Kitten season is upon us.
It is the time of year where animal shelters across the country are overwhelmed with newborn kittens and pregnant mom cats. While newborn kittens might be the cutest animals you can see at a shelter, the little kitties are also the most at-risk. Caring for a kitten under eight weeks old requires around the clock care, especially if they come into the shelter without their mom.
Animal organizations like Best Friends Animal Society owe a great deal to volunteers, who happily give their time to make sure every newborn kitten that comes into the shelter has a chance to find a forever home.
One of the sweetest ways an animal lover can help Best Friends and their kitten broods is by volunteering for a feeding shift at one of the organization’s kitten nurseries. Robert Wagner recently signed up for one of these shifts at the Best Friends Animal Society Lifesaving Center in Los Angeles, where he spent several hours carefully bottle-feeding hungry newborn kittens.
The actor, 89, was eager to share his experience with PEOPLE in hopes that it inspires other animal lovers, especially senior citizens, to reach out and volunteer with their local animal shelters during the busy kitten season.
Here is what Wagner had to say about his day cuddling up with some the shelter’s smallest residents.
Do you have any pets of your own?
I have a German shepherd now. His name is Duke and he’s 11 months old. I’ve always raised German shepherds and I love having them as part of the family. They’re such good dogs. I’ve had other German shepherds before Duke named Max and Larry. A lot of my animals are named after movie stars, including my horses. We lost Max at Halloween. Losing an animal is the hardest thing. I miss him very much. I am grateful, however, because I have quite a few pets that will be waiting for me at the rainbow bridge.
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How do you feel when you spend time with animals?
It is the highlight of my day interacting with animals. It’s one of the most marvelous things to happen to a human being to have a relationship with an animal. Their presence is a comfort. It’s also such a personal relationship. They’re always there to listen. We all need that.
How was your time at the kitten nursery?
It was wonderful! There were many volunteers and seeing them interacting with the animals was such a positive thing. The kittens were adorable and, like all of us, they’re anxious to be fed!
What was the favorite part of your visit?
It was great meeting the employees and volunteers at Best Friends who dedicate their time and energy to such a worthy cause every day. They care so much about getting these animals into safe homes and looking after them during that process.
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What should animal lovers know about rescue kittens?
Most people don’t realize that newborn kittens are often the most at-risk pets at shelters. Newborn kittens require around-the-clock care and most shelters don’t have the capacity to look after them. That’s why kitten nurseries like the one at Best Friends are so crucial.
How do you think senior citizens can benefit from time with animals?
It’s a win-win situation. One of my favorite things I experienced when I went to Best Friends Animal Society was being shown the pictures of animals that have been fostered and adopted. The change in them in just a couple of weeks is marvelous. The human beings that spent time with them changed the animal’s soul and vice versa. These days we especially need to hold onto that type of love.
For older animal lovers who can’t have a pet of their own, how can they still help and interact with animals?
Volunteering is such a benefit to senior citizens because they have something meaningful to care about and something to look forward to.
How can animal lovers help rescue kittens?
Animal lovers can help rescue kittens in so many ways. Shelters are inundated with kittens during kitten season, so fostering a kitten, a litter, or a mom with kittens makes a huge difference. It creates space at the shelter and provides a loving home environment for kittens to get happy and healthy. Once they reach the two-pound mark, kittens are fixed and put up for adoption, so you can foster for anywhere from 1 to 7 weeks. It’s a short time commitment that saves many lives.
If you don’t have the ability to foster, look for a kitten nursery near you. They usually operate around the clock, so there are times any time of the day or night to volunteer.
Lastly, if you’re on social media, share with your friends and family on the different ways they can help. You may inspire someone to foster or volunteer!
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