Stray kitten

Finding Stray Kittens

Animal welfare organizations dub the increase of litters of kittens as kitten season. This time of year typically occurs during the spring and fall in Minnesota. The influx of kittens often overwhelms animal welfare organizations, especially in areas with pet overpopulation. In some instances, it may be best to leave stray kittens where they are, especially if they are under eight weeks old. Please review the following chart from Alley Cat Allies to help determine a kitten’s age.

How old is that kitten?

How old is that kitten chart

The first step is to conclude if the kittens are without a mom or unsupervised. Mama cats will leave their kittens to find food or scout out new locations. If the kittens are sleeping soundly and look healthy, the mom is likely to return. It is essential to check in with the kitten every hour or so to determine if the mom is coming back. The mom might even move her kittens between you checking in on them periodically. Trielle Gritton from Best Friends Animal Society-Utah recommends sprinkling flour around the kittens and looking for paw prints when you check back in later.

Best Friends Animal Society recommends that if the kittens are not abandoned but are in danger where they are, you can move them to a safer location in the immediate area, so the mama cat can still find them when she returns. If you can, please provide them with basic needs, including shelter, food, and water. You can help the mom and kittens the most by leaving them alone until they are old enough to be taken in. When the kittens are between 6-8 weeks old, they are ready to be taken in WITH their mom.

If the kittens appear sickly, underweight, or dehydrated, and if their mom doesn’t return, please contact your local animal welfare organization for assistance.

Interested in learning more about what to do if you find a lost or stray animal? Visit our Lost & Found Pets page for additional resources.


Finding Wildlife in Need

Finding orphaned or injured wildlife is alarming as well as exciting. If a wild animal is noticeably injured or orphaned, it likely needs help. Please view the information in this article before attempting to help the animal. It is imperative to keep yourself safe while being mindful of the animal’s well-being. Included below are local rehabilitation centers and information on how to become a certified wildlife rehabilitator.

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota shares the following criteria where a wild animal needs help.

  • Bleeding/obviously injured/you can see bruising
  • Emaciated/ribs showing
  • Has flies, worms or ants on it
  • Has been handled by a cat
  • Was alone outside overnight or all day long
  • Was sitting next to a deceased parent

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota shares the following steps for safely containing a wild animal.

  1. Find a container with a lid that you can secure.
  2. Punch air holes in the lid.
  3. If it’s a small, non-rabies vector animal, drop a hand/kitchen towel over the animal, gently pick it up and place it in the box with the towel. Secure the lid. If it’s a larger animal, set the box or transport tub on its side next to the animal. Using your snow shovel gently nudge or slide the animal into the box. Slowly tilt the box upright so the animal gently slides to the bottom of it. Place a towel in the box with the animal to help reduce stress during transport. Secure the lid.
  4. Please notify the rehabilitation center or rehabilitator if the animal can cause you physical harm (herons, loons, swans, fox, etc.). They can help you determine the best approach. Your city’s non-emergency police may also help with containing the animal.

Be mindful that you likely need to transport the animal you find to the rehabilitation center or rehabilitator. Please don’t feed or medicate the animal unless you receive explicit instructions from the wildlife rehabilitation center or rehabilitator.

Interested in becoming a wildlife rehabilitator?

If you want to become a wildlife rehabilitator, please check out the resources below. The Minnesota DNR strongly recommends that you take introductory wildlife rehabilitation training courses, and get hands-on experience as a volunteer working with practicing rehabilitators before applying. Your safety and the animal’s wellbeing are of the utmost importance.

link and Zelda

What 12 Hours in Rescue Can Do

A popular place to abandon pets is at the dump. That’s where young puppies, Link, and Zelda, roamed and looked for scraps for several days. They needed to hide from predators and avoid dangerous objects in the dump at only 10 weeks old. It’s challenging to believe that there are people out there that equate puppies to trash. Thankfully, our rescue partner Lightshine Canine: A Rez Dog Rescue rescued Link and Zelda before it was too late.

Link and Zelda being rescued
Zelda drinking water
Link being pet

The hungry, tick, and flea-covered puppies hitched a ride to Minnesota, arriving around 9 pm. A Ruff Start Rescue foster family with three excited young girls ready to give them the love they deserve greeted the exhausted and malnourished pups upon arrival. After a bath, supper, and much-needed rest, this is what the puppies looked like 12 hours later.

