The Day I Saved 32 Kittens

Fostering a homeless mama cat and her kittens has become an annual spring ritual for our family.

Really, it is a life-enriching situation for everyone.  My daughters (okay, and me too) get their fill of tiny paws and claws, we provide the overflowing shelters some extra room, we save the lives of beautiful, healthy animals, our commitment is typically only 6 to 9 weeks — and someone else gets a fabulous companion down the line.

This past spring was like the ones previously. I sent an email announcing our availability as a foster family. However, the matter-of-fact reply I received back hit me in the gut like a punch from a 300-pound linebacker:

“Thank you for fostering a cat family. Attached are photos of 32 kittens and their mothers. Please let me know which family you prefer and I will pull them from the shelter. They are all slated to be euthanized on Monday.”

WHAT?!!  I looked at the pictures with tears spilling, my throat tightening, my heart aching.

How could I choose just one family knowing the rest would be euthanized within three days? I looked at the pictures again. One litter had three fuzzy white kittens with hints of caramel tabby stripes; another had four kittens, all grey and white except one sibling which was a solid Halloween black; another litter had two kittens, one an orange tabby, the other a calico.  They all looked through the bars of their cages imploringly or with the natural curiosity of kittens.  Little did they know how their fate dangled in such precarious balance. That is when I declared to myself emphatically, “they will all live.”

I thus replied back to the foster volunteer:

“We will take the grey and white family of five and I will find foster homes for the remaining litters plus their mamas.”

The foster coordinator was floored as they had run out of foster homes and were resigned to the fact that you just cannot help every cat or kitten in need.

“You are an angel,” she replied, as tears splashed down on her keyboard.

So in a flurry of activity usually reserved for the last day of Christmas shopping, my daughters and I set to work creating fliers, posting on Facebook and emailing everyone we knew with the following photos and alert:


These kittens will be EUTHANIZED on Monday, May 23rd, if foster homes are not found before then.

If you are willing to open your heart and home to these kittens please call Teresa with CAWS (Community Animal Welfare Society) and she will arrange to have them delivered to you.

Fostering only requires providing these little fur balls a home for 6 to 9 weeks until they are weaned/spayed/neutered (by CAWS) and able to be put up for adoption.  All health costs are also covered. You do not have to find permanent homes, CAWS will do that, which makes having kittens so much fun!

With our hot-off-the-press fliers in hand, my daughters helped me pass them out after school, at the grocery store and in our neighborhood.  Unfortunately, many children innocently asked us “what is euthanizing?” And when we explained, they were shocked, horrified, stunned…. “Why, would anyone want to kill a kitten?”

I somberly replied, “No one wants to kill kittens, but if our society does not have someone to take care of them, that is what happens.”

“But it is so unfair!” the kids implored.

“Yes, it is deeply unfair, I responded with sadness. “And that is why you must always have your cats and dogs spayed or neutered so that we stop bringing so many unwanted animals into the world.”

I didn’t expect our “Save the Kittens” mission to turn into a soapbox or an eye-opening reality check for children, but I guess that was inevitable given the sad story we were sharing.

Our neighbor, Christine, who already has six kids, a dog and a cat, was the first to say “Sure, why not, my home is already a circus!!”  I hugged her and wept for joy. My daughters, Sophia and Ella, danced in a circle, clapping their little hands with glee.

Then our nanny agreed to take a litter and then the postman and before we knew it, we had found foster homes for every mama and every kitten that was on Monday’s death row. HALLELUJAH!  I couldn’t believe we did it – and in three days. My daughters were beside themselves – as was I.

On Monday, Sophia’s teacher asked the students to write in their journals about what they did over the weekend. Sophia wrote:

“This weekend, I saved 32 kittens from being euthanized. Euthanize means to kill.  Saving these kittens is the best thing I have ever done in my whole life.  I helped my mom find foster families. We are fostering one family too. The family has four grey and white kittens. My favorite kitten is Teddy. I am soooo glad we saved these kittens from being killed.”

I am so glad we saved these kittens and their mamas too.  I agree wholeheartedly with Sophia, this was one of the “best things I have ever done in my whole life too.” Afterall, it is not everyday that you save a life, let alone thirty-two!

The Joy of Fostering Kittens
Feline Love Bites: A Love Affair with Cats
10 Ways to Show Animal Shelters the Love

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Fi T.
Fi T.2 years ago

Everybody can do the same

Peggy Ausmus
Peggy A.2 years ago

Thank you!

Teresa P.
Teresa Patterson2 years ago

You are so fortunate to have a group like CAWS. I routinely rescue pregnant mommas and their babies, but get no help from local shelters. I have to foot the bill for all care and vet bills, as well as try to find final adoption homes. All the local groups say only too full, can't help. If you found them, they are your problem.
Last season I had 3 batches of recuees. On pregnant momma who had her litter the night I brought her in, on Momma so young and tiny she couldn't cary her babies, and was pushing he infant babies across the street towards my house when we found her. The saddest was a family of older cats, all fixed and shots and declawed, who belonged to a woman who worked for a vet. But one day she didn't some home. When her house was forclosed her family wanted nothing to do with any of her possesions. The management delivered her cats to me saying if I did't take them, they would be put down. I tried to find foster or homes thinking that all the expensive stuff is done, it should be easy as they are already adults and so sweet. But no one wants older cats. I cannot mix them with the rest as they have no claws--so they have my library, litter one had the cat room, and litter two had the master bath. My other cats were very upset. I have since managed to find homes for several of the babies and one momma, but still have the adults, 3 babies (now 6 and 7 months old, fixed with shots) and one momma --plus my own cats and all the adult strays outdoors (that I have duti

Tomoko Harris
Tomoko Harris2 years ago

Happy dance for all kitties! You love your cat have him or her fixed!

Amber Beasley
Amber Beasley2 years ago

this made me cry! thank you so much for saving them!!!

Annabel H.
Annabel H.3 years ago

wonderful and keep up the good work! from a fellow kitten fosterer

Judith Corrigan
Judith Corrigan3 years ago

Made me tearful but in a good way.We can all be inspired by this loving family.

Dorothy A.
Dorothy A.3 years ago

You make fostering kittens &. Mama sound wonderful. I always worry about foster fail, and I'm not sure how my family cats would react.

Barbara Smith
Barbara Smith3 years ago

Lovely story thank you for what you did. However here in UK this would not happen, sanctuaries do not euthanise animals just because nobody wants them. Why do they do that? It's beyond my understanding. The sanctuaries ask for donations, they do sales, have shops with second hand things to make money, etc. etc.

Freya T.
Freya H.3 years ago

Several years ago I took in a pregnant stray cat. Her kittens were a lot of fun, but eventually they had to find their forever homes. A friend took in one, and the others went to my local PetSmart on their adopt-a-cat days so I know that they went with responsible people who had them "fixed." Mama Kitty had the Big Snip, too, and she has been a wonderful pet ever since!