The Edwards family home is alive with the sounds of four active children, four even more active dogs, and in the background, the mewing of some newborn kittens awaiting adoption.
Pediatrician Jeanette Edwards and her family are devoted feline fosters for the Naperville Area Humane Society. Foster families open their hearts and their homes to animals in need of a little extra tender-loving care before they come to the shelter. Foster families feed, socialize, groom, train and sometimes medicate the animals in their care for several days to several months. Many of them tend the animals alongside their own family pets.
Dr. Edwards has been a NAHS board member for about four years, and first became interested in NAHS when her youngest daughter, Marie, showed an interest in animals at an early age.
“We used to volunteer at the shelter, but it was hard because of our schedule,” Edwards said. “By fostering, I can help NAHS from home, and my family can share the experience.”
Even with her four children, ages 11, 14, 16 and 19, Edwards said fostering is “doable” in their busy lives.
During the past three years, the family has fostered eight batches of kittens.
“We help pregnant mother cats, or moms with kittens that are too young to be adopted,” she said.“When they reach 9 weeks or 2 pounds, they go to the shelter.”
Sometimes, the felines have special needs.
“We’ve had many different scenarios,” she said. “One cat had been hit by a car, and we gave her medicine, took her to the vet and nursed her back to health. We’ve bottle-fed kittens that could not nurse and helped malnourished mother cats return to a healthy weight.”
Edwards admits her background in medicine helps but is not necessary.
“All they typically need is food, water and love,” she said.
Fostering can touch the entire family. The animals are great playmates for younger children, and teens can claim their care of the animals as community service.
In the Edwards home, Marie, 11, is a big help socializing the kittens.
“Our dogs are older and don’t like to play so much, but the kittens always do,” she said.
She is very protective of them, especially when they are really young.
“My friends want to come over and see them, and they get a little crazy sometimes,” Marie said. “I’m like a second mother. I tell them to stay quiet around the kittens.”
Of course, the hardest part of fostering is eventually bringing the animal to the shelter. The moment is bittersweet, but I always tell families that by fostering, they are helping many more animals than if they just adopted one. Plus, they have made it possible for their animal friend to find a “forever home,” and that’s something to be happy about!
We are always seeking loving foster families for our cats and dogs. Contact us at 630-420-8989 or visit www.napervilleareahumanesociety.org.
Angie Wood is executive director of the Naperville Area Humane Society, a private, not-for-profit organization founded in 1979 to develop and implement animal welfare programs and services within Naperville and surrounding communities. Contact her at 630-420-8989 or visit www.napervilleareahumanesociety.org.