The following is an excerpt from the Petfinder Blog.

By Susan Greene, Petfinder outreach team Almost every summer, Carol goes out on the porch of her remote rural home and discovers an unfamiliar feline face. Another cat or kitten has been thoughtlessly abandoned during the night. Helping Abandoned, Stray Cats and Kittens Thinkstock Carol is a senior citizen, and all of her own cats are fixed. Her income is fixed as well, and she has no money for vet visits for new cats. Yet the abandonment continues. I volunteer with a feral-cat trap/neuter/return group in addition to my job with Petfinder. We helped neuter Carol’s outdoor cats in 2002 (all of them were offspring of cats abandoned on her property), so luckily we are there to help when new cats appear in her life. When my phone rang this Sunday, the news was particularly bad: Two female cats and three tiny kittens (pictured) had been left at Carol’s door. Abandonment of domestic animals is illegal. In New York State it is punishable by up to a $1,000 fine or a year in prison. However, it’s hard to catch someone who merely slows down and tosses a cat alongside a country road or leaves a box of kittens at a campground. If you wander outside one day with your morning coffee and are greeted by the forlorn mews of an abandoned cat or kittens, you might be tempted to hope they will just “go away.” However, ignoring them will only make the situation worse. A dumped pregnant cat may shortly have kittens beneath your porch. Healthy kittens, abandoned without their mother, will soon starve or become ill or injured. While you absolutely did not cause the problem, it has become yours, much like a storm that drops a tree in your yard. It’s unexpected and even may cost money to resolve, but nonetheless, there it is, and it’s not going to go away! Make sure the cat or kitten has food, water, and shelter.
If you can bring her into your home, keep her away from your own pets until you are certain she is healthy. Call your local animal shelter or humane agency for guidance
To find shelters and adoption groups in your area, use Petfinder’ s animal welfare group search tool. They may be able to take your foundling and find her a new home. Be sure to give a donation if they do. However, if they are unable to accept the cat, or if you prefer to care for her yourself, ask the shelter or rescue group these questions:

  • Do they have advice on caring for very young kittens?
  • Do they have a bulletin board where you can post a flyer for your foundling to help find her a home?
  • Are they aware of other organizations that might be able to help you?
  • Are there low-cost spay/neuter services available locally if you need them?

List the cat in your local “found” lists
If the cat stays in your care, be sure your local shelter places her on their “found” list. Perhaps she was not abandoned. She may be someone’s beloved pet who wandered away or accidentally hitched a ride in the back of a truck. Speak with your neighbors and post flyers. In searching for a possible owner, you may even find someone interested in adopting the cat. You can also post her to the “found pets” section — and, if no one steps forward to claim her, to the “pets for adoption” section, of the Petfinder classifieds. Report abandoned pets to your local law enforcement agency.
Make sure to make a statement in writing. Even if police are unable to locate the abandoner, the incident may find its way into the local news police blotter. Try to find the abandoned cat a home
The Petfinder library has an excellent article on finding a home for a pet. Please be certain, before you let a cat or kitten leave your care, that the pet is either spay/neutered or is going to a home committed to spay/neuter. One summer I was walking by our local grocery and noted a woman on the sidewalk with a box of “free kittens.” I went to speak to her, planning to explain why this was not the best way to find a home for cats. However, she admitted she previously had dumped kittens at local farms — thinking they wanted them — until she read in the newspaper that it was illegal! While handing kittens out to strangers on the street isn’t the safest way to adopt them out, it was definitely an improvement over abandonment, and it did get her into the public eye. We could offer her resources to get her own cat fixed and take the kittens to get them into foster homes, thus ending the cycle of kittens and more kittens at her home.

