Pit bull rescue group can’t help but rescue kittens, too.
Peanut butter and jelly, the sun and the moon — some things just go together. But kittens and pit bulls? You’d think they’d have nothing in common. After all, you certainly can’t fit a big dog in the palm of your hand like you can a kitten, and most people don’t try teaching a kitten how to sit, unless they’re serious optimists.
Angel City Pit Bulls (ACPB) knows differently. It advocates for pit bull terriers in Los Angeles since it started in 2010, and the L.A. organization has learned that dogs have one important thing in common with kittens: Both are especially at risk when they end up in local shelters, something that’s common in many communities across the country. And that’s why both pit-bull-terrier-like dogs and kittens need extra help.
The risk goes up for kittens during the summer kitten season, when shelters in L.A. and across the country are filled with kittens. So, Angel City Pit Bulls did something about it. The rescue group started a kitten foster program, because that’s what was most needed at Los Angeles Animal Services.
Working together to help L.A. shelters
ACPB’s named its new effort for kittens the “Pitten” Program (the mashup created by combining the words kitten and pit bull). ACPB collaborated with Best Friends in L.A. so that when the kittens are ready to be adopted, they can go to the Best Friends Lifesaving Center in Los Angeles to be adopted. Then, ACPB invited everyone in L.A. to sign up, go through an orientation and start fostering kittens.
Katie Larkin, founder and executive director of ACPB, says this is the kind of collaboration that’s helping Los Angeles reach no-kill.
“We have made incredible headway with lifesaving, and although we continue to face challenges with large breed dogs (particularly pit bull type dogs), underaged kittens are at even more risk,” she says. “As an organization, we thought it was important to help in whatever way we could. We have an outstanding dog foster program, so adding a kitten foster program to support our NKLA partners was a natural fit.”
The collaboration also makes it possible to save more kittens with the Best Friends kitten nursery. By providing more foster opportunities for kittens from L.A. city shelters, ACPB’s foster program creates more space for kittens at the nursery.
Alyss Tsukayama, transport manager for Best Friends’ Pacific region, says that when the kitten nursery is full and they can’t take any more kittens, it notifies ACPB. “It's really helped kittens in need at the shelter,” says Alyss. “Oftentimes when our nursery is full to the brink, ACPB is able to make room for litters we simply didn't have space for.”
Saving kittens at L.A. city shelters
Kristen Larson, who has been coordinating ACPB’s foster kitten program since it started last year, says ACPB volunteers and supporters stepped up to foster kittens as soon as it got underway. “A lot of these volunteers would love to foster a dog but can’t, so this is a great fit,” she says. Volunteers can also sign up to foster kittens short term, which works out well for those with busy schedules.
Kittens in the program are first brought to ACPB’s medical facility where they’re checked to make sure they’re healthy and ready to go to a foster home. Once they receive the all-clear, foster families pick them up, along with the food and supplies needed to set the kittens up for success. They also bring the kittens to ACPB for scheduled wellness checks that include provided any vaccines or medication needed.
Once the kittens are big enough for spay/neuter and adoption, they go on to the Best Friends Lifesaving Center.
Help for sick kittens
Because young kittens have fragile, still-developing immune systems, they are more susceptible to illness than are adult cats. Thanks to the Best Friends-ACPB partnership, kittens from ACPB’s foster program needing any acute medical care receive it at the Best Friends Lifesaving Center.
That’s how a little kitten named Louise and her sister Luna were saved after a foster family noticed their failing health, after which they were diagnosed with panleukopenia, a highly-contagious, often fatal virus.
To give the kittens the best chance at survival, ACPB arranged for the kittens to receive care from the Best Friends medical team, which worked around the clock to help the kittens beat the odds. Although Louise and Luna’s siblings succumbed to the disease, they both survived and went on to be adopted. Louise is eight months old now and her adopters say she’s healthy and happy.
Today, she likes to sit in her favorite window or cuddle up with her family on the couch — things she might not have gotten to do without the help of Best Friends and ACPB.
Katie says ACPB is ready to help more L. A. shelter kittens than ever before. “We have transferred 90 kittens into our program so far, and plan to take 100 this kitten season,” she says. “It is a small amount compared to what is needed, but if we can inspire other dog-focused organizations to stretch and do the same, it would make a substantial impact.”
Photos courtesy of Kristen Larson