Calling All Kitten Cuddlers!

“Miami overrun with kittens, cuddlers wanted,” “Dream Come True: Miami in Need of Kitten Cuddlers” screamed the headlines. Facebook, Twitter and other social media recently lit up after the Miami-Dade County Animal Services Department announced that it is looking for help to care for very young orphaned kittens.

This unique foster care program for newborns without a nursing mother has operated on a limited scale before but, thanks to the input of AFSCME Local 199 members within the department, this year it is operating at full speed.

“We are AFSCME Strong in this department and that strength helps every employee knows that if they have an idea on how to do something better, or if something is needed to serve the animals better, they can speak up,” said Anthony Casas, a veterinary technician and AFSCME member. “People know that if you have an idea, the worst thing you can do is to keep it to yourself. Your union will always stand by your side if there are misunderstandings along the way.”

Casas, a Miami-Dade native who has been a member for all of the four years at the department, says that during this time of year they received at least one litter of kittens every day from clinics, animal control officers or even from people just walking in. “And when you think there can easily be six kittens in each litter, the numbers quickly add up,” Casas said.

People who want to participate in the program can being the process with a simple email containing the subject line “Kitten Cuddler.” After an initial screening, Kitten Cuddlers complete a training session on the general care of newborn kittens that, most of the time, are still too young to be put up for adoption. They also receive supplies including heating pads, feeding bottles and kitten milk replacer.

“The most important thing we give people is a direct line of communication for anything that comes up between their regular visits,” says Casas. “Like with every animal we see, each kitten gets a specific treatment plan that the whole team then has a role in seeing through.”

Casas gives every animal a thorough physical exam, administers vaccines and executes the treatment plan, as well as assists in any surgeries or with other issues that may arise.

Casas has no doubt the plan has already been a success.

“We are not turning animals away, even during this busy season,” said Casas. “Because we developed such a strong program, we are even transporting animals old enough for traditional adoption to other qualified shelters and agencies all over the country. So maybe the next pet adopted in your neighborhood will be a Miami original!”