Zelda laying in the grass
Link walking on the beach
Zelda playing with a ball
Link chewing a stick on the beach
Link and Zelda going on a walk
Link and Zelda playing in the forest

Link has an eye injury and likely needs his eye removed. Thanks to Ruff Start’s community of fosters, adopters, volunteers, and supporters, caring for these puppies is possible. In less than a day, rescue changed Link and Zelda’s lives forever. Now they are with their forever families. If you want to help puppies like Link and Zelda consider becoming a foster or donating to our animal care fund today!

Zelda holding hands with her new owners
Zelda playing with a Samoyed
Link cuddling a little girl
Spike and Stella

How Spike and Stella Saved a Life

When you rescue an animal, you change their life. They often return the favor with unconditional love and laughs. Some go beyond that. Here’s a story of how Ruff Start alums, Spike and Stella, saved their mom’s life.

Jayme adopted Ruff Start Rescue alums, Stella a Pomeranian, in 2011, and Spike an Italian Greyhound/Papillon in 2014. Spike thinks of himself as a human child. At his request, Jayme rocked him to sleep each night until he was one.

Spike and Jayme bonded immediately. Two years before adopting Spike, Jayme suffered horrible injuries from a car accident that left her incapacitated. Because of this, she has chronic pain.

Spike assigned jobs for everyone in the family, and unbeknownst to them, a job for himself.

On July 4th, 2017, Jayme’s husband and kids left for a family picnic in the morning. They believed that Jayme slept in from a surge in her chronic pain.

Spike refused to let them leave.

If you can’t tell, Spike isn’t a big dog. He’s even the quiet dog in the house only barking occasionally. This morning, Spike wouldn’t stop barking at them. With Spike’s behavior being so odd, Jayme’s husband asked him to “show me,” and Spike darted up the stairs waiting to see if they would follow. They did.

Spike flew into Jayme’s room, looking back to see if they were still following him. He jumped furiously at the bed. Jayme’s husband realized something was terribly wrong.

Stella hadn’t left Jayme’s side for 18+ hours.

They rushed Jayme to the hospital. She had gone into acute kidney failure.

“I wouldn’t have made it another hour had Spike not intervened.”

Spike knows a few commands but hasn’t had any formal training. Since that day, Spike has taken his “job” to new heights. He “monitors” Jayme for pain and treats her with extra snuggles. Spike also gives her kisses when the anxiety and PTSD are too much to handle.

What did we do to deserve dogs?

“For that, I will forever be grateful to all of Ruff Start for all that you do. The animals you rescue and find loving homes sometimes save us too.”

Spike and Jayme

From Roaming Alone to Forever in a Home: Meet Yogi

A scruffy retriever mix made his way from home to home on the reservation, looking for scraps of food and a place to rest when he felt safe enough. This is Yogi’s routine for the first few years of his life. Our partner LightShine Canine: A Rez Dog Rescue, tried to rescue him during the summer of 2019, but Yogi was terrified of people. Mange wreaked havoc on his skin while secondary skin infections crept in. Yogi felt miserable, and he didn’t know if he could trust those that were trying to help him. The rescue couldn’t find him that winter.

After months of building up trust and slipping him medication, Yogi reappeared in the spring and finally accepted Lightshine’s helping paw in late March 2020. He got stitches for a wound on his head while they monitored his neck and scrotum injuries closely. It turns out people are not so bad after all. Yogi joined other rez dogs on a transport van to Minnesota foster homes, where they soon discovered the joy of living indoors.

Yogi wandering the streets
Yogi rescued in a crate
Yogi at the vet

Yogi seemed so shy, confused, and scared his first few days in his foster home. He wouldn’t look at them for days. Although, it didn’t take too long for Yogi to start trusting his fosters and feel more relaxed. His love for treats certainly helped, and he couldn’t turn down a belly rub.

Distraught, Yogi kept trying to cover his food dish that had leftover food in it. Once his foster mom understood what he was trying to do, she grabbed a towel and put it over his food bowl. Yogi felt content with this solution as his survival instincts were still in full effect. This reaction lasted about two weeks until Yogi finally realized no one would steal his food.

