- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
And a Solano County 4-H project is doing just that — with orphan kittens.
Twenty-one 4-H’ers, all from Dixon, Vacaville, Rio Vista, Vallejo, Elmira or Fairfield, participate in the Solano County 4-H Orphan Kitten Program, doing their part to care for the orphan kittens that arrive at the Solano County Animal Care and Control Facility, Fairfield.
The 4-H’ers foster the felines in their homes until the kittens reach adoption age, and then they seek good homes for them.
The project, which began in the summer of 2011, is “designed to give 4-H members the joy of working with animals and the ability to participate in a rewarding community service project,” said Victoria “Vickie” Pringle, an eight-year adult 4-H leader with the Vaca Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville. She describes it as “a valuable citizenship/service learning project open to 4-H’ers in the fifth grade and above.”
The youths learn about proper kitten care, disease control, cross contamination and proper socialization. Each 4-H’er must attend at least one two-hour training course before being allowed to foster kittens.
The 4-H'ers meet bi-monthly for training, project development and guest speakers, who address topics zeroing in on kitten development and adoption. Once the kitten reaches adoption age, it’s time to find a “forever home” for it. The 4-H’ers assist in the adoption process through off-site adoption events held weekly throughout the county. One venue is Tractor Supply, Dixon.
“This gives the 4-H’ers the full effect of accomplishing something that is a direct result of their hard work and dedication,” Pringle said.
Pringle, a 10-year employee at Solano County Animal Care and Control, launched the project due to a dire need. Every year some 10,300 animals, including approximately 5,000 cats, enter the Solano County Animal Shelter. Of the 5,000 cats, some 1,500 are euthanized “because they are too young to survive in the shelter, as determined by the Humane Society of the United States,” Pringle said.
“Kitten season has always taken its toll on me emotionally just because of the sheer numbers of kittens that come through the doors of the shelter,” Pringle acknowledged. “Before this program, not all these kittens would make it into fosters and the result would be euthanasia. Fosters typically are extremely hard to find and keep, just due to the burnout and fatigue that individuals can go through when caring for numerous animals at one time. It's more like a job than just enjoyment when you have a litter of kittens that need care and socialization on a daily basis.”
Both the kittens and the kids benefit.
“My members take so much pride in raising their kittens!” Pringle said. “I have had adopters write me or call months after adopting just wanting to tell me how much they enjoy their cats. It makes me feel so good.”
Only rarely does a 4-H’er choose to keep a kitten; the youths know they’re raising them for adoption, not for themselves. The shelter provides essential items needed to raise the orphans. This includes isolation caging, food and formula, litter, bedding and toys, as well as veterinarian services.
“The only thing the members have to do is provide time and love,” Pringle said.
More information on the Solano County 4-H Orphan Kitten Project is available from Pringle at (707) 590-0735; firstname.lastname@example.org; or on the Facebook page, Solano County 4-H Orphan Kittens.
In front (from left) are Kiarra Madden, Wolfskill 4-H Club, Dixon; Summer Baron, Vaca Valley 4-H; Makenna, Lincoln, and Braydon Caulfield, all from the Roving Clovers 4-H Club, Dixon; and Cody Ceremony, VV 4-H. In back: Tractor Supply employee/4-H member Kristin Clark-Webb, Emma Couvillon, Halie Pringle, Alexis Lynn, all VV 4-H; Solano Sheriff Tom Ferrara, Marley Hardwick, Falyn Voss, Kaitlin Adams, all VV 4-H; and Tyler Sasabuchi,Roving Clovers.