Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Don't Be Afraid to Foster Bottle Babies, Says New Foster Mom

In honor of National Foster A Pet Month, we interviewed a new and dedicated foster mom, who is caring for kittens in between graduating from MIT and starting medical school at Harvard this fall.  Meet Julia Cho!

How long have you been fostering and how many kittens have you fostered so far?  
I started fostering for SVPP on April 1, when I was a relief-foster for two critical care kitties, whose foster mama needed a quick break. I had them for five days, but then got my own litter of three soon after! Two of them, Einstein and Lovelace, just went to their forever home with a fantastic family recently. The third, Newton, I've admittedly foster-failed and decided to adopt for life.
What inspired you to foster for SVPP?
I’ve wanted to raise and/or foster kittens my whole life! In eighth grade, I adopted my first kitten, but it turned out that my little brother was super allergic (we didn’t know!). We had to return him to his foster mom, which was super sad, but we heard he went to a great home soon after. Fast forward to 2020, when my senior year at MIT was cut short due to COVID-19 and I was sent home. I figured I would apply to foster pre-weaned kittens, since they could be confined to my room where my brother’s allergies wouldn’t bother him and I’d never have enough free time to foster bottle babies once medical school started. This has been the biggest silver lining of quarantine/missing senior year/losing my graduation ceremony. 

What's been challenging and rewarding?
The most challenging thing so far, even more than waking up for three hourly meals in the middle of the night, was saying goodbye to Einstein and Lovelace. That being said, it was also extremely difficult working with the two critical care kittens in April. It was my first time ever syringe-feeding, and they were so weak that they usually didn’t drink as much as they should have. It was hard to wake up at 4:00 a.m. only for them to refuse the food. I was constantly obsessing over every gram that they gained or lost as if their life was on the line, and that stress could build up over time. We ended up losing one of them, Dizzy, which was super tough. Luckily, my litter of three were big eaters and they grew up super strong! The most rewarding thing has been just watching them grow into fully-fledged kittens with their own unique personalities and interests. I still find it funny that Lovelace was the smallest of the three but she learned how to walk, run, jump, and climb weeks ahead of Newton!

Any quick words of wisdom for potential foster parents? 
Don’t be afraid to foster bottle babies! Sacrificing just a couple hours of my sleep each night saved three beautiful lives that will go on to give happiness to their adopted families for years. For me, the experience was entirely worth it and very important, as pre-weaned kittens are often likely to be put down in shelters! 

Karen Zamel is a long-time SVPP volunteer and is now a member of the communications team.

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