittens in it.”
Olivier said the ACHS receives animals from Taylor County, Levy County and Lake City. She said she will even drive to pick up litters, or if the person who found them decides to foster, she will deliver the necessary supplies to care for them.
As part of the program, the ACHS provides every foster parent with supplies like kitten milk replacer, bottles and wet food, Olivier said.
“We’ve been pretty lucky,” Olivier said. “We pretty much run on donations for everything.”
Olivier said foster parents will keep kittens until they are about eight weeks old and can be spayed or neutered and deemed adoptable.
Although kittens can require a lot of care, Olivier said it isn’t difficult to learn, and the shelter will help foster parents become informed.
Almond said she prefers kittens to other animals because she finds them easy to care for. Aside from feeding them, she said she cleans their litter box and brings them to the shelter every few weeks for veterinary checkups.
Olivier said fostering is a good option if you’re on the fence about adoption, because you won’t have the full-on commitment.
“I just need my kitten fix sometimes, and if I foster enough, I don’t want one,” Almond said. “It’s like an endless revolving door of kittens.”
The ACHS encourages people to sign up to foster animals by filling out an application on their website and joining the Alachua County Humane Society Fosters Facebook page.