MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota cat rescue organization has started a new program to help reduce the number of unwanted kittens born every year.
The Bitty Kitty Brigade provides care for orphaned, neonatal kittens who are not yet eating on their own.
The nonprofit was founded in 2018 by Joan Barrett and Mandy Dwyer and has taken in more than 1,000 kittens since March 2019.
Barrett said it was a way to fill a need in the Twin Cities area.
"We thought if we could build up a network, that we could save more kittens. Those kittens are the ones that end up at animal control or in facilities that end up passing away; they're at higher risk of passing away," Barrett said.
Since launching the organization, Barrett said they've been busy.
While The Bitty Kitty Brigade is known for its bottle babies, the mission is much bigger.
"We had talked early on that we wanted to be able to circle back and make sure where we were getting our kittens from that all of the adult cats in the area that were homeless were getting spayed and neutered," Barrett said.
The nonprofit recently started the Birth Control Brigade — a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program — to sterilize community cats and help end the cycle of overpopulation.
"This year with COVID... it's been out of control," said Jacky Wilson, a volunteer with The Bitty Kitty Brigade. "In March the vet offices, the resources that provided low-cost spay and neuter, they all had to shut down for awhile and the outdoor cats just kept breeding."
Recently the Birth Control Brigade processed 87 cats and kittens on a property in East Bethel.
"It can escalate very quickly," Barrett said. "It just grows and it's stressful for the neighbors and the property owners. You start seeing kittens passing away."
On the East Bethel property, all the cats and kittens were fixed, given a rabies shot and ear tipped for identification purposes.
According to Wilson, 57 of the cats and kittens will be adopted out, six will live indoors with the property owner, some have wandered back to their homes and 15-16 remain on the property outdoors. They live in a garage and shed and are fed by the property owner twice a day.
"I've seen feral cats indoors where they're ripping down wallpaper; they're trying to get out every second," Wilson said. "When people say, 'Well can't you take them all and find them homes?' Some are, they're happy outside. They want to be outside."
Wilson went on to say, "There's an overpopulation right now. So the more we inform people about this and the more we TNR, it helps the cats, it helps the community, it helps resources, it helps everyone."
If you'd like to help, there is a supply wish list on Amazon.
The Bitty Kitty Brigade also needs more funds to pay for spay/neuter surgeries. You can learn more on their website or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
They could also use more volunteers. More than 150 volunteers are part of The Bitty Kitty Brigade.