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Kittens: natural anti-depressants

Jennifer Vanderau
Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter

(7/2015) I may have found a sure-fire, natural anti-depressant: kittens.

Put away your Zoloft and Paxil and Prozac – just spend some time with a bunch of kittens and you’ll be good to go.

We’re moving into the time of the year shelters call "kitten season." This is the time when the adult cats are reaping the consequences of their fun nighttime adventures. As a result, we have tons of kittens.

In fact, with the kittens and cats in foster care, at Petsmart and in the shelter, we’ve got almost 170 cats in our care at the moment. It’s a rough time of year for shelters.

Indeed, our behavior assessment room has been turned into a kitten room and it’s one of the greatest places to hang out. We’ve got seven kittens in there and if you’re slow enough, they’ll eventually all come up to say hello. And the purring! Man, that sound is so relaxing!

We’ve got cats in offices, cats in our grooming room, cats in the staff bathroom (I’m not even kidding!). It’s crazy!

One of my favorite little guys just got adopted recently. His name was Daytona and he was a trip.

I first took Daytona to a local nursing home for pet therapy. The residents (and staff, too!) really enjoy the visits from the animals and I’ve definitely got some cat lovers there.

Daytona was a serious hit. This little gray-and-white boy has the most attentive expression and wow, does he love to talk. He’ll shout out a meow at the smallest provocation (sometimes he doesn’t even need a reason).

As we were standing in a resident’s room, if there was a lull in the conversation, little Daytona would fill the silence with a well-timed meow. It never failed to get a laugh.

I also had Daytona with kids. All kinds of kids. A little girl recently collected donations for the shelter for her birthday instead of getting presents. She and some of her friends came out to see who they had helped and little Daytona went from one child’s arms to another without so much as a wiggle.

He purred the entire time.

I was amazed. None of my cats at home would ever tolerate something like that and here was this little kitten acting as though being passed around the circle of 6 year olds was the greatest thing he’d ever experienced in his 12-weeks of life.

He did exactly the same thing with a group of Girl Scouts just a few days later. It was so cool.

He also went with me to the radio station in the morning. He actually kissed the DJ’s face! I’m not even kidding! And he had a very timely meow on air.

When we got back, I couldn’t put him in his cage right away because he’d been crying the whole trip in the carrier. I didn’t have the heart to not let him run for a little while, especially when that’s so obviously what he wanted to do. So we played for a bit.

I’m telling you, watching a kitten chase and run and play soccer may be one of the most relaxing things you can do. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face witnessing that little ball of fur pounce and act like a general clown.

One of the neatest things about little Daytona is he always checks in with his human. I don’t know how else to describe it. He’ll be running and ripping around and then he’ll let out this little chirp and when I’d say, "What are you up to buddy?" he’d come skipping over to me, almost as if to say, "Oh, good, you’re still here."

He’d rub against my legs and I’d give him a pat or two and he’d scamper off again. He’s such a sweet baby.

I really do believe a little bit of kitten time every day could reduce any dependency on anti-depressants. Truly. It was so relaxing to forget about everything else and just watch that little guy take so much joy in such a simple activity.

And while the kittens are fun, we can’t forget our adult cats.

We’ve got a really neat promotion going at the moment that I wanted to talk to you about. It’s called Donate with Your Heart Cat Adoption Campaign and it’s an effort to find homes for our adult felines.

One of the saddest things about kitten season is how the adult cats really get overlooked. So many people walk right by their cages in favor of the romping little felines. It really breaks your heart.

Mother cats also can go unnoticed and that’s tough, too. Here are the moms who had a litter of kittens, nursed them, kept them healthy, then got spayed themselves and put up for adoption only to sit in a cage far longer than their offspring.

Look, I get it. There are "free to a good home" ads all over the place and if you drive down just about any street in the county, you can see a cat walking around. If you want a cat, there are plenty of other ways to get one than to come to the animal shelter.

But, see, our felines are all spayed and neutered, they’ve been tested for feline leukemia and FIV and are free from those diseases, they’ve been treated for fleas and ticks, they’ve been started on their vaccinations and they will receive a microchip upon adoption. We put a lot into our cats to make them appealing and our adult cats are just as sweet.

With our Donate with Your Heart campaign, cats 7 months and older will be adopted for a donation from your heart. There is no set fee for our older cats – whatever you feel is appropriate or you can afford is what we will accept.

Our kittens 6 months and younger are $85, but you can adopt one and if you would like a second, the adoption fee is waived for kitten number two.

It really is a remarkably good deal.

If you’re in the market for a four-legged feline friend, now’s the time to stop out and see if one of the many sweet babies at CVAS might just steal your heart.


Jennifer Vanderau is the Director of Communications for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter in Chambersburg, Pa., and can be reached at The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at (717) 263-5791 or visit the website

Read other articles by Jennifer Vanderau