Opie the cat

Opie the (adoptable) cat amuses Coraline the girl (age 3) at the PetSmart store on East State Street Tuesday afternoon.

Hey you! Do you love kitties, and want to help them?

Then you should consider fostering a cat or kitten, where they crash at your house for a period of weeks or months. It’s fun, easy and completely free! And this is especially important because it’s kitten season, ya’ll.

While that may sound adorable, it’s actually not. It happens every year, when lots of stray cats give birth, flooding rescue groups and animal shelters with felines that need a home.

Further complicating things is that Athens County has no true cat shelter, so local rescue groups such as the Athens County Humane Society are seeking people who would like to adopt a kitty or at least foster one for a while to take the burden off the few places where cats are held. Currently, PetSmart on East State Street in Athens is the main place where these felines can be found, though Hyacinth Bean on West Union Street and Import House on North Court Street also typically have cats available for fostering/adoption.

You also may end up loving the cat(s) so much that they find a forever home with you.

That’s what ended up happening with me. I fostered a cat for a few months, and ended up adopting her. Some call it a “foster failure” story, though it’s probably the best “failure” that’s ever happened to me.

Bobby stole my heart. She’s a sweet little bobtail kitty who was hanging out at the Import House in Athens for several months. She was the only cat on hand despite there usually being several, because she doesn’t play well with other animals. So when I ended up adopting her, it allowed the Humane Society to bring other cats into the Import House. Now she and I have become best buds – she likes sleeping under the covers and on my chest at night, and chasing the fake-butterfly-on-a-stick cat toy my mom got her despite having ripped the wings off the thing within an hour of playing with it.

It’s completely free to foster a cat – the Humane Society will provide you with litter, a litter box, food and possibly other amenities to get you started. And if you end up adopting the kitty, you’ll just need to pay the adoption fee ($50 for a kitten or $75 for an adult cat), which helps the ACHS continue doing the good work it does.

The Humane Society also pays for spaying and neutering of adoptable/fosterable cats, as well as vaccination and parasite treatment. On average, that comes to roughly $150-$180 per cat, according to ACHS’ website, so that means that the non-profit is losing money on every adopted pet.

A cat can become pregnant as early as 4 months old, so another important point is that kittens need to be spayed and neutered as soon as possible. To that end, the ACHS and other community groups sponsor low-cost spay/neuter clinics each month, typically at The Market on State mall on East State Street. You can also help reduce the size and problematic elements of the feral cat colonies that exist throughout Athens County by participating in trap-neuter-release (TNR), a program that involves trapping a feral or otherwise stray cat, neutering or spaying it, and releasing it back into the wild. This reduces the number of kittens that are born every year. You can learn more about how to get started with your own TNR program at www.alleycat.org. And as always, you MUST spay and neuter your own cats. It’s an ethical obligation for any pet owner; your cat potentially creating more cats just means more cats are going to suffer in one way or another, whether from disease, being hit by a car, or any number of horrible every-day realities for feral or stray cats.

Ally Rapp Lee, a local realtor, is a big fan of fostering cats.

“We usually have a kitten or a couple kittens and an adult cat every year; springtime is when they most need foster families because that’s when all the feral cats are feeling in the mood and making kittens for us,” she said last week. “It’s really rewarding to be able to help stray animals find a loving home, and as a cat lover myself, it’s good for my cats to get a little interaction with other cats.”

Rapp Lee cited only one real “danger” of fostering cats – that you fall in love with the kitty and end up keeping it forever (one of the three cats that live permanently at her home was a foster originally, just like Bobby).

Other rescue groups in the region also are seeking help with fostering, or donations to keep going. New Beginnings Animal Shelter in Glouster has cats available for fostering or adoption, as does Meowterspace Cat Rescue in Athens. I’ll put a few links below so that you can learn more about each. Please consider donating to any of them if you can’t foster a cat. The Humane Society also has a membership program that helps keep it running.

• Athens County Humane Society, https://www.athenshumane.org/

• New Beginnings Animal Shelter, http://www.newbeginningsanimalcenter.com/

And of course, it goes without saying, but dogs in Athens County need all the help they can get, too, if you’re more of a dog person than a cat person. 

For those interested in fostering, contact achsintake@gmail.com, or for more info contact: info@athenshumane.org. There are five cats at PetSmart as of Wednesday that are adoptable.

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