Helping Individuals Who Have Been Hurt By Others

Roxanne on Being a Foster Parent for Abandoned and Stray Animals


As I sit at my desk, I have 2 kittens in my lap and 2 trying to climb my pant leg. Their mother, Lucy, lays sprawled across my paperwork and believes that when I use a pen, it is for her personal enjoyment. Several times in any composition, she wins the tug-of-war and I have to retrieve my writing implement from wherever she hides it. These 4 adorable kittens and their mother are not mine. They are borrowed. I raise them to adoptable age, then reluctantly, I must give them up. I am a foster parent for the Animal Rescue League of Iowa.

Besides the 5 homeless animals now sharing my office, I have 3 kittens and their Mom, Princess, in the upstairs den. Princess had 3 kittens, and then herself adopted a fourth that was abandoned by its feral mother. Unfortunately, like many of our foster cats, Princess came with a serious infection and one of her kittens, a little black and white girl, succumbed to the illness. Even though my husband fed her every 2 hours for 3 days around the clock with an eyedropper, she was just too sick. Losing little Chelsea was very sad, but saving Princess and her babies, Charles, Chester and Chauncey, is very gratifying. We also lost a whole litter of 5 little polka dotted kittens last October, but usually they manage to overcome whatever dreaded disease they have.

Mother Sally brought us 4 kittens born outside in the Iowa winter. They were about 10 days old, chubby and active. She was thin as a rail, with a straggly coat and frostbitten ears and she also had feline anemia. We think she may have acquired that disease fighting off some predator to protect her babies. The kittens all have wonderful homes, but Sally was returned by her new owner when she attacked him. At first we thought perhaps he just didn’t like her, but them she attacked my husband and my housekeeper and tried to murder one of our permanent cats who is twice her size. We found her a foster home with our son and she is now calm and completely well. We think she has courage and character and expect her next home to be permanent.

As responsible pet owners, our permanent menagerie, now only 4 cats and 1 dog (once 7 cats and 2 dogs) are all fixed. But I need kittens in my life. As a child on my grandparent’s farm, I played with all the little barn kittens. I also played with the baby pigs and calves but fortunately did not carry that affection into adulthood. My grandmother, who thought of cats as livestock, was tolerant when I slipped a few into my bed at night.

Now, we have the opportunity to care for these abandoned and stray animals, and watch the moms become glossy and healthy and the kittens grow into social loving pets. We are blessed to share in the care of so many animals that might otherwise never have a chance to enrich the lives of other families and children. The time, money and energy we spend is far outweighed by the joy of having kittens in my lap while I draft briefs, make phone calls and answer my email. Do any of you need a kitten?