PAWPOURRI AWLA Newsletter: spring 2017

Kitten Season Has Arrived!

Everybody loves kittens, right? We’re pretty sure that kittens are in the top five ‘Cutest Animals Ever’ list, and the Internet is practically made of cats and kittens! Even though the staff here at AWLA have seen thousands of kittens over their careers, their little faces still turn us into mush. And yet, the phrase “kitten season” brings a feeling of dread for many animal shelters, as we wait for the start of one of the difficult parts of our year.

This little guy knows how we feel

Just what is kitten season, anyway? “Kitten Season” refers to the period of time between March and November when most kittens are born. Increased daylight and warmer weather triggers feline heat cycles, and because unspayed female cats can go into heat every two to three weeks (and can get pregnant as young as four months), animal shelters can be inundated with pregnant mothers and orphaned kittens incredibly quickly. AWLA is fortunate to have a dedicated team of foster families who help care for the hundreds of kittens that come through our door each year, but kitten season still drains resources from the shelter, and caring for such delicate creatures takes up a lot of staff and volunteer time. Pregnant mothers need to be monitored as their pregnancy progresses, and may need help with the birthing process. Orphaned neonatal kittens (kittens under four weeks old) need round-the-clock care, feeding every two to three hours, and help to eliminate their waste. As they grow, kittens need lots of socializing and attention in order to grow into happy, healthy cats. Watch the video below to see two of our current foster kittens!

AWLA took in its first pregnant cat of the season, Pretty Girl, in March. Pretty Girl was transferred to us from our rescue partner in West Virginia, who found her as a stray. She was very pregnant when she arrived, so our foster coordinator sent her straight to a foster home so she could rest. Pretty Girl quickly gave birth to seven kittens at the end of March. Sadly, two of the kittens didn’t survive (which is not unusual in large litters) but the rest of her kittens are doing well. Since becoming a mother, Pretty Girl has had some health issues of her own. She has been to the vet twice for complications from giving birth and during a routine x-ray, the veterinarian found a bullet between her shoulder blades! Her foster mom is taking wonderful care of her, and she is currently feeling better and taking good care of her kittens.

Pretty Girl getting a check up at the shelter

Pretty Girl is just one of hundreds of stories we’ll see over the course of kitten season. Occasionally we see pregnant moms and kittens brought in by owners who had accidental litters, but more often than not, AWLA receives kittens that have been born to feral mothers. A feral cat is a cat that was born outdoors and has had little or no human interaction. Essentially, feral cats are wild, and typically have no desire to be around humans (barring their ‘caretakers’, who provide them with food and basic shelter) or live indoors as pets. Feral mothers give birth outside, and will often leave their kittens in a hidden spot to go hunt or look for water. In suburban areas like Arlington, it’s not uncommon for people to stumble across feral kittens and assume they have been abandoned, or that the mother has died. More often than not, the mother cat is simply looking for food, moving her kittens one-by-one to a new nest, or watching cautiously from a hiding spot.

Feral kittens waiting for their mother

While it is oh-so-tempting to immediately bring the kittens to a shelter, it is best to wait and assess the situation. As long as the kittens are not in immediate danger (or cold to the touch), we recommend keeping your distance, but watching over them for a few hours. If no mother returns, at latest by nightfall, then we recommend bringing the kittens to AWLA. Whenever possible, it is best for the kittens to stay with their mother, as neonatal kittens only have a 15% to 40% chance of survival without their mothers ( Once the kittens are can eat on their own they can be brought to the shelter to be socialized and adopted. We can perform TNR (trap-neuter-return) for the mother, so that she will not continue to reproduce.

Another factor to consider is a kitten's age. There is a slim window of opportunity when they are young enough to adjust to living with people. Abandoned kittens under six weeks of age are within that window and can usually be socialized and adopted. Kittens older than six weeks have a harder time adjusting to domestic life and may not be able to be socialized enough to be adopted. Check out this great infographic from Alley Cat Allies to learn how to tell a kitten’s age.

Of course, the staff at AWLA is always available by phone or email to answer your questions about any kittens you may find in Arlington County. If you find a litter of kittens, don’t hesitate to call us so we can help you assess the situation.


