By Katie McHenry
The Spring 2017 SPCA NOVA Volunteer Spotlight features Evelyn Kitchen, who has served in various capacities for the past 15 years, including as phone volunteer, adoption official and cat foster parent. Here, Evelyn shares how she got involved, what she loves about fostering and the advice she would offer to her fellow foster parents.
Q: How long have you been fostering for SPCA NOVA, and what first got you involved in the organization?
A: About 15 years ago, I was considering adopting another cat (we had two at the time) and began researching and came across the SPCA site and fostering page. When I first discussed this with my husband, he said, “There is no way you will be able to give those cats back.” But I applied and got my first set of fosters and had them for only two weeks. Although I can’t remember their names, I can still see the little calico and the fluffy Turkish kitten.
We were then asked if we would take another pair that needed a bit more care as they had respiratory infections and were rather skinny. They were black and white “cow” cats, and we named them Lucy and Ethel. After two months in our care, they were healthy and happy and soon adopted by a lovely couple. And so the years went, little kittens coming and going, and meeting wonderful new kitten parents along the way. Over the years, we have probably fostered at least 30 kittens, staying an average of one to four months.
Q: What are your favorite things about fostering?
A. Our whole family enjoyed the fostering experience. Our youngest son (about 13 at the time) would help care and play with the kittens on a regular basis. We always enjoyed the evenings when we would let them out of the “kitten room” to play, sleep on our laps, and eat their dinners. Some kittens were very outgoing, some quiet and shy. We loved naming the kittens, most times giving them TV show names such as Herman and Lilly, Morticia and Gomez, Lucy and Ethel, Maryanne and Ginger, and Sonny and Cher. We had the opportunity to foster a momma cat and her two newborns. That was a great experience, as we watched how she took care of them, even running to get them, carrying them in her mouth, and taking them back to her den when she thought they were away long enough.
Two fosters become especially dear to us, and we adopted them! Coco, a black kitten, was a bit ornery but came to adore me. After having fostered Coco for over a year, we asked to adopt her (black cats are notoriously hard to adopt out). She is now 12 years old and still adores me!
And then there was Shadow, the funniest and most rambunctious kitten I have ever seen in my life. We were already fostering his three siblings. He had been separated from them and cared for by a veterinary technician due to a serious bout with pneumonia. When he was well enough, Shadow joined his siblings, and when introduced proceeded to jump on each of them one by one, pin them down and bite their necks, and scare them all! I wondered, “what the heck is wrong with him?” I had never seen such a wild kitten and promptly called Kathleen [the cat foster coordinator]. She could hardly believe Shadow’s behavior but told me to let him calm down away from his siblings in his own area.
From then on, he continued to be unlike any cat I’d ever known…he likes to take a shower, jump on your shoulder, and sit in a closet and meow to let you know he was there! He also loves to bolt out the door when it’s opened, but thankfully is usually located quickly or shows back up at our front door. He is also a “chronic snuffler,” a side effect of his pneumonia as a tiny kitten. After many doctor appointments, and even a consult with a specialist, we learned that the only remedy is antibiotic treatments which he currently gets about twice a year. Because of his ongoing health issues, along with his tendency to bolt out the door, he was very difficult to find a home for, and after three years, we offered to adopt him and his brother, Murray. They are now five years old, and we can’t image life without the little rascals.
Q: What advice do you have for current or future foster parents?
A. Enjoy the fostering experience, if you have kids—get them involved, and don’t worry about your pets, as they will adapt. SPCA NOVA is always available to answer questions and provide guidance. No matter the question, someone is always available to help you with any issues. And as an added benefit, you get to meet many new animal-loving people that adopt your fosters.
Q: What have you learned about yourself as a result of fostering over the years?
A. Giving of my time to these little kittens has taught me how to be much more compassionate and caring, not only to the kittens but to the people who are looking to give them good homes. As I mentioned earlier, it was great for my whole family, as my son and husband have both loved fostering too.
Are you interested in fostering with SPCA NOVA? Get started here!