Keeping up with the kittens

Social Studies Teacher Megan Johnson has recently taken up fostering kittens for a local shelter.

photo by Megan Johnson used with permission

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Johnson started fostering because of her love for cats and she wanted to help out her community.“[I’ve been fostering] for about a month, maybe a little bit less than that. I actually have my first fosters right now,” Johnson says. She grew up on a farm and would often take care of any abandoned kittens she would find. “That was something that kind of inspired me to foster,” Johnson said.

Johnson works for PAWS & More, an animal shelter based in Washington, Iowa. To apply, Johnson filled out a simple form about what ages and types of animals would be best to have, work hours, and how much available time she had. A few days after that, the shelter called her and told her they were interested. From there, they came to Johnson’s house to make sure there was a safe space for the cats and to be able to meet her. “Three or four days later they called and they were like ‘We just got a mom and kittens.’” Johnson said.

Currently, Johnson is taking care of five cats: A mother and her four kittens. The mom was named Missy at the shelter, which reminded Johnson of Missy Elliot, a female rapper. To keep with the theme, Johnson named the kittens Kim for Lil Kim, Nicki for Nicki Minaj, Eve for an older rapper, and Lauryn for Lauryn Hill. Johnson will likely have the kittens for a total of five or six weeks, until they are at least eight weeks old. “I’ll probably have them for a week or two after [Saturday May 5],” Johnson says. “It’s usually around that time that they’re ready for their booster vaccinations. Then they’re spayed or neutered and put up for adoption.”

According to Johnson, many people in rural areas don’t understand the need for spaying and neutering. “That was something that my family totally dropped the ball on at times when I was a kid,” Johnson recalls. “I saw a lot of litters of kittens that were born and then some of them unfortunately would die from viruses and stuff like that. So I think in some ways I’m… sort of making up for that. And… it’s fun to be able to go home after a stressful day and just play with kittens.”

Johnson has three 20 minute periods a day where she’s cleaning up after the kittens. “So far it’s been a really positive experience. Like I said, this is my first group of fosters… They can kind of be a decent amount of work because pretty much every morning I get up and I have to clean up after them and feed them. I go home from work and repeat the same kind of routine and again before I go to bed,” Johnson says.

Unfortunately, there is the possibility that a kitten might not survive. “[There are] some fosters that have definitely experienced losses where the kittens have gotten sick or something goes wrong where they don’t survive especially with like abandoned kittens and being bottle babies and stuff. I told them that I was interested in doing bottle babies this summer when I had the time to do it and not working. So I suspect that at some point maybe I’ll experience that and that will be difficult.”

One of the things that Johnson wants to get involved with is Trap Neuter Return (TNR) “I’d like to get involved in that because… in rural areas that there’s a lot of well-intentioned people taking care of farm cats or feral cats that don’t necessarily understand [that] it’s really important to spay and neuter animals.”

Even with all of the work that fostering involves and the loss that comes with it, Johnson plans on doing it for as long as possible. “I’m definitely am planning to foster as much as I can this summer which is when they are in most need. Throughout the [winter] I would be interested in taking in cats that maybe need like extra socialization or since there’s not a lot of kittens born,” Johnson explains.

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