The volunteers at Cat's Peek Rescue are preparing for another busy "kitten" season in our area. The goal of Cat's Peek Rescue is to reduce the region's feral cat population, and springtime is their busiest time of the year.

Once spring arrives, volunteers will be on the lookout for feral kittens and cats in our area. They typically trap adult cats and spay or neuter them at a local animal hospital, before returning the cats to their original location. Feral kittens are also trapped, but they are not released back into the outdoors instead, they are vaccinated and placed for adoption.

"These kittens should not have to live that way," said Diane Sharpless, the co-founder of Cat's Peek and an active member in the group. Cat's Peek was founded in 2006 by Sharpless and Robyn Merwarth, and is located in Schuylkill County.

Sharpless noted that feral cats must fend for themselves and face many dangers in the outdoors. Because feral cats rarely get veterinary attention, they are also at risk for developing common diseases such as feline distemper a fatal virus that can be prevented with a simple vaccination.

Cat's Peek is currently seeking adoptive families for kittens and spending time in the community to educate the public and encourage adoption. Kittens ready to be adopted will be on display during these public adoption days.

"We want the public to see them and hold them," she said.

Cat's Peek will be at PetSmart in Whitehall for the store's quarterly three-day adoption weekend this weekend, Feb. 12-14. There will be several animal rescue groups on site with cats, kittens and dogs available for adoption.

Closer to home, Cat's Peek hosts adoption days on the second and fourth Saturday of each month at Tractor Supply in Lehighton, this month on Feb. 27. They also visit PetCo on the first Sunday of each month and PetSmart on the remaining Sundays.

"These cats need homes, and people need cats," said Kelly Bauer, a Cat's Peek volunteer and veterinary technician. She noted that there are many health benefits associated with pets, including lower blood pressure and less chance of depression and loneliness. "Cats are also relatively low-maintenance," she added.

Each kitten is prepared for its "furrever" home in a foster home, not a shelter. In a foster home, kittens are handled and socialized to ensure a smooth transition to their permanent home.

"They get to the point where they love to be held and cuddled," said Sharpless. "They're very good cats. By the time they are ready for adoption we know a lot about them, whether they are lap cats or just want to sit next to you."

All kittens available for adoption have been given a veterinary exam and are current on their vaccinations. They are negative for feline leukemia and have been spayed or neutered.

Sharpless noted that Mahoning Valley Animal Hospital plays an active role in the kittens' adoption process, offering medical care for the kittens in foster homes. Dr. Mary Lombardo and Dr. Chris Carpenter also volunteer their services to spay and neuter both adult cats and kittens.

"They've been terrific," she said of the hospital.

No Nonsense Neutering in Whitehall also helps to spay and neuter the animals. Together, the two hospitals were able to spay or neuter 390 cats last year.

Cat's Peek does charge an adoption fee for each kitten to pay for medical expenses. Adoptive families are charged $60. Adults over the age of 60 can adopt a cat or kitten for no charge, thanks to the Purina "Pets for Seniors" program.

If you wish to adopt a cat and bring it home the same day, bring a photo ID and pet carrier.

She added that while it's tempting to bring feral kittens into your home directly from the outdoors, this is a bad idea - especially if you have other pets in your home. These outdoor kittens have not been vaccinated and may carry diseases that can spread to your other pets. It is important to make sure that a cat or kitten is healthy before bringing it into your home, and all of the kittens adopted through Cat's Peek are healthy.

In addition to adoptive families, Cat's Peek is also seeking additional volunteers during the upcoming kitten season, and donations to help foster families as they socialize the new kittens.

"We could use more foster families, and volunteers to help on adoption days," she added. The group also accepts donations of food, litter, cleaning supplies and paper towels, and monetary donations to cover medical expenses. Donations are tax deductible.

For more information or to see photos of kittens available for adoption, visit www.catspeekrescue.org [1]. Interested foster and adoption families can also contact Sharpless at (570) 778-6886.