August 2, 2018

From Foster to Family: Misha’s Story

Misha

When Misha, a four-week-old stray kitten with a fractured hind leg, was transferred to the ASPCA Kitten Nursery from Animal Care Centers of NYC’s Manhattan shelter, her difficult life took a turn toward a brighter future.

Weighing just seven ounces, Misha was too young for surgery. She also had limited mobility in her right hind leg—vets thought it might need to be amputated.

Misha and her caretaker
Misha at the home of Claire Bienen, her foster caregiver.

That’s when Claire Bienen, an ASPCA foster caregiver, stepped in. For nearly six weeks, Claire provided Misha with a quiet respite in her family’s apartment. In this time, Claire spent many hours with Misha, helping the young cat acclimate to her temporary home. She exposed her to different household sounds and people to socialize the small kitten and increase her chances for adoption. Claire was also adamant about restricting Misha’s activity, and her leg eventually healed on its own—the best outcome anyone could have wished for.

“It was rewarding when she got comfortable and was no longer startled by things,” says Claire, who has three adopted cats of her own with the support of her husband, Gary, and son, Nick. “It’s easier to find them homes after they’ve been fostered; the transition is a lot less traumatic.”

Misha
Above and below, Misha in her foster home.

The need for fosters is especially critical during kitten season—the annual high-breeding period that extends roughly from March through October. Shelters see an influx of young kittens during this time and need foster families they can rely on, ideally multiple times during a single season. Foster families provide care and support for these tiny kittens until they are old enough to be adopted. 

“A foster can make the difference between life and death because tiny kittens can’t survive on their own in a shelter,” says Tina Reddington, Director of the Los Angeles ASPCA Volunteer Program. 

On June 8, the ASPCA launched Meow For Now, a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about fostering and inspire more people to become foster caregivers. The campaign provides fostering supplies and information—including a list of participating shelters in nearly every state. 

“While most communities understand the importance of animal adoption, the urgent need for kitten fostering is not as well known,” says Eileen Hanavan, Senior Manager of Foster & Offsite Programs for the ASPCA Adoption Center. “Claire and other fosters provide kittens like Misha what they need to not only survive, but thrive and eventually find homes.”

Misha

It didn’t take adorable Misha long to find a home once her foster care ended. Claire returned Misha to the ASPCA in June, and on June 11, the same day Misha was spayed, she was adopted by Olivia Chavez and Kurt Dwiggins of Queens, New York.

Olivia, who had never had a cat before, and Kurt, who had cats growing up and yearned for a kitten, visited the ASPCA on Kurt’s birthday. 

Piper and her new family
Misha, now Piper, eyes pot stickers in her new home with Kurt, left, and cuddles with Olivia, right.

“We saw a volunteer playing with Misha, and we knew we had to adopt her,” says Olivia. “It was love at first sight.”

Now called Piper, the rambunctious and curious kitten is adjusting well in her new home. 

“She really trusts us and knows she belongs here,” says Olivia, who admits to a “learning curve” being a first-time kitten owner. “You can’t train a kitten like a puppy; they learn in their own time. But Piper can fetch and is obsessed with spring toys.” 

Piper
Above and below, Piper at home.

“She definitely loves us—even sleeps in our bed,” says Kurt, who got Piper a backpack carrier with a small window in it for trips to the vet. “She doesn’t mind being held and is very loyal. For example, she’ll wait outside the bathroom door until you come out. She’s a joy to have.”

Piper at home

Olivia and Kurt both work in the service industry and often work late hours, so they often have friends check in on Piper, who has become quite the social butterfly. “She’s chummy with everyone,” says Olivia. 

“We’re really happy to have her; she’s part of our family,” adds Kurt. 

piper

That’s sweet music to the ears of foster caregivers like Claire—knowing the vulnerable animal they helped save is thriving in a loving home.