Imagine having a year-round supply of kittens. Imagine that, at any given time, your house is buzzing with a dozen adorable, mewing little fluff balls and perhaps two mother cats, along with two dogs of your own (to help out with the kittens, of course), add the odd foster dog or guinea pig for variety—oh, and don’t forget the preschoolers.
That’s Lisa Hempel’s life as a foster caregiver for the Montgomery County Humane Society (MCHS).
Hempel, who was named MCHS’s Foster of the Year in 2009, is now in her third year of fostering. Her life as a cat foster started when the preschool class that meets in her home took in a mother cat and her kittens as a class project. Those felines were successfully adopted out, project complete, but Hempel—and the class—was hooked. Now the ongoing fostering projects are one of the most popular features of the class. Hempel’s dogs enjoy fostering, too. They groom the kittens (they like the really fuzzy ones best) and snuggle with them, sometimes to the consternation of the mother cats.
Since that first experience, Hempel has fostered a steady stream of cats and kittens. One goes out to a new forever home, another comes in from the shelter. Adoption days are the best, Hempel says, because she knows that each adoptive family will provide a loving home for one of her foster cats, and every adoption creates space for another homeless cat to come out of the shelter. Choosing which cats to foster is the hardest part of the process for her, but she focuses on the neediest, “the very young, the very old, the sick and the scared.” The MCHS staff recommends which cats would benefit the most from fostering, and the foster decides which cat to bring home. “There’s no better reward than the day you take an animal out of that cage and bring it home with you,” Hempel says. “The gratitude and sheer joy they show is overwhelming—I highly recommend trying it!”
Still, the choices are hard because, for every cat or kitten that goes into foster care, many are left behind at the shelter. Faced with so much need, it would be easy to give up, certain that just one person choosing to help one animal will not make even the slightest dent in the pet overpopulation problem. Hempel has felt disheartened at times, she says, “but, as I was once told, ‘When you start to feel you are not making a difference in the world, remember that to that individual animal you are helping, you have made a world of difference.’ That’s what keeps me going.”
Of course, she adds, “living with a year-round supply of kittens is pretty fun, too.”
Want to make a world of difference in the life of an animal? Consider fostering. Read about some reasons to foster, and contact the Montgomery County Humane Society to find out how to get started.
Be sure to meet some of Lisa Hempel’s foster cats in the slide show below.
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