For the first time, Yogi could relax in the sun and not worry about other animals hurting him. He learned what toys are and proudly carried them around the house. He even learned how to perform some commands like sit, shake, and lay down.

His foster mom, Kate, says, “From coming from the reservation with no home, no family, no future, he realized and let himself be loved and cared for. His life got better, and he started to let himself relax and enjoy being a dog.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Your support makes these transformations possible. Yogi is currently enjoying his second chance at life in his forever home.

Yogi paying with his toy
Yogi smiling
Yogi relaxing on his back

Bittersweet Valentine

Miserable from unrelenting allergies, Val (Valentine), patiently endured test upon test to determine why her skin is so painfully itchy. Fosters, Ryan and Jennifer, took Val into their home in October 2019 after her former owner could no longer care for her. They prepared for managing Val’s allergies, except something more severe was happening.

At random, open and oozing sores covered Val’s entire body while her face swelled. These outbreaks puzzled the Ruff Start vetting staff, Val’s fosters, and veterinary consults. For months, they tried new anti-inflammatories, injections, and creams while eliminating any possible thing that could cause an allergic reaction. If anything helped, it was only temporary. The vet bills grew steeper and steeper.

Val continued to be her wiggly and happy self, but you could tell she was miserable as her body constantly trembled from the discomfort. The sweet Pitbull Terrier mix showed nothing but love to her foster family as they transcended expectations for her care.

“She’s still a happy dog, which makes it a lot easier to help her.”

Enough was enough. After a consultation with a dermatologist, Val received a particular blood test to determine if she had a possible immune system disease or lymphoma. We remained hopeful that we could cure her once and for all, then we heard the news.

In March 2020, Val received a positive result for B-Cell Lymphoma and given 6-12 months to live.

This news devastated all of us, especially Ryan and Jennifer, but there is a sense of relief finally knowing what’s causing her pain. They went from fosters looking to find Val a perfect home to fospice (foster hospice) fosters. They prepared themselves to be with her until the very end.

Val sitting on the porch
Val paw allergy
Val laying in her dog bed

Val is currently taking Prednisone and an oral chemotherapy drug. These help keep her in remission and her symptoms under control. If you feel compelled to support Val’s care, here are some breakdowns:

  • $400 covers her lymphoma diagnostic test
  • $100 covers six chemo treatments
  • $100 covers Cytopoint for her allergies
  • $50 covers her monthly medication
  • $25 covers bloodwork before each chemo treatment

We can give Val the care she needs thanks to your support! We are grateful for this opportunity to celebrate Val’s life and help her finally feel comfortable while she enjoys living in her foster home for the remainder of her days.


A Lone Star to North Star Rescue Journey: Russie

Russie is a 16-year-old Pomeranian mix that is all fluff and no fuss. Russie found herself alone in a Texas shelter after her owner passed away this March 2020. Despite how *adorable* Russie is, she has a long list of medical concerns that landed her on the euthanasia list.

You all know that’s not our style.

Our Lone Star to North Star Rescue Relief team immediately tagged this pup to hitch a ride on a bus to Minnesota because all dogs deserve a chance at a loving home. As long as Russie’s quality of life remains intact, she will live in peace and get the care she needs in her fospice (foster hospice) home.

Russie wasn’t doing too hot when she first arrived. Russie tucked her tail, barely ate, and had horrific coughing fits. Our vetting team went to work and got her on a proper medication regimen for severe dental disease and a possible mass near her trachea.

Now she’s a different dog!

Russie getting a ride in a backpack
Russie licking her lips
Russie enjoying a pup cup

It turns out that Russie has quite the spunky personality and can even zip around the house like a 10-year-old pup. Her foster shares, “We have really loved having Russie! She is our first hospice foster, and we were a bit nervous in the beginning about this since her health issues seemed significant. However, we knew we were the right fit for her and could offer a final loving home.”

Russie is deaf and is catching on quickly to the sign language her foster family is teaching her. She loves being in the sun, going for car rides, and joining the family on long walks while she sits in a K9 backpack on her foster mom’s back. She’s even earned a few nicknames, including Russet Potato, Tater Tot, and Russie Wussie.

