When a kitten is feral and is rescued young enough, it’s totally possible to get him used to people and turn him into an amazing family pet. It can take a little time, though, and so one shelter came up with a way to make the process way faster and a lot more fun.
Ten years ago, staffers at the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) were having a conversation about feral cats with a volunteer who was a professional seamstress. Feral kittens 4 months and younger can be socialized into friendly, loving family members, but they need a lot of exposure to people, which can take up a lot of time that shelter staffers simply might not have. They needed a way to multi-task — and that’s how the idea for the “Kitten Bjorn” was born.
A Babybjörn is a type of baby carrier where a parent can carry her baby around, strapped to her body, and a Kitten Bjorn works exactly the same way. It’s essentially a vest that staff and volunteers can wear that has a little mesh pouch on the front for kittens to sit in, so that they can experience the world around them while whoever is carrying them goes about their daily duties.
“The idea was to have something that allow the kittens to socialize, and be hands-free, thus allowing staff and volunteers to multi-task (answering phones, talking with clients etc.),” Michael DeFina, communications and media relations officer at ARL Boston, told The Dodo. “The design allows the kitten to be flooded with stimuli in a safe way while being constantly monitored by whoever is wearing the vest. Three were made and we are looking to make more.”
ARL has been using the vests for the past seven years, and it’s hoping to make more vests so it can continue using them for years to come. Since ARL started using the vests, the process of socializing feral kittens has gotten so much faster — so fast, in fact, that now feral kittens are ready for adoption in just 48 hours, and sometimes even sooner.
“Turnaround for socialization can be fairly quick, with the sign of success being when the kitten begins to purr,” DeFina said. “Sometimes a kitten will begin purring after just an hour, sometimes it takes a couple of days, but during the seven years of their use, they have shown to be effective in trying to quickly socialize kittens.”
The vests are not only a fantastic way to socialize the kittens and get them ready for adoption, but they also help to save lives. The faster a feral kitten is socialized, the faster she can be adopted out, which frees up space for another animal to be rescued and adopted.
The vests are also, of course, insanely adorable, which is a major perk.