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Monday August 3, 2015    5:28 PM

If kittens, cuddles, and saving lives are up your alley, we've got just the volunteer job for you.

In hopes of making shelter kitties more adoptable—and providing them with the love and care they need early in life—Best Friends Animal Society in Salt Lake City, Utah and Los Angeles, California have created a volunteer snuggling program.

Currently, kitten nurseries across the country are populated with orphaned kittens taken in from shelters, offering intensive, 24/7 care for kittens as young as a few hours old. At this stage, orphaned baby kittens are very fragile.

A number of essential, life-saving tasks are performed for them around the clock, but the most fun, and arguably one of the most important, is helping the tiny cats socialize.

That's where snuggle volunteers come in—all of their physical handling helps get the kittens to their "peak adorable fitness" and therefore makes them more adoptable.

"Since kitten nurseries operate 24/7, there is a need for volunteers to help out at odd hours, which can be very convenient for those who work during standard business hours," said Eric Rayvid, a rep. for Best Friends. "Get off work, grab some dinner, drive to the kitten nursery, put in a couple of hours of bottle-feeding kittens and go to bed feeling like a hero."

The most critical time in a kitten's life, he says, is the first three to five weeks, and a kitten cannot successfully be raised in a shelter environment for this period of time due to lack of socialization from people and ongoing exposure to disease.

Since the program first launched two years ago other shelters and rescue groups have been reaching out to Best Friends for help building nurseries in their own communities.

If you're interested in cuddling some baby kittens, talk to your local shelter; if they don't have a sterile kitten nursery and volunteer program, ask if they would be receptive to being connected with local rescue groups that can foster them.

You can also opt to foster or adopt yourself—either way, you're saving lives, just like the folks who endure the tough task of rubbing soft bellies for fur babies at Best Friend nurseries.

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