There are unknowns of how long a fospice pet will stay with us, but Russie’s foster family feels confident that between the safe/calm environment and medications they give her, she’ll be with us for quite a while. When you see Russie play with a toy for the first time in likely years, you can’t help but stop and stare at the joy she is experiencing.

Our foster families always go above and beyond for these animals.

Russie’s foster mom says, “We feel honored that she is with us. She gets stronger and more energetic with each passing day. We’ve bought her a new bed, pet stairs so she can get onto the couch, a doggy car seat so she can sit securely in the car while still looking out the window, and some little toys and treats all her own. She seems to love us as much as we love her!”

We can take on special cases like Russie’s because of your support. To no fault of her own, she ended up in a shelter and scheduled for euthanasia. You made it possible for us to save her, and with your continued support, we are ready to save even more Russies’! If you are able, please consider contributing to this life-saving work.

Rocky and Linda

A Lone Star to North Star Rescue Journey: Rocky and Linda

An animal can feel so confused and scared when they first enter a shelter. Especially when the owner they’ve known and loved for years is no longer by their side. Between the echoing barks and whines of other confused dogs to the fast footsteps of employees; It can be overwhelming to the point where the animal no longer acts like themself.

Some shelters are overcapacity, particularly in the southern United States. Senior Chihuahuas like Linda and Rocky would only have a short window to get adopted before they found themselves on a long list of animals to euthanize. This outcome is not how Ruff Start Rescue wants a dog’s final moments to be.

Rocky (left) and Linda (right) after arriving to their Texas foster home.
Rocky (left) and Linda (right) after arriving to their Texas foster home.

They belong in a home where they can feel the comfort of someone’s love for them no matter how long they have left. So, without hesitation, Ruff Start tagged Linda (Marigold) and her brother Rocky (Drumstick) to hitch a freedom ride from Texas to Minnesota through the Lone Star to North Star Rescue Relief program. After their thousand-mile journey, their fosters scooped them up from the rescue office and brought them HOME.

Both Linda and Rocky are 15 years old and have an old-age ailment, vestibular disease. Linda’s been holding steady since entering the rescue in November 2019. Unfortunately, Rocky passed away unexpectedly in his sleep due to complications from the disease on February 6, 2020. We take comfort in knowing that he was so well-loved during his short time with us.

Linda is thin but still enjoys eating. When she has a tough time finding her food, she will scream (we’ve all been there). Otherwise, Linda doesn’t care much for chatter. Linda often spins in circles (from the disease), is 90% blind, and almost deaf, but she LOVES to cuddle! Her condition is severe enough that Ruff Start placed her in our “fospice” (foster hospice) program. She is in this program to ensure she gets the care she needs for the remainder of her time with us.

The unknowns of fostering a hospice animal can be taxing, especially when we know that her time to leave us could happen at any moment. Linda has had a few emergency vet visits for gastroenteritis. Thankfully, Ruff Start’s veterinary team adjusted her medications and have her on a special diet that keeps that condition manageable and her quality of life intact.

To keep her safe, Linda spends a lot of her time in a big kennel with a washable training pad and a heating pad. Believe it or not, her favorite thing ever is bath time in the kitchen sink! Although she runs around really fast to ‘get away’ from her wet self afterward. Linda’s foster mom loves piling up all of the Chihuahuas in her home and watching junk TV during colder weather. When Linda’s not soaking up sun rays, you can find her upside down underneath several blankets taking the best nap of her life.

Without the Lone Star to North Star Rescue Relief Program, Linda and Rocky wouldn’t have experienced this unconditional love and care. You can support this program by sharing this article or making a contribution. Without your help, thousands of animals wouldn’t have gotten a second chance like Rocky and Linda.


After Years in Rescue: Lucy Lands Her Forever Home

Lucy found herself in a local impound as a stray in early 2017 after frolicking in the wild and weaving through traffic for miles without breaking a sweat. Once her stray hold finished and no owner reclaimed Lucy, she began her hunt for a new family. Unfortunately, the shelter setting frightened her, making it challenging to find her a home when she couldn’t be herself. Ruff Start Rescue happily took Lucy in.