Local News

Animals mate and give birth in spring

Kittens rest in a cat house on the street. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images) JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you are an animal lover like I am, then you’re going to want to jump in and help if you find a small, helpless animal who looks like it may be in danger — or cold, hurt or hungry. But that may not be the safest thing for the animal. The Jacksonville Humane Society (JHS), along with the City of Jacksonville’s Animal Care & Protective Service (ACPS), and First Coast No More Homeless Pets (FCNMHP) wants to give you tips and life-saving information on “what to do” when you find a litter of kittens during kitten season. Kitten season is the time of year when unfixed cats procreate and give birth to kittens. As the weather warms, cats go into heat. According to Best Friends Animal Society, “In most places across America, animals mate and give birth in spring. This phenomenon can be attributed to a variety of factors, such as longer days, better weather and more access to food, which means higher survival rates for the offspring of many species. Unlike other animals, though, cats can keep on reproducing, having litter after litter right up until the weather turns cold again. In many regions, kitten season can last from spring until early winter.” In 2021, JHS and ACPS combined took in 6,349 kittens under the age of five months and JHS served an additional 596 via a program called Kitten Krusaders, which helps community members who find kittens by providing veterinary care to keep them out of the shelter. When community members find a litter of kittens outside, it is often instinctual to jump right into “savior mode” and “rescue” these tiny cats. This notion has been given the moniker “kitnapping” and all three agencies ask the public to not act on that instinct. Instead:

  • If mom returns: Provide support (food, water, shelter) as needed and when the kittens are 8 weeks old, get mom and kittens spayed/neutered and find them homes.
  • If mom does not return: A home is a better option than the shelter. JHS can provide coaching on care instructions and help support your efforts to find the kittens new homes once they are ready.
  • If kittens are experiencing a true medical emergency, such a struggling to breath, open wounds, or visible ribs/spine, ACPS can be reached via 904-630-2489, or the MyJax app.

Kitnapping is not the best option for kittens, mother cats and shelters. Underage kittens are the most fragile population in shelters and require extra time, labor and resources that are not always available. When underage kittens arrive at the shelter, they most often have to go into a foster home the very same day, putting an extra strain on staff and volunteers. Also, when no one looks for the mother cat, she is left alone to continue reproducing in the community. “If we can share the “Don’t kitnap kittens”message throughout our community, we can collectively do what is best for these little ones and keep them with their mother cat,” said Denise Deisler, JHS CEO. “Together, we can conquer kitten season in Jacksonville!” Community members who want to help with the “Don’t Kitnap” initiative can share this messaging on social media, sign-up to foster kittens in their home at either shelter, or donate items via the kitten wish lists on shelter websites. Volunteers are also needed for all three organizations. Community members can also contribute by participating in Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return programs offered at First Coast No More Homeless pets, which provides free and low-cost spay or neuter surgeries for outdoor community cats. For more information, please visit The Jacksonville Humane SocietyThe Jacksonville Humane Society Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax — All rights reserved.

About the Authors:
Carianne Luter

Carianne Luter is a social media producer for News4Jax and has worked at Channel 4 since December 2015. She graduated from the University of North Florida with a communication degree. Over the years of dealing with cats, I have come across too many cat owners who would still let their cat reproduce. «At least one litter… and I have good homes for all of the kittens!» Anyone who has volunteered at an animal shelter knows the bitter truth. Finding homes for kittens is easy. Finding good forever homes for kittens or cats is not. If you have kittens that need to be re-homed, whether delivered by your own cat, born to a fostered pregnant cat or just rescued kittens from whatever source, you need to make sure that they go to good homes. That means a home where their physical, as well as emotional needs, will be fully met and where they will be treated as part of the family: never abused, declawed, or simply abandoned. Everyone loves playing with sweet kittens, but it’s up to you to ensure that the kitty’s adopting family will always be committed to taking care of unpleasant situations as well — if and when health or behavior problems develop over time (and they may). Note: We may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page. Animal shelters are the true experts when it comes to screening potential adopters. Some people complain about shelters for this reason. They seem to expect shelters to be grateful to anyone who walks in asking to adopt a pet. In reality, a good shelter will make potential adopters fill in forms and questionnaires; go through a thorough interview, and pay money for the pet. It may seem ungrateful, or even greedy, but the truth is that this mechanism is there to increase the chances for the cat to end up in a good home… one that will be its last.

