It’s peak kitten season at the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley’s animal shelter on Mount Tom Road-in fact, the facility has so many felines it can’t take any more.
“This time of year we just get overloaded with cats and have to turn people away who bring more to the shelter,” said Sam Love, a kennel tech at the shelter.
She said only in extreme emergency cases will cats be accepted.
“But if we do have to turn someone away we always ask if they can hold the animal for a few days, then take their contact information so we can call them when an opening becomes available,” Love added.
During times of cat overcrowding, the shelter often relies on its animal foster parent program in which folks like Paula Robinson of Marietta provide a temporary home for cats until they can be adopted.
“I’ve grown up around animals. When I was young and living at home, mom always had cats or dogs around,” she said. “And on my grandparents’ farm there were always plenty of barn cats to help keep the mice away.”
Although Robinson has always had cats of her own, she wanted to do something to help the HSOV shelter better manage its burgeoning cat population, so she became a foster mom for cats. But not just any cats.
“I’ve been taking in pregnant mother cats from the shelter,” she said.
When the kittens are born Robinson takes care of the youngsters until they’re able to be weaned from their mother and adopted out to caring families. The mother cats are then spayed and also put up for adoption.
“I currently have five kittens and a mother in my ‘nursery’ room at home, and my daughter, Abigail, has four more foster kittens who share her room,” she said.
When the felines are old enough for adoption, the shelter takes what Robinson calls ” shots” of the kittens and posts the photos and background information online where people from across the country can what animals are available at the local shelter.
“They’re not always adopted locally. A couple from Pittsburgh called just this week and want to adopt a Siamese cat that I’m caring for,” Robinson said.
As an approved foster mom for the animals, the HSOV board of directors works with Robinson to help provide necessary veterinary and medical services while the cats are in her care.
“The board members are in charge of coordinating the foster care program,” Love explained. “Anyone interested in becoming a foster parent can stop in the shelter or go online at hsov.net to fill out a foster parent form.”
She said the program really saves animals’ lives.
“We are not a no-kill shelter, and unfortunately if we have to take in too many animals, some may have to be put down,” Love said. “That’s why we’re fortunate to have people like Paula who will take in cats that are pregnant and others who become part of the foster parent program.”
She said the shelter currently has about 15 foster parents for cats, and more of those volunteers are always needed. But providing a foster home for pregnant cats is special.
“I’ve seen a lot of pregnant cats, and they can get stressed out here at the shelter which may cause them to abort their kittens,” Love said. “Pregnant cats seem to do much better in a home setting like Paula’s.”
In fact, Robinson noted that some animal rescue groups prefer not to adopt kittens that are born in an animal shelter.
She recommends becoming a foster parent for cats, noting the are fairly easy to care for, basically needing only to be fed and loved.
“Foster parents should be animal lovers, too,” Robinson said. “It can take a bit of patience as some animals have come from bad homes or they’re very shy. They all need time, patience, love and care, and some room to grow.”
Love said the HSOV shelter currently has about 70 cats and kittens in-house, and more than 100 cats are being cared for in foster homes.