Lucy’s foster mom, Steffani, is an employee at Ruff Start Rescue that specializes in all sorts of severe cases. Lucy has urinary incontinence that’s managed with medication, a high prey drive, all of the skills necessary to escape a backyard, and she doesn’t always know how to act around other dogs. One thing we knew for sure, we do not want to see Lucy running around as a stray ever again.

Lucy liked stealing food off of the countertops, among other oddities. Steffani and her partner Chuck quickly grew to love the 85-pound hound.

“We were always interested in keeping her.”

Lucy smiling
Lucy playing in the autumn leaves

We think Lucy may have partaken in sabotaging her adoption applications over the years because “The longer she stayed with us, and the more applications that we looked at that weren’t the right fit for her persuaded us to accept her quirks more easily.” Shares Steffani.

“We would always say, let’s give it one more month until we make our decision. Maybe the perfect application would come along.”

Ruff Start had Lucy in all sorts of photo shoots, shared her on social media multiple times, and even made her an Instagram account. A generous donor also paid for her adoption fee. There were lots of loving people out there wanting to give her a home, but we wanted to make sure we found a spot that was safe for Lucy and the adoptive family. This Bloodhound loves to run and has a big personality and bark to match.

Over 40 applications later, they still couldn’t find the right home.

Lucy modeling
Lucy playing in the kiddie pool

Not long after Steffani and Chuck lost their beloved pug far too soon, the foster parents decided to become Lucy’s forever parents.

Ruff Start Rescue can help dogs like Lucy, thanks to our partnerships with shelters across Minnesota and from your support. If you have the means, consider contributing to Ruff Start Rescue so we can continue this life-saving work and help more dogs like Lucy get the care they need and find their forever families.


COVID-19 Finds Finicky Cat a Forever Home

Peyton, Peyton, Peyton. The world’s most aloof cat with a mind we can never read. Peyton ran out of time at a local shelter during the summer of 2017, so one of our intake volunteers made sure we took her into the rescue. While she certainly is a gorgeous cat, Peyton didn’t care much for us minions-er-humans unless it was in tiny doses.

Unlike most cats in the rescue, Peyton couldn’t find the right home. We tried her out on the adoption floor of a few PetSmart stores, posted her information on social media, and let people check her out at the rescue office in Princeton, MN. Nothing would stick for her.

Peyton enjoyed controlling our rescue laundry room for several months. She’d judge our every move with disappointed stares while playing with the extra toys we gave to her in an attempt to form a friendship. Peyton would ask whatever poor soul that entered the laundry room to scratch behind her ears, only to retract that request with her trademark sassy yowl immediately. She certainly kept us on our toes.

When Minnesota first began to shelter-in-place, rescue leadership made sure no animals were alone in the building in case we needed to shut down completely. A gracious foster took Peyton into her home, only to be terrorized by the feline. It doesn’t take much for Peyton to get stressed out. Thankfully, a promising application made a timely appearance across our application manager’s computer screen.

“Peyton was everything we hoped for in a cat.”

Peyton standing in the doorway
Peyton sunbathing on the couch
Peyton sleeping

Chels and Tony carefully scoured the Ruff Start website looking for a feline to add to their family. They were intrigued by her honest and interesting bio. Ruff Start staff adequately warned the couple of Peyton’s quirks, but that didn’t phase them. They wanted to adopt Peyton (now Ruby) because of the difficult time she’s had finding the right home, plus they loved how she looked.

She did well on the car ride home from the rescue office. And moments after opening her kennel door, you could tell Peyton knew she was home. In only two hours, she jumped up on the bed and sat right in between Chels and Tony.

“We were so surprised!”

“She absolutely loves the open windows she gets to nap and sniff out of. She also got a 6ft tower that she loves keeping us entertained with. Her favorite toy is a little orange feather she tore off from another one of her toys, and the way she carries it around some times is so cute.” Shares Chels.

“She has been a great addition to our quarantine household, and I bet she can’t wait for us to go back to work so she has more alone time. She sleeps with us every night and has just been a very bright light in these dark times.” Remarks Tony.

Stories like these always keep us motivated to achieve our mission of saving at-risk animals. Peyton nor her adopters wouldn’t have experienced this joy of being together without your support. If you have the means, consider contributing to Ruff Start Rescue so we can continue this life-saving work and help more cats like Peyton find their forever families.

Ruff Start Rescue