Community partners, innovative programs fuel progress in county’s cat adoptions

Published on June 08, 2017

Four kittens have taken over the office in Karen Olivier’s Rocklin home, crawling across chairs and burrowing in the carpet.

They came to her at two weeks old, tiny and dependent on bottle feeding every few hours.

Olivier is a volunteer with Kitten Central, a nonprofit organization that rescues neonatal kittens and places them with trained foster families until they are old enough to be adopted. Placer County’s partnership with Kitten Central is one of a handful of programs that have spurred a dramatic improvement in cat adoptions.

Compared to last year, the county’s cat adoption rate has risen by 90 percent. The live release rate from the animal services center has also improved, from 69.5 percent in 2011 to 90.8 percent so far in 2017. This reflects the percentage of cats and dogs who leave alive, regardless of health status on entry. The county has not euthanized healthy animals since moving to the new building in Auburn in October 2016.

The new state-of-the-art animal services center has many improvements over the old shelter, including larger kennels and play spaces where potential adopters can watch and interact with the animals. The feline area is distanced from the dogs, leading to a quieter environment where the cats are less stressed.

“Our new facility and our creative partnerships have allowed us to expand our program and save more lives for underserved populations,” said animal services manager Katie Ingram.

Neonatal kittens and feral cats are two of the most vulnerable feline populations in most shelters — the former because they require intensive 24-hour care, and the latter because they are considered unadoptable. In years past, staff might have had few options but to euthanize them.

The county’s new barn cat adoption program is targeted at feral cats, or those that are wild and not social. Farm or warehouse owners adopt the cats in pairs, and the cats then act as “mousers” to control the rodent population.

“They’ve really cut [the mice] down quite a bit,” said Daryl Consulo, who adopted two cats for his Penryn barn after struggling to keep rodents out of the grain he stores for his steers.

Placer County now runs its own barn cat program, after learning the ropes from community partners at the FieldHaven Feline Center. Last year FieldHaven helped re-home about 175 feral cats, and so far this year the county has adopted out more than 20.

Kitten Central rescues between 300 and 400 neonatal kittens — aged zero to 28 days — each year. Many of these are returned to the Auburn animal services center for adoption once they are large and healthy enough.

“For us, these programs have been lifesaving,” Ingram said. “We can do so much more than we’ve ever done before.”