Michele and some of her foster kittens

“I started fostering about four years ago when I met another foster who introduced me to some of the youngest kittens I had ever seen. Their eyes weren't even open yet, and I was instantly hooked on bottle feeding them. I started fostering soon after, learning tips and getting support (practical and emotional) from other fosters. While there has been a share of sadness and loss, I know that many kittens have been adopted into loving homes because I volunteered to foster them when they could not have thrived in a shelter environment. I look forward to kitten season every year. AWLA pairs me with fosters that suit my schedule and home, and coming home to them makes me forget any bad day!”

How You Can Help Us Save Lives This Spring

  1. Spay or Neuter Your Pets (or help TNR)! The first step to help shelters from becoming overrun with kittens is to stop them from being born in the first place. Make sure to spay or neuter your cat by four months old. If you’re having trouble affording the surgery, AWLA may be able to help. We offer a Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Program for income-qualified households. If you’re interested in our TNR program (or need help getting your own pet spayed/neutered), call the shelter at (703) 931 9241.
  2. Become a Foster Family! We will need many foster families this year to help care for the hundreds of kittens that will come through our doors. Whether you want to be trained in neonatal kitten care so you can foster our most delicate babies, want to help socialize older kittens, or love the idea of opening up your home to a mother cat and her babies, we need your help! You can learn more about our foster program here, or email our foster coordinator, Joanna McElfish, at
  3. Donate! AWLA is always in need of supplies during kitten season. Monetary donations enable us to purchase medications and other specialized items for our foster program, and we always need donations of towels, blankets, toys, etc. You can make monetary donations online or in-person at the shelter, and if you want to donate items to the program, check out our Amazon Wishlist!
  4. Adopt! Space is at a premium during kitten season. Cages are full, and adult cats are often ignored in favor of younger kittens. Adopting a cat of any age is a wonderful thing, but our grown-up cats are especially grateful to be adopted during this busy season when they are often overlooked. Click here to see all of our adoptable cats!
  5. Spread the word! Tell your family and friends about kitten season and how they can help AWLA or their local shelter during this busy time. Encourage them to become a foster family, adopt their next pet, or donate. Every little bit helps!

Walk for the Animals 2017

On Saturday, May 6, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., AWLA will once again host its annual Walk for the Animals. A perennial favorite, this event brings together hundreds of local animal lovers and their canine companions for a walk to benefit AWLA shelter animals and support the services and programs that the League provides to the community. This year, for the first time, AWLA is hosting the Walk and related festivities at the shelter, allowing us to showcase the work we do, where we do it, and, most importantly, the animals in our care. The Walk for the Animals is the League’s biggest fundraiser, and this year’s goal is $82,000.

Walkers will have their choice of two routes, a three-mile walk or a one-mile stroll. Both will begin and end at AWLA. Participants can enjoy tours of the shelter, meeting adoptable animals, dog training and trick demonstrations, a doggy costume contest, music, a photo booth, food trucks, vendors, and more!

Since its beginning, more than 20 years ago, the Walk has raised life-saving funds that have provided critical medical care, food, shelter, training, and adoption services for tens of thousands of League animals.

Happy Tails: Carrie

Carrie in her foster home

Carrie’s story with AWLA began on a summer day in June 2016 when she arrived as part of our transfer program from a West Virginia rescue group. The other dogs in that transfer were made available for adoption and found homes right away, but Carrie needed more time. She was reactive towards other dogs and people that approached her kennel. We could see that she was distressed and wanted to help her realize she was among friends. We quickly learned that you could win Carrie over quite easily with one important thing - a tennis ball. Once you won her over, you were included in her “circle of trust”. Being part of Carrie’s circle had its privileges - “members” could introduce Carrie to new people and she would immediately accept those people as her friends as well. As Carrie’s circle grew, we learned she was incredibly food motivated and smart, so we moved her into our Director of Adoptions’ office and he began to work with her. Unfortunately, life in a shelter is hard, even if you get to hang out in an office, and we knew Carrie needed to be in a home where she could continue her training.

Just before Christmas, Carrie moved in with one of our foster families who cared for her for two months. She did well in her foster home and was even invited to her foster “grandparents” house for the holidays, where she made even more friends, including the family dog and cat. Carrie did wonderfully. Her foster mom later told us, “Of all the dogs in my life, Carrie was the best dog I ever had”. However, Carrie’s foster home was only temporary - she still needed a home of her own. On February 6th, 2017, after eight long months of waiting, it was finally Carrie’s turn to be adopted. A young couple came in to meet her, fell in love, and that was that! We threw Carrie a going-home party, complete with cake, balloons, and a big send-off.

