Finding New Foster Homes for Kittens in L.A.
In late January, Alejandra S. of El Monte, California found a stray kitten in her neighborhood.
“He was in a box near a stop sign,” she says.
Alejandra, 19, picked up the kitten, who was black with a tuft of white hair on his chest.
“He was meowing a lot. He seemed hungry and there were scabs all over his face,” she says. “I wanted to get him help.”
Alejandra called several veterinary clinics but could not afford their fees. Her brother, Rialdo, and his wife had once visited the ASPCA in El Monte for services for their dog and suggested Alejandra reach out.
When Alejandra called, Debra Olmedo, ASPCA Manager of Foster and Community Outreach, made her an enticing offer.
“We asked if she’d be willing to foster the little guy,” says Debra. “In exchange, we provided treatment for his skin condition, and he was vaccinated and dewormed. When the time comes, he’ll also be neutered. Alejandra was committed to helping this kitten.”
Alejandra named the kitten Percy, after Percy Jackson, the fictional son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. Percy now has another distinction: He is the ASPCA’s first Community Foster kitten of 2022.
Helping the Helpers
In August 2021, the ASPCA launched the Community Foster program, which supports residents who find kittens that need their help. In 2021, the Community Foster program assisted 79 kittens.
“This means 79 kittens did not enter shelters where they’d risk being euthanized. Instead, they had access to vet care, spay/neuter, food and supplies and adoption placement support,” says Debra.
The Community Foster program grew out of the ASPCA’s El Monte pilot project, which offers free, high-quality spay/neuter surgeries for owned cats and community cats living in a zip code where animal shelter intake is high.
“So many community members have been caring for kittens they find long before we arrived,” says Tina Fried, Director of the ASPCA Los Angeles Volunteer and Kitten Programs. “They’re making such a positive impact, and we’re supplementing their work with needed resources so they can continue to take lifesaving action.”
Expanding Foster Support
The ASPCA launched its LA Foster Program in April 2017—in partnership with Los Angeles County’s Baldwin Park Animal Care Center—to support kittens under eight weeks of age who are too vulnerable in a shelter setting. Foster caregivers care for those kittens until they’re old enough to be spayed or neutered and placed up for adoption. Now the program supports all seven LA County Animal Care Centers and has provided foster care for over 8,000 kittens.
But the LA Foster Program doesn’t cover kittens like Percy—or cats of any age who never entered a shelter. So, the ASPCA stepped in to support residents already investing in the well-being of kittens in their community, providing medical services, supplies and advice.
“With young kittens—who often enter the shelters by themselves—we have no idea where the moms and dads are, so we can’t get the parents fixed,” says Tina. “But with kittens found by community members, the mom and other adults and kittens are often nearby, so we can alter all of them, ending the cycle of unplanned litters. We’re always looking toward long-term, sustainable solutions.”
“It’s been amazing to work alongside such caring residents,” says Debra. “We’re excited about the effects our work will have in helping reduce the number of kittens in the future.”
A Permanent Home for Percy
At home, Alejandra applied medication to Percy’s scabs which healed within two weeks and took him to the ASPCA mobile clinic for a recheck on February 24. The last step—and most important—will be getting Percy neutered, since he was initially too sick to undergo surgery.
Alejandra, who lives with her parents and younger sisters, Noelia and Heidi, says the family has decided to adopt Percy.
“Noelia wanted to keep him,” says Alejandra, adding that Percy gets along with the family’s two adult cats.
“Many times, foster caregivers become too enamored to say goodbye, and that’s okay,” says Debra. “They’re ready to adopt, but it’s not an obligation.”
Community foster caregivers often find homes for their cats and kittens with friends, family or neighbors. And the ASPCA can always help with adoption options.
“Fostering with the support of an animal welfare organization means you aren’t stuck with the kitten or cat forever,” says Debra. “It takes away some of the pressure of ownership and finding a new home right away, and in the meantime, you’re saving a life.”