Screening Unknown Adopters

If you placed an ad in the newspaper to find homes for cats or kittens, you should thoroughly investigate the people who reply to make sure they are indeed who they claim to be and are not looking for cats for malicious reasons. Ask for IDs and write down the details. Make sure that the people who want to adopt are over 21. Let them talk to you for a while over the phone. Listen, don’t just talk, and try to figure them out before inviting them into your home to see the kittens. Never advertise your kittens as «free». Always charge a fee. If this feels too greedy, donate the money to a charity, but still, make sure the adopters pay you the money. That is your way to ensure a certain level of commitment, and also to filter out people who are looking to collect animals for laboratory research or just out there to abuse cats. Try to ask as much as you can over the phone first. Go through the questions suggested below before you even ask them over. If they think you’re asking too many questions, explain that you are trying to find a good home for the kitten, not just any home. If they are serious about adopting, they will be glad that you’re taking the time and effort to do this. For your own safety, don’t ask strangers into your house before you’ve talked to them at length and assessed their sincerity and level of commitment. When they arrive, make sure you have someone else at home with you.

What to Ask Potential Adopters

If you want to make sure that the kittens indeed go to good homes, here are a few things to check with your potential adopters, whether they’ve just replied to your newspaper ad, or happen to be your beloved auntie – Are you able to commit to the care of the kitten throughout its life? Your potential adopters need to understand that the cat will be their responsibility, come rain or shine, for decades to come. Ask them what would happen to the cat if for some reason they could no longer take care of it. Who lives in your household and do they all want to have a cat join them? Never adopt a kitten out to a family where one of the family members objects to having a cat. No, it will not work out over time. The cat is more likely to be shown the door as soon as a problem comes up if someone living in the house never wanted it there in the first place. This is also a good time to make sure that no one in the household is allergic to cats. Do you realize the costs involved in keeping a cat and can you afford it? Be direct and talk about the costs of quality pet food, vet care (and insurance), cat litter and all that jazz. They need to know about it now and they need to make sure that they will be able to afford it on their current salaries and also future ones. Sad as it is, people who don’t enjoy financial stability are not good candidates for adopting a cat. Have you owned cats before? If so, what happened to them? Being a past owner can be a benefit. That person is more likely to realize what caring for a cat involves. However, if they end up telling you that they’ve had ten different cats over the past five years and none of them stayed there for long, you should probably keep looking for a different home. If they do have or have recently had cats, ask about their veterinarian and ask for permission to call them for references. Are you prepared to accept a cat as being a cat? This would be a good time to discuss things like hair shedding, chewing and scratching, scratching of furniture and jumping on counters. Explain that there are solutions to these problems, but that owners have to put in time and energy towards them. Are you committed to spaying/neutering the kitten when it’s time? Read more about why cats ought to be spayed and neutered here. Better still, type out that article and hand it over to your potential adopters. In my opinion, it’s best to actually have the kitten neutered while he or she is still in your household. If they are too young, then make sure that it will be done as soon as possible by the people adopting them. If need be, make them sign a contract to do so, and ask them to place a deposit with you, which will be given by you directly to the vet at the time of neutering. Are you committed to keeping the cat’s claws intact? Never give the kitten away to someone who would amputate their toes. You can read more about declawing and why it should never be performed in the following articles:
Declawing — More than Just a Manicure
Declawing and Alternatives Where will you be keeping the cat? Will it be indoors-only? Make sure that the potential adopters realize the risks involved in letting a cat out where they live. If they live in an urban environment or where the risks outdoors are too high, make sure they know how to keep their cats indoors, safe and happy. «Is there anything else you wish to tell me?» Let them do some talking. Let them bring up any problems or issues now. Does that look like too many questions? Trust me, it’s not enough. Most shelters would go into more detail and for good reason. Remember, the kitten’s fate lies in your hands and it is up to you to make sure that it doesn’t end up being kicked out on the streets, or abandoned at a shelter later in life. Its best chance at finding a home is now, as a kitten. It’s up to you to make sure that this will be the right home for your kitten. Don’t forget to keep track of the process. Schedule in advance and let the future cat owner know that you’ll be calling them in the future, perhaps even visiting. A good schedule would be one day after the adoption, then one week, two weeks, one month, and in time to make sure they neuter the cat. Make sure they know they can call you with questions as well. Sounds like a lot of work? It is. It’s not pleasant either, having to interrogate people like that. It’s why you should never let your cat get pregnant, thinking «I am sure I can find good homes for the kittens»… If you think you might enjoy doing this, my advice for you would be to volunteer at your local shelter and help re-home cats and kittens. I am sure they can use the help. If you ended up having to re-home a cat or a kitten, for whatever reason, I hope you have found this article helpful and not too daunting. It can be done, and when done right, the effort is worth it, knowing you did all you could to truly help an animal. Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those! She eats solid food, uses the litter box consistently, and everyday she’s entrenching herself deeper in your heart and your life. But, for whatever reason you cannot take in another pet. The ideal home would be a close friend who wants to grow the family by one kitten. If that isn’t possible, then you have to investigate other avenues. Before you put a “Free to good home” ad in the local newspaper or on or hand her over to a stranger in a parking lot, look at other options. After all, you don’t want to just unload her. You want to find the best and happiest home possible. Contact your local pet supply store and ask for a list of rescue groups or go to Petfinder to find shelters in your area. Be forewarned: during kitten season, shelters are drowning in kittens. No-kill facilities are usually full. If you must leave your baby at a shelter that euthanizes, you must face the unfortunate possibility that she may be put to sleep for lack of room. Always ask about the shelter’s euthanasia policy. Talk to smaller area rescue groups. They have no kennel facility; volunteers foster animals in their homes. On specific days the foster family brings their kitten to a pet warehouse, shopping mall and other public site to make them available for adoption. These groups usually have stringent adoption policies requiring the animals to live inside as well as be spayed and neutered. Most of these organizations don’t euthanize unless the kitten has been badly injured or is sick. As with no-kill shelters, foster homes are usually full. Smaller rescues may accept your kitten into the program if you agree to foster her in your home until she’s adopted. Ask the shelter or facility:

