This Foster Caregiver Has a Feel for Felines
Even after fostering at least 50 “batches” of kittens since 2009, ASPCA volunteer DonnaMarie SanSevero still remembers every one.
Her most recent set included two identical gray sisters who were found on a Staten Island street and brought to the ASPCA at just four weeks old. They spent a week in the ASPCA Kitten Nursery before going home with DonnaMarie on May 12.
“They were both very tiny; they looked exactly alike, and I could hardly tell them apart,” Donna recalls. “But their personalities were totally different—Quorra was shy and quiet, while Quintina was energetic and playful.”
It wasn’t long before two of DonnaMarie’s friends—a couple from Fairfield, Connecticut —expressed interest in Quorra.
“We always ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ over the kittens DonnaMarie fosters,” says Melissa B., who, along with her husband Stephen, adopted their cat Pippy from a local rescue group the month prior.
“DonnaMarie told us she had the perfect kitten to balance out Pippy, who is quite feisty. Working from home during COVID-19 was the silver lining—we could adopt another cat and be home with them both.”
A Pal for Pippy
Melissa’s family cat, Celia, died last October at the age of 19.
“It took us a while to recover from Celia’s passing,” says Melissa. “But our house soon felt strange without a cat. So, we adopted Pippy, who was found at a construction site, from a local rescue group. We then reached out to DonnaMarie because Pippy needed a friend.”
They adopted Quorra on June 24, driving to DonnaMarie’s home in Queens to pick her up. (Quintini was adopted a month later by another couple.) At first, their new kitten slept all the time, prompting Melissa and Stephen’s eight-year-old daughter, Talia, to re-name her Aurora, after Sleeping Beauty. But it wasn’t long before Aurora showed her spicier side.
“She’ll tackle Pippy and they wrestle,” says Melissa. “If she wants the top shelf of the cat condo, she’s going to get it. She’s really the boss. They play and push each other out of the best seats in the house. We enjoy watching them grow.”
Melissa, a librarian, is now back at work two weeks per month, and she misses her cats.
“I realized when I got back to the library that our cats are such a big part of our lives when we’re home,” she says. “They’re a big part of our day.”
Getting A Kitten Fix
Growing up on Staten Island, DonnaMarie was the go-to person for neighbors who found cats, dogs, bunnies, even reptiles.
“I spent way more time with animals than I did with people,” she recalls. “A bird would crash into our picture window, and I’d run to help. I rescued grasshoppers from puddles. There was always something alive in a box in my room.”
Today, DonnaMarie has five cats of her own.
“Four of them are foster failures,” she says. “And they’re all special in some way. One has cerebellar hypoplasia, another is blind, one is mostly feral, and one is a horrible, spoiled monster.”
Joking aside, DonnaMarie explains that fostering kittens is a fulfilling experience for her and her cats.
“It’s a constant stream of new personalities, and it gives my guys something to do. And I get my kitten fix; I’ve just stopped adding to my collection.
“I took on Quorra and Quintina right when my husband and I split up,” she adds. “But with a lapful of these adorable sweeties you just can’t be sad. I’m in for at least a month’s worth of happiness every day. They make you realize it’s going to be okay.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the ASPCA Adoption Center in NYC remains temporarily closed for in-person visits. We offer remote adoptions and rely on valued foster caregivers to introduce foster animals to potential adopters via virtual Zoom meet-and-greets.
“DonnaMarie is awesome,” says Matthew Richards, Manager of Foster Engagement. “Not only is she a long-time foster caregiver, she finds homes for her kittens so they don’t have to come back to the shelter.”
DonnaMarie, who owns and operates the city’s first and only after-hours, walk-in wedding chapel, facilitates 25 to 30 weddings per month. But the matchmaking she does between foster kittens and new homes is her top priority.
“Why wouldn’t I foster?” she asks. “It’s just the best. And Quorra was a peach. I can’t wait to get another batch.”