by Jenn Salas
There are times in our lives when our everyday routine doesn’t seem like enough and this is usually when our passions tug at our hearts to do more.
About a year ago I felt that tug to follow my passion for helping animals and decided to listen and take action.
I had probably walked by the adoptable cats and kittens at PetSmart in Tradition, Port St. Lucie a hundred times over the years while shopping for pet supplies for my own pets.
I would ooh and aah at the adorable faces looking at me through their crates but wouldn’t stop long enough to even see what adoption agency they were from.
But this time something spurred me and I stopped.
I chatted with the helpful adoption volunteers with Operation CatSnip and they shared with me the need for foster families and the looming kitten season that was almost upon them.
I will admit my interest in fostering kittens had a slight selfish reason because who wouldn’t love to cuddle cute kittens and love on them until they were adopted.
But after speaking with the foster coordinator, it became apparent to me that this was a huge need in our community and would be so much more important than just those sweet cuddles.
It also provided me an opportunity to get our whole family involved and possibly limit the amount of times that I heard from my daughter “Can we please get another kitten?”
In the past I had given myself a number of excuses as to why now was not a good time to pursue this little dream of mine.
I was too busy with work, we didn’t have the space in our house appropriate to host more animals, it seemed overwhelming to take on the care of animals that weren’t my own.
Luckily, I didn’t listen to those excuses this time and jumped in with optimism.
After I filled out the volunteer foster application, it didn’t take long to hear about a litter of kittens that needed a temporary home, so I was quickly thrown into the world of fostering with a litter of four adorable kittens.
I had no idea what to expect, but the support I received from the other volunteers was tremendous, from letting me know what litter was best for young kittens to helping with dosing de-wormer.
This first litter is one I will not forget, our first time naming kittens that would need to appeal to potential adopters, the first written bios to explain their little personalities, the worry when one of the kittens wouldn’t eat and started looking lethargic.
I probably overwhelmed the coordinators with questions and my need for reassurance that they were going to be okay.
But what I will remember the most is the thrill of having people lined up waiting to adopt them when I dropped them off at PetSmart that first weekend after they were ready for their debut.
Hearing that they had all been adopted to amazing families that first day was an incredible feeling.
I was hooked.
Not every litter has been that type of easy success story, though.
There was a litter where one kitten was not thriving and needed to be taken in by one of our medical expert volunteers to bring him back to health.
That same litter came with a mom that tried everything she could to attack our dogs even while separated in a different room.
I can’t blame that mama though; she was only doing what she felt she needed to defend her babies.
There were kittens that were in and out of our house quickly and others that stayed for a few months.
The hardest part of all were the few kittens that fit right into our home, adapting to our own animals, showing us that they would make the most wonderful pets and then going through the process of adopting them out to other families.
Going into fostering a pet, I made a promise to myself that I was not going to “foster fail”, meaning keep any of the kittens I was fostering.
My thinking was that if I adopted any of them myself I would not be able to continue fostering.
It was a struggle with a few but so far I have been able to keep that promise and have enjoyed being a special part of the socialization of quite a few litters and the reward seeing them thrive in their new homes.
This was the part of the fostering program that I had visualized starting out as a volunteer.
What I didn’t expect was the comradery of a group of volunteers dedicated to the same cause.
Willing to take each other’s fosters when going on vacation; celebrating when a cat that has been up for adoption for a while finally gets adopted; the collective sadness when a former foster cat is returned due to not working out with the adoptive family’s dynamics.
My advice to anyone feeling that tug at your heart, especially if it relates to animal advocacy: Just do it!
Now, more than ever, our community needs help with curtailing the increase in pets needing homes.
Operation CatSnip currently has a dire need for recruitment of volunteers for their Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) program.
Within this program cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, ear tipped, and then returned back to their outdoor environments.
Through this program the number of free-roaming cats gradually goes down due to the prevention of growth in the outdoor cat population.
This is just one of the ways you can offer your help to an organization that is doing everything it can to bring better living conditions to kittens and cats in our area.
My only regret is that I let my excuses get in the way for so long and didn’t start fostering a pet sooner.
Fostering from a Kid’s Perspective
In this video, Jenn interviews her 10-year-old daughter, Samantha, about fostering shelter animals:
About Jenn Salas
Jenn Salas is a foster volunteer for Operation CatSnip outside of her career as the Director for the Martin County Library System.
Giving way to the stereotypical librarian persona, Jenn has four cats of her own along with her two dogs, ferret, guinea pigs, and a snake.
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