  • Do they euthanize animals? Under what conditions?
  • Do they screen potential adopters or do they adopt to whomever comes into the shelter?
  • If they can’t help you, can they recommend another no-kill organization?

If you have to find a family on your own, you’ll have to get the word out and then, ask a lot of questions. Put signs up in places where animal people go: vet clinics, pet stores, grooming salons and animal shelters. You can also put a notice up at grocery stores, fitness centers and churches. The more places you post your kitten, the more people you’ll have to screen. Before making your kitten available, have it spayed or neutered. You can get a low-cost or no-cost procedure through many humane societies or animal shelters. This assures that she won’t be having unwanted litters later. When you find her a forever home, ask the adopter to compensate you for at least part of the money you spent. If someone pays something for their new pet, there will be a stronger commitment to the kitten. Also, not everyone who wants your kitten desires a lifetime companion. People answer “free to good home” ads for all kinds of illicit reasons: free snake food, dog fighting bait, for sale to laboratory as test subjects. If you really want to give your kitten away, word the ad, “Free to the right home” and screen, screen, screen. Ask a lot of questions. Follow your instinct. You are not obligated to hand over your kitten just because someone shows interest. If the person is vague or evasive about where they live or other pets they’ve owned, look out. Ask:

  • How many pet do you have? What happened to ones you don’t have any longer?
  • Who’s your vet? Call the vet and verify the info you’ve been given.
  • Does your landlord permit pets?

Draw up a contract. Ask for a nominal adoption fee. Ask to see identification and get a phone number. Legitimate adopters shouldn’t mind your caution. Assure them you want to hear from them. When the time comes, kiss your baby and send her off to a wonderful new life she wouldn’t have had without you. Now that you know the ropes, it’s a sure bet another needy kitten will enter your life. If you haven’t already planned to keep all the kittens from the litter, you’ll need to start thinking about placing them in permanent loving homes when they are eight to twelve weeks old. You will want to find potential adopters for your kittens who will love, care for, and appreciate them as much as you do.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Rehoming Kittens

There are a number of positive things you can do to help ensure the people you are entrusting your kittens to will be responsible cat parents. Here are some things you should do to get ready to find your kittens homes.

Make Sure the Kittens are Completely Weaned

The mother cat will usually start weaning the kittens somewhere around three or four weeks old. However, some kittens are needier than others and will continue to suckle for several more weeks. They should all be trained to eat canned kitten food, to use the litter box, and be well-socialized before releasing them to new homes.

If Possible, Have the Kittens Spayed or Neutered

Kittens can be safely spayed or neutered by the time they are about four to six months old, by a vet familiar with early spay/neuter techniques. If you have no such a vet locally, consider asking for a spay/neuter deposit, to be refunded when the adopter of a kitten presents evidence the spay or neuter has been done.

