By Janet McAfee
The tiny kittens huddled together for comfort in a cardboard box inside a trash dumpster. It was August 4, 2020, a scorching Coachella Valley summer day. The air in the dumpster was suffocating and the stench overwhelming. Their little bodies ached with hunger, and time was running out for them to survive. They meowed desperately seeking their mother.
That day, Jasmine walked to a dumpster at her Cathedral City apartment complex. She was shocked to hear the cries of animals inside a cardboard box containing 3 tiny kittens. She removed the box, and then scooped up another kitten from underneath the garbage.
How could someone leave such innocent animals to suffer a slow and painful death? Jasmine recalled this wasn’t the first time litters of kittens were abandoned at the apartment complex. She had to act quickly. She called Jeanette Guzman at Loving All Animals. Jasmine’s texted photo showing their size told Jeanette the kittens’ situation was urgent. She knew they would need a foster home that could bottle feed every 3-4 hours!
Kari Penny recently contacted Loving All Animals to offer her services as a kitten foster mom. Kari’s friend, Meredith Greenwood, suggested she call after learning Kari fostered and bottle fed many litters of neonatal kittens. Kari used to live in Los Angeles, and the dumpster behind the Burbank television studio where she worked was a dumping ground for cats and kittens. Her veterinarian walked her through the process of bottle feeding for her first litter of rescued neonatal kittens. A miracle life-saving connection was made when Kari said “Yes” to taking the dumpster kittens.
Kari recalls, “My children, 11-yr-old Jax and 13-yr-old Skye, were home during the pandemic, and my daughter asked about fostering kittens. My children and I have always taken in injured and abandoned animals. The kittens appeared to be about a week old. They appeared to have been fed by a mother cat up until they were discarded.” The family pitched in as Kari bottle fed at night, and the children took turns during the day. The children named them after the animals in The Lion King, Simba, Pumba, Timon, and Nala.
The kittens were soon vetted and diagnosed positive for the coccidia parasite. They were prescribed medication, but sadly Simba didn’t survive. The kittens were so young and their early deprivation made them more vulnerable to parasites and disease. Everyone was heartbroken but determined to fight for the lives of his siblings. Kari reports, “There was a happy and a sad side to fostering these kittens, but our family pulled together for the happy side. Sometimes our commitments change, but it’s no reason to give up, and we had these 3 to give a better life. Fostering is a great teaching opportunity for children, showing them not only the importance of caring and loving, but also how frail life is and how it should never be discarded.” Nala, Pumba and Timon thrived and played with kitten joy.
Once the kittens were retested and cleared from parasites, family pups Coco and Cupcake, became part of the team to care for them. The dogs are pictured here watching over Timba. Loving All Animals took them back to the vet clinic to be spayed and neutered, dewormed, FIV tested, vaccinated, and microchipped in preparation for forever homes.
The Lion King kittens taught the children valuable lessons about love and triumph. Skye and Jax were involved in all aspects of caring for the playful trio. Skye tells us, “Animals can be your best friend, even for a short while when fostering. Even if no person makes you happy, an animal will definitely put a smile on your face. I can’t wait to foster again!” Skye took part in the kittens’ adoptions, and after a brief bit of sadness, happily got to see the “joyful light on the adopters’ faces.”
Jax wisely reports, “Fostering is definitely a big responsibility, but anybody can do it if they like animals. Taking care of animals is like being a father or mother, it’s a good feeling. I loved watching them grow and get different personalities. Please adopt a homeless animal, because there are so many strays on the street that might not make it.”
The crisis of cat overpopulation continues. Our public shelters do not have night time staff available to bottle feed motherless neonatal animals, and their fate there is uncertain. Without a foster home available to bottle feed, abandoned litters of kittens suffer from disease, predators, starvation, and human cruelty.
Jeanette tells us, “There is help available. Please treat animals as the living, breathing, beautiful creatures they are. Loving All Animals supports Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) clinics to help stop the suffering of unwanted kitten litters. Low cost spay and neuter programs can help family pets. Get your pet spayed or neutered because your roaming cat can add to the problem.” There are simply not enough homes for all the kittens being born. Low cost spay/neuter services are available through Animal Action League, (760) 366-1100.
