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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Booster jabs for all foster cats 2 months of age and older

We highlighted previously in our plans for 2011 that from now on we would be implementing vaccinations for cats slated for adoption that are 8 weeks old and older. Here is more background about this initiative.

The rationale for providing foster cats with booster jabs, and why now?
  • Pedigree breeders provide vaccinations for kittens and puppies before they go to their new homes. We want local cats and un-certified pedigrees and mixed-breed cats that are rescues to have the same level of care provided for them. 
  • Likewise for animal shelters such as our SPCA.  
  • We believe in giving top-notch quality care to our foster cats and providing vaccinations raises the bar in the standard of our rescue and adoption work.
  • Giving a kitten the first booster jab before it is re-homed encourages adopters to follow up with the second booster jab because they need to pay for only 1 instead of 2 vaccinations required in a kitten's first year of its life.
  • Older kittens have a much harder time getting adopted compared to those between 4 to 8 weeks of age. Including a vaccination into the adoption package of an older kitten, without any extra cost to the adopter, adds further incentive for adopters to choose an older kitten to adopt instead. 
  • Pursuant to the point above, this means we can afford to shelter more older kittens in need than before - higher adoption rate equals higher rescue rate. 
  • Previously, we did not have a stable Veterinary Fund to provide vaccinations for the foster cats. But thanks to generous financial contributors like many of you, we now can afford to budget for them. (Donors, we couldn't do it without you.)
  • Giving foster kittens their booster jab helps minimise new-adopter distress - this is because kittens usually are drowsy and inactive for a couple of days after the shot, and some may even fall ill because they already harboured an illness such as cat flu' and the vaccination brings it to the fore. This can be worrisome to the adopter especially for first-time cat owners. Before and after the kittens' get their booster we monitor their health and boost their immune systems with supplements, will treat their post-vaccination illnesses if any occur, before they get adopted.

Why only booster jabs for cats 2 months and older?

Vets usually don't vaccinate kittens that are below the age of 8 weeks because they are very newly shedding their mother's antibodies and building up their own immune system. (Another reason why kittens below 12 weeks of age die easily.) Introducing a vaccine below the age of 8 weeks can have extremely detrimental effects on a kitten's health.

Too cute, and too young to vaccinate
Also, kittens below 8 weeks of age have far greater appeal to adopters even if they may fall sick more easily and are more taxing to care for. Adopters who prefer kittens in this age range want to have the young-kitten experience, and also because the period where a kitten is 3-7 weeks old is its prime socialisation age - great for integration with a new family. Given that they have these natural advantages over their older counterparts in getting adopted, they already attract more adopters than older kittens do!





Where does Love Kuching plan to go about vaccinating these older kittens?

We had two choices - sending the adoptable foster cats to spay/neuter clinics (like Clinic for Pets) with lower vaccination costs, or to our preferred vet The Animal Clinic.

Weighing the options, and having had vaccinated cats at both kinds of clinics, we decided to opt for vaccinating the foster cats at TAC. It is not common knowledge - but there are different grades of vaccines, and those offered at low cost spay/neuter clinics are more likely to cause side effects and adverse reactions if they are lowering costs by choosing cheaper vaccines.

But that is not the main deciding factor. At TAC, whenever we bring a pet to get a vaccination, the pet gets a vet examination too to make sure its vitals are healthy. This comes at no extra charge unless the animal is actually ill and needs additional veterinary services or medication. This means that all foster cats that get their booster jabs at TAC also get an official vet-check - another 'marketing' advantage for these older cats to get adopted. At spay/neuter clinics, it is a jab-and-go service - great for stray cats, really, since this means spay/neuter clinics can jab more cats in a day. But there is no vet-check, or if any, a really arbitrary one. We can't tell adopters that the kitten has been officially vet-checked if we send it to a low-cost spay/neuter clinic - that would be a false claim, something we don't do at Love Kuching.

So it will cost that bit more, but we are in negotiations for discounts for boosters at TAC for foster cats, which is in our favour because we will be bringing about 3 cats at a time per visit, chances for a bulk discount are looking good. (Plus we do sometimes get off-the-record stray cat discounts or pro bono consults when we bring rescues to TAC.) Our first round of vaccinations for foster kittens is this coming Wednesday (4 kitties) and we will report the costs billed to us after, so that there is full disclosure to the public, and so we can budget better and make reviews if necessary.

Another factor that has helped us make the decision to use TAC as the veterinary service provider for the foster kittens' vaccinations is because TAC is the clinic we recommend to our adopters who don't already have a regular vet. Should adopters choose to see the same vet at TAC after bringing home their adopted cat from us, the cat's record will already be on file there, and our vet will remember the cat too! (We use Dr Dawn Chong for most of our vet consults and she pretty much remembers all of our rescue cats.)

There are similarly great veterinary clinics islandwide that do the same - complimentary vet-check with vaccine and stray cat discounts - but getting to these clinics that are not near Ubi where we are would mean a jack-up in our transport costs, something we try to keep as low as possible - TAC Katong is very near us. Unless the cost-savings can justify the increase in transport costs we are not about to jump into a cab with the cats to go to a faraway clinic.


What you can do:

We have had many great suggestions for quite a while now, about getting our supporters - that's you! - involved in a sponsor-a-shelter-cat scheme. Previously this was not administratively possible because the turnover rate for foster cats is very high. By the time a sponsor is found for a foster cat, it would probably be already adopted. Also, each foster cat in our custody has variable boarding expenses - some 'spend' more because they need longer or more intensive rehabilitation. It is hard to implement a sponsor-a-shelter-cat scheme because of these factors.

Woody, 11 wks old: "You can sponsor my booster shot!"
With vaccinations for foster cats in place, we can implement a Sponsor-A-LoveKuching-Cat scheme that is straightforward, and easy for sponsors to participate in. A vaccination is a fixed, one-time cost, one expense per foster cat, and affordable.

So alongside implementing booster jabs for adoptable foster cats, we will be putting in place an official Sponsor-A-LoveKuching-Cat scheme. Details on how to participate will be rolled out soon!

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