Have the Kittens Vet Checkup and Vaccinations

You don’t want to count on the kittens’ adopters to take care of this. The kittens should also be tested for ear mites and worms, and treatments were given, if necessary. At the same time, if the mother cat has not already been tested clear of FIV and FeLV, this should be done now. Both of these diseases can be transmitted to the kittens in utero.

Do Charge an Adoption Fee

You can base it on your out-of-pocket costs but include enough to cover a refundable spay/neuter fee when applicable.

Make a List of Requirements for Adoption

At the least, potential adopters should agree:

  • To make the kitten an Indoor-Only pet. Had the mother cat been kept indoors-only, this litter would likely not exist.
  • To spay/neuter before 5 months of age. Assuming this wasn’t done prior to adoption.
  • To return kitten to you if it can’t be kept. After being a surrogate for these kittens, you wouldn’t want one dumped out on the street or in a kill shelter.
  • NOT to declaw the kitten. Print out and hand this information to all potential adopters.

Places to Advertise Kittens for Adoption

  • Your Local Veterinary Clinic. Your veterinarian, vet techs, and other employees are usually aware of clients looking for kittens, or others who have recently lost a cat and might be looking for another.
  • Local Cat Rescue Groups. These dedicated volunteers usually include fosterers and show cats and kittens for adoption at local pet supply stores. Even if they can’t take your kittens, they may be able to share useful tips.
  • This organization is a clearinghouse for thousands of shelters, rescue groups, and individuals involved in the rescue. The site is searchable by area, so your chances of finding responsible homes near you are good.

If a prospect looks good so far, consider asking for a home visit, so you can see if they are equipped to care for a cat. If they have very young toddlers or large dogs, a kitten might not fare well there.

Things to Avoid

«Free Kittens» Ads. We emphasize charging an adoption fee for your kittens. This is to avoid any of the tragedies that can go along with these ads. «Free Kittuns,» by Jim Willis, although fiction, is an excellent description of the very real pitfalls of these ads. For the same reasons, do not attempt to give away kittens from a box outside your supermarket, nor post «Free Kittens» signs on poles. The hard and fast truth is that many people set little value on anything that is free, and the kittens may eventually be treated badly. If this cat was a stray, or your first experience at fostering a pregnant cat, by now, you are well on your way to becoming an expert. Take a break or look for the next cat to foster. But before that, you still have one thing left to accomplish: spay the mother cat if it has not already been done. You’re likely to hear them before you see them. They’re alone and afraid. No mom in sight. The sound of kittens meowing. These kittens were placed in two boxes and left on the side of a service road. | Tracy Parisi With springtime just around the corner comes the warmer weather, the flowers, the showers — and, unfortunately, litters of unwanted kittens. It’s the time of year when unspayed cats give birth. Rescue groups and shelters nationwide become overrun with litters of unwanted kittens who are often euthanized due to lack of space and not nearly enough people to foster and adopt them. «We are embarking on kitten season,» Eric Brown, cofounder and vice president of Arizona’s Homeless Animals Rescue Team (H.A.R.T.), told The Dodo. «The biological clocks of cats have realized that it has started warming up, and cats are now in heat or already pregnant. There is a 64-day gestation period. And we are almost there. There will be throngs of kittens any day.» These 13 kittens were placed in two boxes and left on the side of a service road. | Tracy Parisi So what should you do if you find a litter of kittens? For starters, it depends on how and where you found them, whether their mother is around, and how old they are. Approximately 3.4 million cats enter shelters nationwide every year and 1.4 million cats are euthanized yearly. The 13 kittens found on the side of a service road were rescued. | Tracy Parisi H.A.R.T.’s mission is a method of population control called trap, neuter and return (TNR). This means feral cats are humanely trapped, sent to a veterinary clinic, and spayed or neutered. Each cat then has a tiny part of his ear removed while under anesthesia. Known as «tipping,» this helps identify the cat as part of a managed colony. The cats are then returned to the community where they were found.

Stray or feral?

«When you think of your pet cat who is inside and the cat you see outside, you might think they are a different species, but they are still part of the domestic cat species,» Kayla Christiano, campaigns manager for Alley Cat Allies in Bethesda, Maryland, told The Dodo. Humane traps are used to capture cats for TNR. | H.A.R.T. Feral cats are not socialized and won’t make eye contact, and strays could be abandoned or lost but may make eye contact.

