The Portage Animal Protective League is looking for foster homes for a wave of kittens expected to be surrendered this spring to the animal welfare agency in Shalersville.
Dannie Clark has fostered many kittens at her home in Freedom Township. She said she has hosted up to 16 felines out of a small office, because the foster kittens need to be kept separate from her other animals.
She stressed that her efforts with the kittens don’t necessarily take up a lot of time.
“I am gone for 12 hours a day,” she said. “People who work can do this.”
Chalan Lowry, executive director of the APL, said although kittens can be born at any time, most kittens are born in the spring. The APL shelter has hosted 70 to 80 cats and kittens in the spring, plus another 40 kittens in foster homes.
“If we don’t have enough foster homes, we will have to turn cats away,” she said.
Lowry said foster homes reduce stress and disease in kittens, as well as prepare them to live in a home. Some kittens have never lived in a home, and it takes them time to trust humans. Living in a home helps make those kittens more adoptable.
Sometimes, Clark takes in a pregnant cat, and keeps her and her kittens until they are able to be adopted. Right now, she has three foster kittens in her home, 5-week-old Leo and Sadie, and 8-week-old Monty. All will be in her home until they are old enough for vaccinations and spaying or neutering. The amount of time that the kittens are there varies based on what is going on with each kitten.
Other than kittens who are fed by their mother, Clark doesn’t take the kittens until they are old enough for solid food. Tammy Rosnagel, the cat coordinator at the APL, bottle feeds the kittens every three hours or so. Since bottle feeding takes more time, it’s hard for the APL to find people who can take the time to do it.
Clark knows the story of each kitten. Sadie was found inside a wall and cried for her mother when she came to Clark’s home. She found a special curtain to help her feel more secure. Leo was found along with two of his siblings when they were a day old, and his siblings did not survive. And Monty was a feral kitten who didn’t trust people and hissed at Clark and his fellow foster cats. Clark’s main role for Monty was to help socialize him.
Now, Monty runs around the room, playing with toys and with the feet of visitors. Clark predicted that he will be easily adopted.
Sadie might prove to be a bigger challenge, since she has tested positive for FIV, a feline form of AIDS. The disease makes her potentially susceptible to illnesses. Clark is hoping that her test results were a “false positive.” Since she will be spayed before she is put up for adoption, she could only pass the virus on to another cat with a “deep bite.”
Since those three kittens are the only foster kittens at her house, all have cages that are larger than they would be when she is hosting more kittens. Leo’s cage has two floors, giving him plenty of space to play in, while Monty has a cage typically reserved for a cat and her kittens. But all kittens get time to play outside of their cages.
The APL provides all the supplies needed, including litter, food, toys, cages, litter boxes, kitten beds and even heated discs for younger kittens who are separated from their mothers. The APL also pays for all veterinary care for the kittens, including spaying and neutering when they are old enough for the surgery.
Clark has been fostering kittens for a long time, so she has purchased some items for the foster kittens, but she stressed that it is her choice. She said others who foster kittens don’t need to buy anything.
Lowry said the APL provides everything for the kittens because “they’re still our animals.”
“We’re not asking people to provide anything,” she said. “We’re just asking them to give them a place to go.”
Lowry said the agency prefers people looking to foster kittens to volunteer at the shelter first, so they can get to know the APL and its animals. There also is training made available to them. Those interested in volunteering or fostering should call the APL at 330-296-4022, ext. 101.
The kittens are trained from a early age to use a litter box so people who adopt them “won’t get mad,” Clark said. She also is responsible for seeing that they get veterinary care. When she notices a problem that could indicate a health crisis, she calls on APL staff members to provide advice.
She acknowledges that some kittens come to her when they are sick, and some don’t always survive.
“It’s not for everyone,” she said.
Clark, who works four long shifts every week, said she was a volunteer for the APL until she realized she was working too many hours. Now she seeks to work for the “greater good” by fostering kittens in her home.
She said she likens her efforts to the child who threw starfishes into the ocean, saying that he made a difference in the life of each starfish that he saved.
“I can’t save them all,” she said. “But they’re treated just like my other cats, and they’re getting set up for another home.”
Reporter Diane Smith can be reached at 330-298-1139 or email@example.com.