Hundreds of adorable baby kittens are coming to our facility, and we are doing our very best both to nurture them and to help them find loving homes. We relish our work, but we can’t do this alone. Caring for the very youngest animals requires a lot of commitment and resources.
If you are interested in helping out this kitten season, you can do so in a number of ways – whether by volunteering your time or by donating food, blankets, toys, or money. You can check out our donation page here.
We are pleased to acknowledge that members of our community have provided an incredible amount of support over the years. Volunteer Barbara Judd is a very good example of the dedication and generosity people have shared.
We’d like to introduce you to Barbara and share her story (which originally appeared in Berkeley Humane’s Spring 2015 newsletter, Mutts & Meows). Our hope is that it will shine a spotlight on the immensely important work she does for us.
Graduating class of cats (by Sherry Liu)
Barbara Judd, Berkeley Humane’s long-time foster of 16 years, took a break from her extremely important work of caring for neonatal kittens to share her experience of raising 248 cats.
In 1999, Barbara was inspired by her son’s school project that tasked him with the care of a plastic baby. Rather than an inanimate object, Barbara reached out to Berkeley Humane and with the help of her son, fostered her first litter of kittens with real needs. It wasn’t long before her daughter and husband also became involved. Barbara’s first litters were 6 weeks old kittens who needed help growing bigger. As she became more experienced, she began to care for “bottle babies” who needed constant feeding, then finally, the neonates brand new to this world.
“Kittens less than one week old are subject to all sorts of things. Some kittens experience major stress, such as being very cold, before making it to a shelter or to me. Many will get infections.” According to Barbara, the key to helping these fragile newborns survive is to track everything, every step of the way.
Barbara shares that it’s crucial to know each kitten well and to track and understand what is considered normal for each animal. Every kitten eats and eliminates at different times, so without tracking it’s easy to overlook a kitten’s missed meal, and each meal makes a big difference in a kitten’s weight and health.
Having raised and saved the lives of so many kittens, Barbara says caring for neonates are not for fosters who need a lot of sleep. However, there are so many joys that make the nightly routine worthwhile. “Kittens are just really sweet... you really fall in love with them, and sometimes it’s hard to say goodbye, so I call it “graduation”. After they learn all their kitty skills, they graduate and I get another class! It’s really amazing to see all the stages, see them grow up, open their eyes, figure out how their body works, and how to play. They’re very sweet.”
There’s a very special kitten who Barbara nicknamed “Binky” because the litter-mates took turns suckling on Binky’s tiny ears before falling asleep each time. Years later Barbara met a huge cat named Binky and realized it was the same tiny kitten she had cared for and nursed to health. She loved seeing Binky full grown and a part of a happy family, and was able to share with them the story of how the name “Binky” came to be.
In addition to neonatal care, Berkeley Humane’s foster program helps save hundreds of lives each year by providing temporary housing and dedicated care beyond our shelter’s capacity. Our animals are given a chance to grow, heal and socialize before they are adopted into loving homes. Interested in fostering? Visit https://www.berkeleyhumane.org/Foster-Care-Program