Kittens in a box

It can be very dangerous for a litter of kittens to be on their own, unless their mom is out for a couple hours with the intent to return. If you find kittens in a box, someone most likely dumped them there. If the kittens are found behind a bush, it’s best to closely monitor them, and see if the mother returns. «Every kitten needs to be fed every three hours at the max,» Brown said. «Mom must return every three hours to feed her babies. Like clockwork, her body tells her to do so. If momma doesn’t return within that time frame something is wrong, and humans must intervene. She could be dead, injured or trapped.» There’s also the chance she abandoned them. The safest place for kittens is with their mothers. «If you don’t see the mom, there’s a couple different ways to tell if mom is around,» said Christiano. If the kittens are clean and quiet, the mother is most likely coming back. However, if they are dirty and crying, the mother may not return. At that point, Christiano recommends taking them. These kittens were humanely trapped. | H.A.R.T. «Alley Cat Allies does not recommend taking neonatal kittens [under four weeks] to animal shelters,» she said. «Most shelters and shelter employees are not equipped to provide round-the-clock care for these babies. They need care every two hours. «More than 70 percent of cats entering shelters are killed there,» she said. «And that number rises to 100 percent when dealing with feral cats.» Although public shelters aren’t the ideal place to bring kittens, they can be a resource for support. Christiano suggested reaching out to ask if they know of any fosters who can help. You can also ask small, local no-kill rescues. Young kittens are very vulnerable and need round-the-clock care. | H.A.R.T. When dealing with kittens, especially neonatal kittens, remember that they are starting their lives, so they can go either way: feral or socialized. «If with mom and they are outside, they can be part of a TNR program. If not with mom, bring them in, and they can be adopted.»

Taking in the young kittens

If the kittens were left in a box, take them. If there is no box and you need to step in because the mother doesn’t return, find a box, gather up the kittens, and place them inside the box. The one thing you should not do is nothing. If left to fend for themselves, the kittens will die. First determine approximate age. One way to tell if kittens are under three weeks old is by eye color. According to Brown, all babies are born with blue eyes. If the eyes are another color, the cats are older than three weeks. «Older kittens are much more mobile, and have all their teeth and claws,» he said. You must be committed to the task if you bottle-feed kittens. | H.A.R.T. You must keep them safe, even in a bathroom if it’s for a short duration, according to Brown. Make sure to keep a litter box nearby. Next, assess whether they need to be bottle-fed, which can be a big undertaking. Reach out to rescues or your local humane society if you need guidance. If you take on the task, be committed. «You have to use goat’s milk or kitten replacement milk, and bottle-feed every three hours,» Brown said. «You have to stimulate them, and take a wet washcloth and stimulate their bottoms and their genitals in order for them to eliminate.» According to Christiano, at four to five weeks you can wean them onto a little wet food, and mix that in with kitten formula. «They will need a little bottle or syringe, some heat sources, Snuggle Safe [a microwavable heating pad for pets], a larger carrier to retain heat, some bedding, and we recommend having a food scale on hand. It’s important to weigh kittens daily.» click to play video Whatever you do, keep the kittens away from cow’s milk. «Many cats, nine of 10, are lactose intolerant,» Brown said. «Cow’s milk causes indigestion and potentially death because it can cause diarrhea, which causes dehydration, which equals death in a cat.» Brown also suggested goat’s milk as it is the closest thing to cat’s milk. «It’s totally safe and nutritional.» «The important thing to highlight is that most kittens found outside come from community cats,» Christiano said. «If you notice kittens outside make sure you or someone you know is doing TNR with cats to prevent unwanted litters.»

Don’t turn a blind eye

If you’ve stepped in, don’t turn away. «You have now become part of this rescue as a result of stumbling upon the situation,» Brown said. «If you turn a blind eye you cause more of a problem. If you can’t do something, alert somebody. «Keep them safe until you can find a solution,» Brown said. «Just make some phone calls.» A kitten who was humanely captured | H.A.R.T. If you find cats you suspect are in a feral community, Alley Cat Allies has resources to help. Click here to watch webinars on kitten care. From information on bottle-feeding and general care, click here.

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