January 18, 2017

Former Foster Cat Lends a Helping Paw to His Pet Parents

John relaxing

Jennifer Loftin has lost count of the number of kittens she’s fostered over the last six years. “I stopped counting at 50,” says the licensed veterinary technician at the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH). “I just don’t remember.”

While she may not remember numbers, she does remember names—one in particular.

John is a solid gray domestic shorthair cat Jennifer nursed back to health from an upper respiratory infection. He then underwent surgery for a malformed eyelid and remained in her care. Once healthy, John immediately hit it off with Jennifer and her husband Brian’s four cats and two dogs, who range in age from six months to 12 years. When John himself turned six months old, he started “parenting” incoming foster kittens—some of whom were only days or weeks old. He groomed them, comforted them and doted on them with large doses of TLC. The needy child, in essence, became a nurturing parent. 

John with his adoptive kittens

“I wanted a cat to just play with our other fosters, but John takes it to the next level and mothers them,” explains Jennifer. “He obsesses over them. That’s part of the reason we kept him.”

Now known as “Papa John” to ASPCA staff, John is sometimes so attentive that Jennifer separates him from the kittens just to give them a break. He nests with each new flock of fosters inside a cozy cardboard box, set inside a large heated crate stuffed with towels.

“The kittens I generally bring into our home are too young to do anything on their own,” says Jennifer, who worked as a veterinary technician at the Athens Area Humane Society in Georgia before moving to New York in 2006 and joining the ASPCA two years later. “In a normal shelter situation, staff can't give them the around-the-clock time they need. I feel they grow up better-adjusted in a home instead of a cage.”

Jennifer and one of John's kittens

Jennifer and Brian, who live on Long Island, also foster dogs and cats with medical and behavior issues, providing crucial one-on-one attention. “Before the ASPCA opened our Kitten Nursery, the neediest of abandoned kittens entering our hospital—many of them barely clinging to life—went directly to Jen and Brian's house,” says Jennifer Coyle, LVT and the ASPCA’s Director of Veterinary Technicians. “Jen has truly made an impact on the lives of kittens in this city.” 

Jennifer and the kittens

Jennifer says she’s never come across an animal as nurturing and accepting of other animals as John. And that love extends to humans as well.

“He even grooms me,” Jennifer says. “He licks my nose and face.”

Maybe John realizes that foster parents need love, too.

Foster caregivers provide animals not yet ready for adoption a chance to live and be loved. They also improve the lives of shelter animals by opening up cage or kennel space for other animals, and increasing the opportunities for individualized attention to animals with special needs. Whether helping an injured dog or cat recover from illness or injury or raising a litter of newborn kittens, fostering can change an animal’s life and also be hugely rewarding for caregivers. Learn more about the ASPCA’s Foster programs in New York and Los Angeles.