A Reluctant Foster: Heidi

In her own words, longtime foster Heidi Hofer reflects on her foster experiences:

When our daughter first asked to foster kittens my answer was a resounding “no”! Our family already had a dog and a cat as well as three teenagers,  and my husband and I both worked demanding full-time jobs.  Although we all adored animals, we had no time or energy for fostering.  Two and a half years and over 80 foster kittens later, we are now confirmed kitty foster parents, and something seems missing whenever our home is kitten-less.
Thank goodness our daughter Gabi kept persisting after that initial no.  She was the one who did all the research (online) on Toni’s Kitty Rescue.  Also, I had a co-worker who fostered kittens and cats for another rescue group, and she encouraged me to try fostering.  So in November 2016, Gabi and I took the new volunteer orientation at SFACC. Less than a week later we had our first kittens, Twix and Pumpkin. They were followed by many more fuzzy faces, litters that had graduated from mom or being bottle fed, and needed to get bigger and get more socialized so they could be adopted. The names of every kitten are immortalized in wax pen on the big mirror in Gabi‘s room.
There was Oreo, the outgoing one-eyed gray kitty. And Binky, the tiny white and gray kitty with the super short fur that took forever to get big enough to return to ACC. It was so very difficult to part with her. But then on a return visit to ACC one of the staff told us she got adopted by a man who said “she will be my little princess.” My heart skipped a beat. Recently there was Cheddar, a “singleton” orange kitty who was paired up with two other orphans. At first he would hiss and growl, but within a few days he mellowed and because such a lover and greeter, always following me around the house. The most memorable litter may have been the one we got by accident when the SPCA called us one evening about a litter of orphaned kittens that were only a few days old.  Do not know how they got our number, but we made a late night trek to pick them up and kept them warm and tried to bottle feed them throughout the night. The next morning Toni was able to find a mama kitty with only a few kittens, and got her to take this litter on as her own. And a month later when they were weaned from her we got them back to foster.
I can’t say enough about how wonderful it has been to interact with Toni, Linda and the ACC staff, not to mention the other volunteers. Toni is the most dedicated and tireless cat nurturer, organizer and “cat-vocate” I can imagine, and is always there for advice and resources. It is always a joy to see her in the volunteer room at ACC with her latest brood and catch up. Since many of my trips to ACC also involve a visit to the vet room, usually for the ubiquitous kitten diarrhea, I have become very familiar with the wonderful staff there. They even recognize my voice on the phone now.
Fostering has made me aware of how fragile little kittens’ health is, and I have taken on the role of “Chief Medical Officer” for the little ones. My husband Mark is the “Chief Cleaning Officer,” scrupulously cleaning and disinfecting between litters, and continuing changing out the towels in their pen. Gabi of course is the main socializer and cuddler, and has taught dozens of kittens the joys of cuddling on a bed next to a human who loves them. Our two older children also provide affection and socialization when they are around. And the thing about kittens is that they seem to put everyone (even teenagers) into a good mood, and have brought our family closer together.

Yes, fostering kittens takes time and energy, but it has given our whole family such joy and magic. The wonder of seeing tiny kittens play and jump straight up into the air, something no adult cat can do. Christmas morning with kittens wandering around our living room, jumping in and out of the wrapping paper and empty boxes. Cuddling in front of the TV at night and watching crazy kitten antics, and then later having them fall asleep on you. My personal record is 5 kittens sleeping on me at the same time.  Watching the ACC website and the thrill when you see that one of your recent “graduates” has been adopted. And as difficult as it is to return the litter of kittens you have bonded so strongly with, you always know that there will be a new litter that need you and that you will fall in love with.