“All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.”
Cecil Frances Alexander
The year 2020 brought me to my knees in more ways than one. At a particularly low point I decided that fostering kittens was no longer a dream for the future, but instead a plan to enact immediately as my own form of therapy. Within a few days of that decision my daughters and I were signed up to foster kittens at Williamson County Animal Center and we were heading home with new fosters. There was definitely a visible hop, skip, and a jump to our departing steps as we toted a carrier full of new responsibility. We could not believe that we had just been entrusted with their care.
In the coming days we found that we had found the best volunteer job in the world as we held these itty bitty teeny tiny kittens. I’ve always been a caregiver and acts of service are literally my love language. But my kids are all adults now and while my nest isn’t empty, what my kids need from me most now is independence. So I have caregiving skills to give away, service to lavish on someone (or something), and a profound love of animals. So when everything I had planned so carefully for 2020 disintegrated in my hands, I looked for a way to find the bright side of the situation.
As COVID shut down the community, I stopped my plan to sell my home. Several months later as the local economy started opening back up, I put my house on the market and found a buyer. As the final moving truck was pulling away from my home, I got a phone call from my realtor letting me know that the deal, that we set to sign in two days, had fallen through. Financially there was no choice other than to turn the moving truck around and move back in. I was crushed.
After the call, my girls and I searched our minds frantically for something that would turn a disappointing situation into some sort of joy. We set our minds on two ideas that were on our bucket list. One was fostering kittens and the other was putting in a pool. In downsizing I had gotten rid of all the furniture in my home office and my second living room. We started reconfiguring what each room in the house could be and quickly found that we could turn my old office into a fostering kitten room. We transformed from disheartened to delighted. A few days later I directed the movers as we moved back in, while the girls built a cat tower that would become the anchor of our foster kitten room. The next day we collected our first foster residents.
Why had I waited so long? I feared that I would keep them all. I thought I didn’t have the space. I figured it would be too much work and a thousand other excuses that were keeping me from living out my dream. It turns out the only thing standing in my way was me. Not only did I discover how rewarding fostering cats and kittens are but also an incredible community with the animal foster system.
As a child my favorite author was James Herriot who wrote the book, All Creatures Great and Small. His tales of being a Yorkshire veterinarian captured my imagination and heart. I wanted so badly to become a vet just like him. Over the years my dreams changed, but my heart to care for all creatures great and small never died. It took me forty plus years to realize that I can live out my dream of caring for the most vulnerable population of cats in my community. I’ve always had cats. My youngest daughter used to add “a kitten” and “kitten food” as line items on my shopping list every single week. I’d smile every time I was at the store and found her additions to my shopping list. Finally even her crazy big dream of always having a kitten in the house has been realized and we do need kitten food all the time!
Our first set of fosters have all come and gone now. We are anxiously awaiting our next set of foster kittens. My fear of having a foster fail did not materialize. The momma kitty went home with a retired couple who came into the shelter to adopt a dog but fell head over heels in love with her. Two of the kittens went my family members and one of them went to a friend of ours. We will get to watch them grow up. Some foster mommas request that adopters keep them up to date and we are blessed to get to watch this crew grow up, but I learned that any loving home is satisfying to my soul.
Behind the scenes fostering did prove to be a lot of work, but not in a negative way. My kitten crew had eye infections when they arrived and questionable grooming skills. Lots of eye cleaning, medicating, bottom wiping, bedding cleaning, wall wiping, and cat sand scooping later we found that it was worth it all. Kitten therapy is priceless. The roaring purr of a kitten can melt away the stress of even the worst day. I come home from a long day of work and collapse under a pile of clumsy loving kittens while my stress dissolves.
In the last few months I’ve heard so many people say, “I can’t foster because I’d love them and keep them all.” Everyone who fosters animals loves them too much. It isn’t a lack of love that allows fosters to let go of the kittens they care for, it is out of love that we send them into homes that have room for them and will make them part of their family. People choose to foster animals because there is a huge need, we feel led to serve in some way, it saves lives, and as a bonus we get to shower love onto the most helpless of animals. If I give up the kittens I foster, then I can get more. The promise of year around kittens is enough to let them go. I will always have room in my home for the next group that needs fostering as long as I let them go. That makes saying goodbye easier.
There are so many opportunities to foster animals. One can foster bottle fed kittens or ask for ones that don’t need to be bottle fed. You can chose foster at any point in a cats life cycle including kittenhood, adulthood, and even foster cats in the fospice (foster hopsice) program at the end of their lives. Animal shelters are working hard to control the population of homeless cats with robust foster programs, adoption programs, spay and neuter clinics, and controlled feral communities. Cats not your thing? I’ve witnessed a great need for fosters willing to take in dogs, puppies, hamsters, rabbits, and guinea pigs. The need is endless if you have room in your home, heart, and life.
Kayla Fioravanti is an award-winning author, certified aromatherapist, cosmetic formulator, and serial entrepreneur. She is the author of Puffy & Blue: The Chronicles of Nine Lives Together. Experience this unforgettable journey spanning three continents and twenty-one years. Their adventure brings laughter and tears mixed generously with hope and loyalty.