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!