By Christy Avery

Employees at an office in Kent regularly cared for the many stray and semi-feral cats that had colonized an adjacent property, and they even allowed Chi, a particularly friendly eight-month-old, into the office, where she happily accepted their food, shelter and companionship. When it became clear that the little grey cat was pregnant, the group decided that they would continue to care for her during and after her kittens’ birth, and then find homes for the mother and kittens.

One day in October 2012, Chi went into labor inside the office. An experienced pregnant cat would have settled into a warm, safe space where she could “nest” and give birth. First-time mother Chi, however, panicked and escaped the building.

Frantic employees raced after her as she disappeared into brush with a half-delivered kitten. Chi delivered the kitten and again ran away. One employee cleaned and warmed that kitten; others heard and rescued a second kitten that was hidden in a pile of leaves. With still no sign of Chi, the group searched through blackberries, brush and cat feces on the overgrown property, looking for more kittens and the mother.

They were still searching over an hour later, when one particularly determined woman crawled under the rotten steps of an old house where she heard mewing, and found a tiny, cold kitten. One of the group rushed to buy kitten formula; another cared for the kittens overnight. One employee, Stephanie, called a veterinarian as well as the Seattle Animal Shelter, and was told that the kittens had little chance without their mother. SAS manager Kara Main-Hester advised Stephanie that if Chi was found, SAS could offer the whole family a foster home. Stephanie stayed late at the office that night in the hopes that Chi would show up, to no avail.

Foster care: a crucial next step in the journey

The next morning, however, Chi was at the front door waiting for her breakfast. The family was soon on their way to a SAS foster home – they were now among the more than 800 cats cared for by SAS foster parents in 2012. These foster parents provide an invaluable service by freeing up room in the Shelter for other homeless cats, and giving kittens a healthy, safe place to grow until they reach an adoptable age.

Joan, a longtime SAS foster parent who has cared for over 200 foster cats, took the family in. Joan’s experience as a cat foster parent and her role as one of the program’s kitten care consultants meant that she knew exactly what to do to nurture the young family. Joan established a “den” for the cats, kept the mother well fed and happy, and monitored the kittens’ health and growth. At first Chi, whom Joan renamed Josie, seemed most interested in exploring her new home and begging for human attention, but as Joan recalls, “She was a lovely, friendly cat and she finally took on the role of mom to her three tiny kittens.”

Thanks to the heroic efforts of Stephanie and her coworkers and foster parent Joan, the kittens were all healthy, and they were placed up for adoption last December. Josie was adopted at a SAS cat adoption event right away; one kitten was adopted later that month, and the remaining two found homes in January.

Stephanie and her coworkers kept in touch with Joan, and they came to the January adoption event, where they saw two kittens find their forever homes. “The whole ordeal was amazing,” says Stephanie. “I am so grateful to Kara, SAS and Joan.”

SASF is proud to provide funding support for key initiatives of the Seattle Animal Shelter, including the foster program that aided Josie and her kittens. Please join us: Support SASF today.