During the high season, the city animal shelter (www.saccityshelter.com/) has litters of puppies and kittens coming in, though there’s not enough room to house them all. To make matters worse, some of the animals aren’t old enough or healthy enough for immediate adoption. So, rather than euthanize the animals, the shelter calls on volunteers like Sacramento resident Kristie Fenyoe. As one of the shelter’s trained foster parents, Fenyoe, an editor at Channel 10, takes animals in and cares for them until they’re ready to be adopted.
Tell me about the foster-care program.
Well, the foster program that’s going now started out about a year and a half, two years ago. And it’s just a chance to get more animals adopted out, because a lot of the kittens, if they’re sick or underweight, they wouldn’t be able to go up for adoption; they’d just be euthanized. So, this way, we try to get the ones that are underage … up to two pounds, so they can get spayed and neutered before they go out. They used to have a special adoption program where you could adopt a cat who was sick or underweight, but then we could never guarantee that people would bring them back to get fixed. So, that kind of added to the pet-overpopulation problem. So, with the foster program, we have people take sick animals, or animals that need behavior-modification training, or motherless kittens and puppies and raise them until they’re adoptable.
And how did you get involved?
Well, I was just a volunteer at the shelter, and I was working with some of the sick cats, and there was a little sick kitten that was just so cute, and so I ended up taking it home, and that’s how I became a foster parent.
Did you have any real experience with animals before that?
No, not at all, and I’d just started volunteering, too. I’d always owned cats and dogs, but I didn’t know anything about taking care of sick animals or bottle feeding the kittens and puppies. I had no experience with that.
Do they put you through a training program?
Yeah, they have a training class that teaches you everything you need to know about bottle feeding and giving medication and taking temperature and things to look for for signs of different illnesses. And they do hands-on [training], too, with giving vaccinations and all kinds of good stuff. It comes with a binder to refer to, and now they have a vet at the shelter, too, who can help out.
Is it hard to give the animals back after you’ve had them for a while?
It was at first. With my first kitten, it was really hard, actually. I had her for six months before she got adopted. But I know if I kept them all … I couldn’t keep doing it. So, just knowing that they’re going to good homes and that they had a second chance that they wouldn’t have had is enough for me now. But it is still hard because you do get attached, especially when they’re really sick or really young, and then they think that you’re their mom, and then you have to give them back up for adoption.
Do you have any shelter animals in your care now?
I have one kitten, but she’s getting ready to be fixed and go back, and then I’ll be foster-less.
What’s wrong with that particular kitten? Is she just too young?
She was too young, and she’d been adopted, and the people returned her because they said she was too rambunctious. But she’s just the sweetest kitten. … I guess they just didn’t know what kittens were like. But she’s just been getting over—most of the kittens who come to the shelter get upper-respiratory infections, and they’re really hard to treat. It usually takes, even after antibiotics, it takes like six weeks for them to clear up all the way, so I’ve had her for quite a while.
How do your own pets respond to other animals coming in and out of your home?
My cats are constantly pissed off at me. I think they’re getting used to it now because I’ve had so many, so now they’re just like, “Great. Mom brought home another kitten.” But, actually, I had a pit bull for a while, and she loved it when I brought home kittens. She was the sweetest dog. She thought they were her babies. And then she was great when I brought home puppies. They’d follow her around and think that she’s the mom, and so, my dog helped out, but my cats aren’t quite so nice about it.
What do you get out of the foster experience?
Well, it makes me feel good. I personally love having the little kittens around and bottle babies, even though it’s kind of a pain sometimes, especially with the really small ones—you know, getting up every four hours to feed them—but it’s just awesome to have all those kittens and give them a second chance that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.