Carrie taking a nap in her new home

Carrie’s adopters recently reported that they have a happy girl on their hands, “Carrie is doing just wonderful. As you can see, she is happy at home with her toys and taking naps. She has gotten used to our routine and still just loves to play at anytime. She is eating well and loves to play fetch with the random sticks she finds outside”. We are so thrilled to see Carrie thriving in her new home. We miss our little “wiggle-butt” but we couldn’t be happier for her!

April Donation Match

This month we are extremely lucky! Two very generous donors have combined their resources and agreed to match every dollar donated by April 30 up to $57,000! That means all gifts made in April will be DOUBLED, helping to save twice as many animals in need.

Happy Tails: CiCi

Cici on her first day at AWLA

In March, a rescue group in Kuwait contacted AWLA in need of help. They had a group of cats who, because of various medical issues, were unadoptable in Kuwait, but they knew would have a significantly better chance of finding homes in the United States. A few weeks later, five adorable cats made the long journey to AWLA. One of those cats was Cici, a skinny Persian cat who was missing both her eyes. We learned that Cici had been found running up to people in the streets and crying, unable to see. The Kuwait rescue immediately took Cici to a veterinarian, who discovered that under the dirt and matted fur, her eyes were already gone. When she arrived at AWLA, our vet team re-checked Cici to make sure she had no underlying medical issues resulting from the loss of her eyes. Luckily, other than being thin, Cici was in good health, and was adopted just two weeks after arriving!

Cici in her new home

Cici is doing wonderfully in her new home. Here is a recent update we received from her owner, “I am surprised how fast she has been adjusting to the new environment. She is amazingly smart! She loves to cuddle and be pet, so we do a lot of cuddling and we also play a lot. I don't even realize her handicap, actually, and I am really amazed by her. I am trying to read a book called “Homer” about a blind cat, but Cici generally sits on the book and wants to cuddle instead! I always say that we have an "immigrant & multilingual" household, since I am originally from the Czech Republic (so, she is also learning some Czech language!)”.

Calendar Contest 2017

Elmo's Story

Elmo came to AWLA when he was just four weeks old. He had been found outside, alone, scared, and covered in a painful-looking rash. Our veterinary team checked him out right away and diagnosed him with sarcoptic mange, a treatable, but highly contagious skin condition that causes intense itching, irritation, and hair loss. So, Elmo was immediately isolated and began treatment. After a month of medicine and medicated baths, Elmo was feeling much better and released from isolation. Check out this video of Elmo we made for Giving Tuesday back in November:

Once Elmo had been cleared by our veterinary team, our adoption and behavior team began the process of making Elmo available for adoption. The first step in this process is to perform a behavior evaluation, which helps us get to know our dogs and determine the best kind of homes for them.

During Elmo’s behavior evaluation, the adoptions and behavior team found that Elmo displayed something called resource guarding, which is when a dog controls access to food or objects through defensive body language such as stiffness, growling, or snapping. Elmo exhibited some concerning behavior for such a young puppy, and our adoptions and behavior team knew he would need some extra training and attention to help him overcome this behavior. Thanks to and an Orvis Animal Care Grant, we were able to send Elmo to be fostered by K-9 Divine, a dog-training facility in Maryland where he received behavior modification training for his resource guarding, as well as house-training, crate-training, and appropriate play with other dogs.

Elmo with a foster friend

Elmo loved his time at K-9 Divine, and learned a lot from their dedicated staff. After a couple of months, Elmo was ready to come back to AWLA and be made available for adoption! Elmo is now settled back into his kennel at the shelter and waiting to find his new family. Elmo is quite shy when he meets new people, but is extremely affectionate and cuddly with people he knows. He loves spending time with other dogs, especially larger, playful dogs. Elmo’s resource guarding is much, much better after his time in foster, but he will still need training with his new family to continue this progress. Luckily, he’s an incredibly smart dog that loves working with his favorite people, so he will be the perfect dog for anyone who wants an affectionate, intelligent dog in their lives!

Elmo is available for adoption now - he can't wait to meet you!

