Photos and Story by Amanda Renkiewicz
Kittens, kittens everywhere! Fluffy, mewling little bundles of fuzz looking for a warm lap and a snuggle. In the Grand Rapids area, there’s an overabundance of homeless cats. Focus on Ferals answers the need for help by addressing the root of the problem: reproduction. Through a highly perfected Trap-Neuter-Return program, the volunteer organization assists community cats through a full management plan which focuses on spay/neuter for feral cats. They also offer a socialization and adoption program for formerly feral kittens and friendly strays, and ongoing support for the people who care for these cats. Their vision is to achieve a No-Kill nation through the effective use of humane strategies, where every cat is treated with care and compassion.
So, what is a feral cat? Unfortunately, there is a vast difference between your tabby cat Mittens and a truly feral cat. Ferals have either been born in the wild and never had human contact, or reverted to a wild state after having been abandoned. The great majority of feral cats cannot be tamed. “Our efforts can be realized one-hundred-fold if we do the greatest good for the greatest number of ferals by stopping the cycle of reproduction,” the non-profit explains. Kittens under eight weeks and tame cats are placed into adoption programs.
Along with donation efforts, for both funds and items for the cats at the adoption center, Focus on Ferals relies on volunteers to foster cats and kittens. As a former Grand Rapids resident, I took on my first ever batch of four adorable, but incredibly wary, kittens. I was encouraged by the charity’s amazing director, Gina Marvin, to take on this challenging litter. The kittens hadn’t had any socialization with people and responded to me with threatening growls, nips, and general disregard. Upon reaching my apartment, the three white and one black kitten scampered into the worst and tightest hiding places they could. Undaunted, I gave them time to settle in but continued to draw them out with play and patience. Luckily for me, my own cat was a mothering Siamese who treated each kitten like it was her own. Between Sashimi and I, we slooooooowly won their trust. After several weeks, they were happy, healthy, and placed with loving families through the adoption process.
I went on to foster two additional litters, which were easier and truly fun. Before returning my last litter of gray and white monkey cats (they absolutely destroyed my curtains), the little babies were carousing in front of my sliding door, which faced the woods. Somehow, their antics had attracted a teeny forest kitten, who had likely been abandoned or lost. The white and orange kitten was probably only six weeks old, covered in dirt, and the most pathetic sight I’d ever seen. It took me two attempts of stealthy maneuvering before I had grasped that kitten by the scruff of its neck and yanked him inside, safely in a towel.
“Don’t worry!” I assured my soon-to-be-husband, who was appalled. “We won’t keep him!” Oops. Doodles the cat has reached his eighth birthday and enjoys sleeping on my son’s bed. Fostering kittens is a greatly rewarding experience, as long as you don’t mind when you have a “foster failure”, and keep one!
Focus on Ferals is just one of the many worthy animal rescues in Michigan. Learn more about their amazing efforts and selfless volunteerism at focusonferals.org