Moving to Penticton with her family four years ago, then 14-year-old Emily Phillips found a volunteer opportunity that was right up her alley.
It was during a Christmas craft fair she saw an AlleyCATS Alliance booth with some rescued feral kittens that needed to be cared for.
A short time later she started going to the facility to help look after the cats and kittens and then Phillips were approached about becoming feline foster family.
“When they asked, I’m like ‘we have a grouchy old cat’ but we decided to do it,” recalled Emily’s mom, Charity. “On the Island Emily had done a lot of volunteering at the soup kitchen but when we moved here she wasn’t old enough, so this was great.”
Emily and her younger sister Erin, 14, are now both volunteers and share in the duties of fostering their four-legged house guests.
“We’ve had a continuous stream of kittens ever since we started because there’s so many on the streets,” said Emily. “We keep them until they’re about 10 to 12 weeks old, or until they’re two pounds, so they can go and get spayed or neutered but if they’re sick or anything’s wrong with them we keep them longer.”
AlleyCATS mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and, where possible, adopt out feral and orphaned cats and kittens. The where possible means they have to be socialized.
“They have to be able to go to homes, they have to be able to be with a family or dogs and that’s why they like putting them in our house because we have a dog and we have kids and a grumpy cat,” said Charity.
Added Emily: “The dog loves them but he’s sort of scared of them but he always tries to be friendly and be like a mom cat and tries to lie beside them.”
They are currently fostering four kittens 7-up, Pepsi, Sprite and Fanta.
“I just enjoy having the kittens and playing with them all the time they’re so cute,” said Erin. “The hard part is letting them go when they’re going to homes and stuff, you just sort of have to unattach yourself from them.
“It’s kind of hard to see them leave because you get really close to them over the time but you know that you’ve done something really good.”
What makes it a little easier according to Emily: “As soon as they’re gone there’s more on the way.”
And even if the kittens are not suitable to go to another family, there is an option.
“They’ll go to farms to catch mice which is fine. They will still have a good life,” said Emily.
The biggest number of kittens the Phillips have fostered at one time is eight.
There was also another time when they had to care for a kitten which had been found frozen to the pavement.
“All the pads on her little feet were torn off and were bleeding,” recalled Charity, adding they have only had to have one kitten put down due to illness during their fostering.
According to AlleyCATS business manager Debbie Firman, if it wasn’t for people like the Phillips, the society would not be able to do the work it does.
“Without foster families there would be no one to look after the the cats and kittens,” she said. “To humanize them, that’s probably the important part of being a foster parent.
“You don’t leave them in a room by themselves, you interact with them, you cuddle them you feed them you play with them, you turn them into a pet.”
AlleyCATS is holding a special fundraiser Oct. 17, the third annual Cat Scootin’ Boogie Pub Night at Tug’s Tap House on Martin Street.
Live music, food, beverages, door prizes and a silent auction for tickets to Rod Stewart, John Mellencamp and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band will be part of the evening.
Tickets are $25 with all proceeds go to spaying/neutering (critical) medical/food supplies for cats and kittens and are available at Jardin Antiques in Okanagan Falls, Total Pet, Bosley’s and Tug’s Tap House in Penticton.