Wildlife Watch: Bats

While Spring is a time for beautiful flowers, warmer weather and baby animals, we often forget that it’s also the time many wild animals begin to come out of hibernation. Bats, in particular, are an often feared, even persecuted member of our local ecology that are waking up with the warmer weather and being sighted more often by Arlington County residents. Contrary to what many people may think, bats are a vital component to our ecology and play an important role in controlling night-flying insect populations.

A bat in rehab at The Save Lucy Campaign

Bats are mammals, and are the only mammal that can fly. Other mammals, like flying squirrels, actually glide through the air for short distances. Bats, on the other hand, are capable of true flight. It’s also a myth that they are blind. Although bats do use echolocation (high frequency sounds) to navigate through the night skies, they can see perfectly fine! Bats are nocturnal, and so sleep during the day and come out to hunt insects at night. Depending on the species, bats may either migrate or hibernate during colder seasons and live in hollowed out trees, caves, and sometimes man-made structures like attics, barns, eaves and window shutters.

Animal Control Officer Barrett giving fluids to a dehydrated bat

In recent weeks, our Animal Control team has helped a lot of bats who have become disoriented due to the fluctuating temperatures. Luckily, we work with a local bat rescue and rehabilitation group called The Save Lucy Campaign, and they are always on hand to help our Animal Control Team when we take in bats in distress. If you find a bat that seems to be in distress or unable to fly, it needs help right away, so call our Animal Control team at (703) 931 9241. We ask that members of the public DO NOT touch bats, or any wildlife, with their bare hands. Bats can bite, and are rabies vectors, so we must take extreme caution when handling them.

Happy Tails: Petal

Petal, an adorable Lionhead rabbit, was found in a carrier at the front door of the shelter in August 2016 and immediately became a staff and volunteer favorite due to her easygoing and friendly personality. Despite her wonderful disposition, Petal spent several months at AWLA with nary an application. So our adoptions team decided to give her a break from shelter life and sent her to live with a foster family. Unfortunately, while in foster, Petal had an accident and broke her leg. We immediately consulted with Pender Exotics Animal Hospital and they decided the best course of action would be to amputate Petal’s leg. Luckily, Petal is a strong little rabbit, and made it through her surgery and recovery just fine and once she had fully healed, she was made available for adoption again.

Petal at the shelter

It was then that one of our small companion volunteers, Barbara, decided that Petal might be the perfect addition to her family. Barbara was looking for a very particular personality in her next rabbit, because Barbara is a member of Fairfax Pets on Wheels, an organization that connects therapy pets with nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Barbara’s other rabbit, Pal, is already a certified therapy rabbit, and so she was looking for another calm, friendly rabbit who could be certified as a therapy animal. Barbara took Petal home in December and just a few months later, Petal was certified as a therapy rabbit and began visiting nursing homes in the Northern Virginia area.

Petal with her owner, Barbara

Let's Get Social!

Rabies & Microchip Clinics

Please bring dogs on leashes and cats in carriers. Please bring proof of a prior rabies shot (a rabies certificate, not a tag) to get a three-year rabies shot. Without it your pet will receive a one-year shot.

Rabies shot: $10 Microchip: $35

May 25, June 22, August 24

6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

Workplace Giving

The League depends on our many donors who donate each year through their work-place giving programs, the United Way and the Combined Federal Campaign. These donations allow the League to continue its good works. As this year's campaign begins, if you work for a participating organization, please consider designating the Animal Welfare League of Arlington with the appropriate codes:

Combined Federal Campaign (CFC): #90065, United Way (UW): #8804, Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign (CVC): #8068


Editor: Chelsea Lindsey

President/CEO: Neil Trent

Contributors: Kevin Simpson, Kat Williams, Anna Barrett, Joanna McElfish, Susan Sherman,

Board Officers: Gary Sturm: Chair, Carrie Ciliberto: Vice Chair, Diane Greenlee: Secretary, Allen Herzberg, Treasurer

Board Members: Jeanne Broyhill, Beth Burrous, Jennifer Case, David Isaacson, Sally Kaplan, Edward Kussy, Craig Mehall, Mark Merrill, Eileen Merton, Jeff Newman and Ron Novak

The Animal Welfare League of Arlington

2650 S Arlington Mill Dr

Arlington, VA 22206

(703) 931 9241

League Hours:

Monday: noon - 7:00 p.m.

Closed Tuesday

Wed - Fri: noon - 7:00 p.m.

Sat - Sun: noon - 4:00 p.m.

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