SAN DIEGO — When a Good Samaritan found Uno the kitten, he was hungry, dirty and all alone in a trailer park.
On Sunday, just a few weeks following his rescue, the gray and white cat was snuggling into a pink bed with a stuffed carrot between in his paws. Uno was nursed back to health at the San Diego Humane Society PAWS Kitten Nursery, which gives young kittens the critical care they need to make it to adoption.
Uno was the first kitten to take up residence at the nursery this year to kick off kitten season, hence his name. However, about 1,500 more kittens and cats will soon be calling the place home between March and December. The facility opened its doors this past weekend so visitors could see how the nursery cares for its teeny charges.
“Baby kittens are very time consuming to care for, and not a lot of shelters have the ability to do so,” said Jackie Noble, nursery supervisor . “Since we’ve created this program, we’ve saved about 10,000 kittens that wouldn’t have had a chance.”
Before the nursery was established back in 2009, kittens were one of the most euthanized animal groups in the county — especially kittens that were way too young to feed themselves.
Now, shelters all across the county bring the tiniest of cats – and sometimes their moms – to the Gaines Street warehouse where there are more than 100 volunteers and 12 staff members providing around-the-clock care. The location is just across the street from the Humane Society’s animal shelter.
A handful of volunteers were monitoring the furry residents on Sunday. At feeding time, a chorus of high-pitched meows filled the entire vaulted space. Some kittens were being groomed while others were being given medicine. One orange kitten named Peanut Butter was so young, his eyes hadn’t even open yet.
A lot of cats are found all alone, so nursery workers pair them up. Peanut Butter will get a friend when his peepers are finally opened. In another part of the nursery, kittens who were brought in with their mothers were resting comfortably in blanket-lined cages.
Noble said about 80 to 85 percent of the cats that receive care at the nursery do find forever homes.
“They’re really cute. I just want to adopt them all,” said 12-year-old Hailey Cristobal, who wanted to see how the shelter cares for their patients. “I love cats. I’ve always loved cats. They’re really cuddly and playful and soft.”
Cats can stay at the nursery from just days to nine weeks. That’s why the public was encouraged to bring food or other supplies during their weekend visit – to help the nursery stock up for tsunami of kittens yet to come. The event was also a chance to educate attendees on just how to handle kittens if they are found in the wild.
The nursery was the first of its kind in the entire country, Noble said. Since it’s launch, it has partnered with a number of other organizations – some as far away as Australia – to start similar programs. A huge grant helped the San Diego facility get up and running. Now, it’s mostly dependent on donations from the public..
“I donate to the animal shelter and this is one of their programs that I wanted to check out,” said Babs Soller. “It’s really impressive. It’s nice to see what they do.”
A Kitty Cam — is available via theshelter’s website for those who didn’t make it to the nursery, or who just need to see more kittens.