HCN News & Notes

Second Chance Animal Services Pioneers Life-saving Protocol for Prematurely Born Kittens

EAST BROOKFIELD — Second Chance Animal Services has spent the past two years developing a life-saving protocol for prematurely born kittens that is dramatically improving the survival rate for helpless young kittens.

Second Chance studied 21 premature orphan kittens, increasing the survival rate at the six-week mark by 33% using the protocol developed by its veterinary staff. This is a remarkable improvement for the fragile underage kitten population facing a survival rate near 0% without the protocol.

Continued study and additions to the protocol are expected to produce even greater success. The survival rate with recent changes has already increased. Further study is expected to advance the protocol, increasing survival rates and the success of these kittens long-term.

The new protocol focuses on the biggest challenges faced in hand-rearing kittens: dehydration and overfeeding or underfeeding. Weighing the kittens twice a day is critical to ensure the babies are getting proper nutrition.

Kittens are placed with trained veterinary technicians who care for them as a mother cat would. The techs tube-feed kittens every two hours, stimulate them for elimination, and keep them warm in special incubators. Time between feedings increases as they age, and they are transitioned from tube feeding to syringe feeding to a bottle when able. Canned food is introduced around three or four weeks, but they continue to receive kitten replacement milk until they are fully weaned, generally around six weeks of age.

“We are optimistic with the results,” Second Chance CEO Sheryl Blancato said. “We will continue to advance the protocol for this very fragile segment of animals in need.”

The results of the study, funded by a grant from Maddie’s Fund, were published on the Maddie’s Fund website so that other animal welfare-groups can use the protocol to save more lives. Second Chance will be available to help other groups that adopt the protocol to save this segment of the population.