TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) -- Saundra Cummins’ spring has been full of changes.
“I bought a house, sold a house and got married last week,” she said.
Even with all those changes, one part of her spring routine has stayed the same: the bottle babies. Cummins works with Broken Hearts Animal Rescue in Twin Falls, Idaho. She serves as their bottle mama lead. At any given time, she could have between one to three litters of what she calls "bottle babies": neonatal kittens who have no mother to feed them.
“It is the bottle babies that need to be fed, pottied, cared for completely,” she said. “They just have so many needs.”
Despite it being time consuming, Cummins says she enjoys filling those needs. Every couple of hours she pulls each kitten from their kennel, cleans them up and feeds them their formula. With kittens anywhere from two to eight weeks old, they go through a lot of it.
“I'd say each one of them is drinking almost a half-bottle at a time,” she said. “I’ve probably got 30 pounds in my freezer right now.”
Spring is one of their busiest seasons for the rescue, and especially the bottle baby fosters.
“We have received 50 some kittens,” Cummins said. “Some have mamas, but many of them do not.”
It's not just Broken Hearts seeing what they call the "baby boom." Animal shelters and rescues are swamped with the tiny babies.
“The kitty season, boom, just started like two weeks ago and all our known fosters are already full,” said Debbie Blackwood the director of the Twin Falls Animal Shelter and People for Pets Rescue.
She said one unaltered female cat can get pregnant two to three times per year: each time with an average of five kittens. That means in one year there are 10 to 15 more cats in the population and in five years, that's an extra 50 to 75 - just from one mother. With the numbers constantly growing, Blackwood said the animal rescue groups are facing an uphill battle.
“Let's just say it, out loud, 'We don't have enough to transport as many as we get,'” she said.
Blackwood also said fostering these babies isn't enough anymore.
“Let's say we could actually nurse up all the neonate kittens in need, who's going to adopt them?” she said. “Where do we place them? It’s really scary.”
Both groups said they’re always in need of donations to pay for formula and other supplies. They also hope people will continue to apply to be new fosters, but they said it doesn’t solve the root of the issue. So what is the answer to this exponentially increasing problem? Rescue groups and shelters seem to agree there’s on obvious solution.
“Spay and neuter,” Cummins said. “Be responsible pet owners and understand that without taking that responsibility this is what happens.”
Blackwell said if each member of the community who can afford it would spay or neuter one stray cat, the problem would start becoming manageable again.
“We don't want people to feel hopeless,” Blackwood said. “We actually want to encourage and empower people that they can make a difference, make it one kitty at a time. Each one counts.”