Thanks to an amazing family who worked as a team to save them, the Lion King Kittens thrived. Thanks to Loving All Animals and their generous donors, the Lion King Kittens bring comfort and joy to their new ‘furever’ families this holiday season. Please donate online at www.lovingallanimals.org or mail a check to Loving All Animals, 83496 Avenue 51, Coachella, CA 92236. All donations are tax deductible to this 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization.
With your help, Loving All Animals can save more cats and dogs….the young and frail, in addition to seniors needing special veterinary care. Give a holiday gift to a friend by donating in their name. Your gift to Loving All Animals helps to end to the tragedy that the newborn Lion King Kittens endured and keep little hearts beating across the Coachella Valley.
Photos by Kari Penny
Below is a partial list of shelters and rescues in the Inland Empire with animals for adoption. They are currently closed for walk-ins, and you must call for an appointment. You can view most of their animals online before calling. If you seek a specific breed, you can also check on www.petfinder.com and put in the breed and your zip code. Thank you for rescuing!
COACHELLA VALLEY ANIMAL CAMPUS – The county shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt. You can view the animals at all four Riverside county shelters at www.rcdas.org, and get the ID number of the animal you want to adopt. Email them the animal’s ID number at email@example.com, or schedule a virtual adoption appointment at www.rcdas.org, 72050 Pet Land Place, Thousand Palms, (760) 343-3644. (Public)
PALM SPRINGS ANIMAL SHELTER – The shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt. They schedule appointments Wednesday through Monday. View their animals online at www.psanimalsshelter.org, 4575 E. Mesquite Ave, Palm Springs, (760) 416-5718. (Public)
ANIMAL SAMARITANS – The shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt. View their animals at www.animalsamaritans.org. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to foster. Located at 72307 Ramon Rd, Thousand Palms, (760) 601-3918. (Private)
CALIFORNIA PAWS RESCUE – The shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt. Located at 73650 Dinah Shore, Palm Desert. View their animals at www.californiapawsrescue.com, (760) 656-8833. (Private)
HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE COACHELLA VALLEY – The shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt a dog or cat. This shelter has lots of big dogs in addition to small dogs and cats. View some of their animals at www.orphanpet.com. Located at 17825 N. Indian Canyon, Palm Springs, (760) 329-0203. (Private)
KITTYLAND – The shelter is closed so call for an appointment to adopt a cat. Located at 67600 18th Avenue, Desert Hot Springs, www.kittylandrescue.org, (760) 251-2700. (Private)
FOREVER MEOW – Foster based rescue for cats located in Rancho Mirage. Contact them at www.ForeverMeow.org, (760) 335-6767. (Private)
PRETTY GOOD CAT – Foster based rescue for cats located in La Quinta. Contact them at www.prettygoodcat.com, (760) 660-3414 (Private)
BFF4pets – Foster based rescue for dogs and cats located in La Quinta. Email them at email@example.com, (310) 431-7818 (Private)
LOVING ALL ANIMALS – The shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt. Located at 83496 Avenue 51, Coachella, www.lovingallanimals.org, (760) 834-7000. (Private)
MORONGO BASIN HUMANE SOCIETY – Located at 4646 Sun View Rd, Joshua Tree, www.mbhumanesociety.com, call between 11am-4pm for updates (760) 366-3786 (Private)
CITY OF SAN BERNARDINO ANIMAL SHELTER – The shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt. Hours for adoption 10am – 4pm Tuesday thru Sat. Google “City of San Bernardino Animal Shelter” for website to view animals and get the ID number of the animal you want to meet. Located at 333 Chandler Place, San Bernardino, (909) 384-1304 or (909) 384-7272. (Public)
SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER AT DEVORE – Shelter closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt. Call (909) 386-9280 daily. View animals at www.sbcounty.gov/acc and get the ID number of animal you want to meet. Located at 19777 Shelter Way, San Bernardino (Public).
DREAM TEAM ANGELS RESCUE – Foster based rescue located in Grand Terrace/San Bernardino area. Contact them through website www.DreamTeamangelsrescue.com, (360) 688-8884. (Private)