Kitten season is foster season

Nancy Brian fostered these orphaned kittens, spurring her interest in fostering other animals in need. Photo by Nancy Brian

Bay Village resident Nancy Brian moved here about 16 years ago to be near her children and grandchildren. The children and grandchildren moved away, but Nancy stayed. About eight years ago, she saw a posting online seeking help with a litter of tiny kittens. A nursing momcat had been hit by a car. Knowing there were kittens, the rescuer searched for them and found a litter of four kittens two to three weeks old in an adjacent field. The orphaned kittens needed to be bottle fed, and the poster just couldn’t keep up.  

Bottle feeding kittens is onerous; little kittens may need to be fed every two hours. Kittens younger than three weeks cannot even eliminate waste on their own. Because it is so difficult to successfully care for baby kittens, experts advocate against disturbing kittens you may come across outdoors unless it is absolutely necessary – unless the kittens are in immediate danger or you know, as in this case, that they are orphaned.

Most of the time momcat is around even if out of sight, and the kittens’ best chance is to leave them in their outdoor home in momcat’s tender care. For more information on what to do if you come across kittens outdoors, visit

But these kittens were orphans and would not survive without fostering. Nancy decided to take on the challenge. The good Samaritan promised support and supplies; he read articles and shared his research. Nancy was successful and the kittens thrived. Nancy found homes for all but one of the kittens, Harley. Harley had already found his home with Nancy.

After her successful experience fostering on her own, Nancy felt ready to volunteer with the Cleveland Animal Protective League (APL). She just went to their website and signed up for volunteer orientation, and one thing led to another. Nancy specialized in fostering litters of kittens, up to six of them at a time. Some of the litters needed bottle feeding, but not too many. Most of the litters were eating on their own but not yet old enough to be rehomed. A lot of the kittens had upper respiratory infections.

Altogether, Nancy fostered about 25 litters of kittens. An important advantage of fostering through Cleveland APL is that you don’t have to find the kittens’ next home – the APL does that for you.

Nancy’s household comprised two papillon dogs and Harley when APL rescued about 30 papillon dogs from a hoarding situation. Nancy decided to foster one of the papillons named Jake. Jake was poorly socialized and didn’t know how to be a dog. He was afraid of people, and other dogs, and strange places. He couldn’t walk on leash because he would bark and jump when another dog or person came within 150 feet of him.  

Nancy heard of an agility class that was poorly attended and enrolled Jake, just so he could get used to being around other people and other dogs, and strange places. Jake is very intelligent, and he loved agility training. Jake gained confidence and his behavior improved greatly. Nancy entered Jake in agility trials and he even won a title: AKC Novice Jumper.

One of the difficulties of fostering is giving up the foster when it is ready for a permanent home. Nancy had successfully fostered four other dogs for APL, but Jake was a “failed foster.” Nancy didn’t want someone else to adopt Jake. Jake had already found his permanent home, and he now lives happily with Nancy, Harley, and his papillon sisters Brandy and Foxy.

Spring is kitten season, and Nancy plans on fostering kittens again for the Cleveland APL. You can too. The Cleveland APL receives no government funding and relies on private donations and volunteers.

Cleveland APL needs volunteer fosters to care for animals in their homes who are too young to be adopted out yet, nursing mothers and their babies, sick or injured animals, or animals who, like Jake, just need a safe, loving environment to learn how to live successfully in a home. For more information go to and click on Volunteer, then Foster Care.

susan murnane

historian, legal historian, former tax lawyer, author of Bankruptcy in an Industrial Society: The History of the Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio (Akron University Press, 2014)

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Volume 13, Issue 7, Posted 10:31 AM, 04.06.2021