Creative collaboration saves local kittens

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By Jessie Wagoner

Kathy Neufeld Dunn put her creativity to work in an effort to save local kittens by collaborating with two McPherson County organizations, the McPherson County Makerspace and the McPherson County Humane Society Shelter. Her efforts worked and with community support, the effort can grow to save even more kittens. 

Neufeld Dunn and her husband began fostering kittens through the humane society at the beginning of the pandemic. Over the last 18 months, they have welcomed kittens into their home, nursing them back to health. 

“Our first foster failed, meaning we adopted her,” Neufeld Dunn said. “But today is a special day because one of our fosters is going home to his forever home.” 

While the experience has been rewarding for Neufeld Dunn, there was also a very sad learning curve when she lost one of the tiny kittens she was fostering. The kitten was only two weeks old when he arrived at her home and he had an upper respiratory infection. He wasn’t breathing or eating well because of respiratory problems. After his death, Neufeld Dunn was desperate to learn what she could have done differently, so she could better help the next kitten to come to her home. 

“I wanted to learn whatever I could from that situation,” Neufeld Dunn said. “So that’s what I did. One thing I could have done differently was having an incubator to help them breathe. The humidity level in the incubator helps them.” 

Once she knew an incubator would help, she jumped into action. Buying an incubator was out of the question. They are much too expensive. But, she found instructions online to make a kitten incubator. With the instructions and materials in hand, she headed to McPherson County Makerspace and got to work. 

“It is easy to get work done at Makerspace because all the tools are right there, organized and easy to find,” Neufeld Dunn said. 

She was able to use the tools at Makerspace and supplies purchased from a local hardware store to create a kitten incubator for $175. Erin Eskildsen, McPherson County Humane Society Shelter Director, was grateful for the gift. 

“These incubators cost $1,500 from veterinary supply companies,” Eskildsen said. “We’ve always wanted one.” 

One incubator will come in handy, but the reality is more are needed. In 2020, 109 kittens came into the shelter. So far in 2021, there have already been 75 kittens come in. Many of those kittens are being fostered or have already been adopted, but there are still kittens in need of forever homes. There is also a need for more kitten incubators to care for the smallest of kittens when they arrive. 

The shelter has received word from a community member that they will donate a storage unit to store the incubators to ensure they are available as foster homes need them. Now they are looking for donations for Neufeld Dunn to make more to have on hand. Any donation earmarked for “kitten incubator” will go toward the purchase of supplies for the next DIY incubator. The $175 builds a humidity and temperature-controlled environment for the most vulnerable kittens.

There is also a need for additional foster families. Neufeld Dunn says there are many different ways to foster. Some families foster a mother cat that has just given birth to her kittens. They provide mom with a safe space to care for her litter in those early weeks. Other people foster kittens that are weening age, making sure they are eating well and socialized before heading to their forever home. And then others, like Neufeld Dunn, jump in with the tiniest of kittens, bottle feeding them and showering them with love. 

“Shelters just don’t have the staff, so fostering is crucial.” 

The McPherson County Humane Society can be reached at 620-241-3682 or mcphersonhumanesociety@hotmail.com. McPherson County Makerspace is open to the public on Tuesday nights. The public is welcome to take a tour of the facilities, see all of the tools and items available for use and learn about membership.