Making No-Kill a Reality, One Kitten at a Time: Best Friends Utah Kitten Nursery

Welcome to Featured Rescue Friday! This week we’re featuring a rescue I volunteer for that is very close to my heart: the Best Friends Utah Kitten Nursery in Salt Lake City, where orphaned kittens are given a fighting chance at survival!

Although many animal shelters have recently made admirable efforts to reduce their euthanasia rates and reach a no-kill status for their furry residents, shelters can still be a death sentence for kittens because of all the potential diseases they house. Because young kittens don’t have developed immunities, they are very susceptible to diseases and can’t fight them off, meaning that they have a high chance of dying if brought into a shelter.

Staying true to their mission, “Save Them All,” Best Friends Animal Society started two kitten nurseries in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City to provide orphaned kittens with the special environment and around-the-clock care shelters simply cannot provide. They planned to take in kittens and care for them until they were old enough and healthy enough to be neutered or spayed and then adopted.

The Salt Lake nursery started in a tiny trailer behind Salt Lake County Animal Services in 2013, taking in orphaned kittens and nursing mother cats brought to the shelter. Many staff members and volunteers worked together to feed kittens and clean their kennels 24/7, following strict protocols in order to avoid the spread of disease.   After successfully saving hundreds of lives during their first “kitten season,” the period of time between March and November when the majority of kittens are born, Best Friends decided to expand in Salt Lake and secured a whole building for the Best Friends Utah Kitten Nursery in 2014, partnering with multiple shelters so they could save more kittens.

Two years after the launch of the new building, Shemia Splonskowski, the nursery supervisor, says they have rescued 2,644 kittens and 155 nursing moms from shelters and have adopted out 2,228 kittens and 97 former moms, with 80 kittens being transferred to other organizations. This definitely would not be possible without the team of people who tirelessly work together to make this a reality.

“Every staff member, intern, and volunteer literally saves a life every time they are here.  It’s a very rewarding feeling,” Splonskowski says.

Not only has the nursery saved thousands of kittens that would have likely died from going into shelters, but Splonskowski says it has also helped the seven shelters it now partners with, enabling one of them reach no-kill status.

“I love knowing that I make a difference every day just by being here,” Splonskowski says. She is not alone; many volunteers, including myself, echo her sentiment. Many enjoy working with and caring for the kittens so much that they can’t part with the ones that touch their hearts, including Splonskowski. She adopted a kitten from the 2015 season, named Roto Rooter after being hosed out and rescued from a storm drain.

“He was really scared and hissy the first few days at the nursery, but after a bit he cried all the time whenever someone wasn’t in the room and couldn’t wait to get out of the kennel and love on people.  He’s the same at our house now!”


The “Treasure Kittens,” image courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society – Utah

A number of kittens coming into the nursery bring unique stories like Roto Rooter’s. Though all of the kittens brought in are saved from deathly diseases inside shelters, some are rescued from other life-threatening situations. A litter from the 2014 season, nicknamed the “Treasure Kittens,” was rescued from glue traps inside of a dumpster and the first kittens in the nursery for the 2016 season were rescued from a house fire after their mother ran away.


Peeta and Katniss, the kittens rescued from a house fire, image courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society – Utah

It’s pretty safe to say that the Best Friends Utah Kitten Nursery is making a substantial difference in the lives of kittens and in Best Friend’s No Kill Utah initiative to “end the killing of dogs and cats in shelters throughout the entire state of Utah by the year 2019.” The nursery took in over 1,400 kittens in 2015 and the goal for saved lives keeps growing; Splonskowski says they hope to take in 1,500 kittens in the 2016 season, which has just begun. The nursery already has a few litters and is expecting more kittens to flood in at any moment, so if you’d like to support the nursery you can check out their Amazon wish list and help with their ever-growing need for supplies. Check out this heartwarming video from the 2015 season to see where your donations go and to watch the staff and volunteers in action, including my mom and me!

If you’re in the Salt Lake area and want to volunteer for the Best Friends Utah Kitten Nursery, you can sign up to become a Best Friends volunteer here!


Featured image credit: Best Friends Animal Society – Utah (modified)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *