Help! I’m being mobbed by kittens!
Not that I mind, in fact that’s kind of the point of the Cat Colony Room at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society (WPHS)—to get you in touch with your inner kitten, and hopefully with your next kitten or adult cat best friend.
I recently visited in order to drop off my donation to the WPHS Best Friends’ Calendar 2012 Preview Event upcoming on September 13 (details below), a certificate for me to create a commissioned portrait for the winner.
The Cat Colony Room
Of course, I couldn’t pass up a visit to the newly-developed room which opened just this past June with the purpose of providing more room for 10 or more kittens to live together and run and play, and a space for people to walk in, sit down on the floor and have kittens crawl all over them so they’ll just be able to get to know them a little better before adopting.
“This used to be a storage room full of cabinets to store food and things for the cats and rabbits and sinks to clean the litter boxes,” said Gretchen Feiser, Director of PR and Business Relationships for WPHS who took the time to give me a tour. “We had only one room for meeting cats, and on a busy Saturday people get frustrated with waiting—and we certainly don’t want that if they’ve come here to adopt!”
They made a decision in spring to create a second feline meeting room room in time for the dreaded “kitten season” to help with housing the overflow of kittens and the occasional backup of adopters.
“These kittens have come back from foster homes,” Gretchen continued, explaining that they try to get litters of kittens brought in for surrender into foster homes “until they are a good age and good weight for spay or neuter.”
Normally there are many more kittens in the Cat Colony Room, but this morning there were four, all girls, all spayed and ready for homes. The brown tabby who greeted us at the door and had a thing for my shoes was Zipper, at 11 weeks. The three orange kittens were all 12 weeks and all from one litter: Ringo, the orange and white girl; Lala, the orange tabby; and Sasha Fierce, the cream tabby—now there’s a name to tell you about a kitty!
The importance of foster homes
The kittens chewed on our shoes and pulled on our earrings and climbed all over us, apparently secure in the knowledge that humans are just big cat toys, as Gretchen explained the importance of foster homes for kittens and all other animals in the shelter.
Kittens often come into the shelter too young to adopt, even needing to be bottle-fed, they may have illnesses common to young kittens, may have been found orphaned and need nurturing, or they may have been born outdoors and never been socialized with people. Kittens do much better in a home situation in the hands of people who are willing to feed and cuddle and play with kittens to socialize them and introduce them to children and other pets and a true home situation so that when they are adopted they know how to behave.
“We have a great group of foster homes,” Gretchen said, adding that they numbered over 100 at the moment, ready to take pets of any age for wellness, socialization and cage breaks.
“But we need more, especially at this time of year,” she continued. “We took in 48 cats on Tuesday [August 23], and we adopted out 11.”
Those foster homes help take care of the overflow of animals, especially cats during the summer. A typical foster session may be only days to give an cat a break from being in the shelter, or it may be a week or two if they are being treated for an illness such as an upper respiratory infection and need medication, or it may be a month or two in the case of young kittens. In all cases, WPHS covers the cost of medication and veterinary care in their own shelter clinic.
“And then they come here like this, friendly, healthy and ready to play,” said Gretchen as she cuddled an orange kitten.
“If you want to adopt but can’t, or you want to help out but can’t come here to volunteer, you can always foster,” she added.
While we were there two Volunteer Cat Cuddlers, Siobhan and Sean, came in to play with the kittens.
“We come in about twice a week,” said Siobhan, “and we really do hug kitties!”
“We take them out of the cages and visit with them too,” Sean added as a kitten was hanging off his glasses and another was climbing up his back.
We continued playing with the kittens until they started piling up for a nap.
The wonderful adult cats
Next we visited the cages in the main cat room and played with as many kitties as we could.
Yoshi, a long-haired tortoiseshell, 8 months, and Miko, a long-haired tabby, 2 years, had come from a home where there were “too many cats”. They were a beautiful pair of kitties, playful, gregarious, curious—anyone who adopted these two would have a home instantly full of the loving and playful companionship of two cats who were best buddies, ready to be best buddies with you.
Peaches, white with a few orange spots, looked cool and distant at first, until she fell down on her side and began begging for pets, nearly falling out of her cage!
Gizmo is a big and quiet kitty, long-haired tabby with white, but I could tell he had a lot of mischief in him, and the way he made direct eye contact told me he’s ready to be best friend with a human.
I could hear Ursula purring all the way down the row of cages, and while she appeared to be a plushy gray kitty rubbing back and forth and being as cute as possible, on closer inspection I could see she was a dilute tortoiseshell. Unfortunately, her photo didn’t come out well. It’s a shame I can’t sometimes be Lakshmi with several extra hands to hold kitties and take photos at the same time!
Of course, there were other kitties, and I visited last Thursday, so there may be new kittens and adult cats for adoption, but I can assure you that any of the cats I met would make a wonderful companion! Stop over at the shelter to visit, adopt if you can, or consider being one of the Humane Society’s wonderful foster homes.
The 2012 Best Friends’ Calendar
Each year the WPHS creates a wall calendar featuring photos of wonderful pets as a fundraiser for the shelter through sponsorships and sales. The Preview Event on September 13, 2011 will be at the Fox Chapel Yacht Club from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and will feature hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar, calendars for sale and an auction of donated items, such as my portrait certificate, to benefit the shelter. For all this, tickets are only $25.00 each. Visit www.wpahumane.org or call 412-321-4625, ext. 248.
Open Door Shelters
“Being an Open Door Shelter means we never turn away an animal in need. We currently take in over 14,000 animals each year and have been helping people and pets since 1874. Visit the Open Door Shelters website.”
Donation of Commissioned Portrait Certificates
As my way of giving to shelters, I donate a limited number of commissioned portrait certificates to shelters and rescue groups every year to sell or auction in their fundraisers. The certificates are worth $125, the minimum cost of a portrait, and typically auction for well more than that. The winner receives a presentation folder with the signed certificate, a thank you letter from me for supporting the organization, one of my brochures and the invitation to begin the process of a portrait of their design.
I have to limit the number of certificates I donate because of the amount of time I put into each portrait, but I also offer commissioned portrait certificates at a reduced cost to other shelters and rescues when my yearly quota is reached. I like to help as many organizations as I can, but the kitties need to eat too! Please contact me if you are interested.
All images used in this article are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.