The idea of cat rescue appeals to you, but there’s so much that needs to be done – how can you help? We talk to an expert who spends all her time helping kitties in need.
Nikki Martinez is a cat foster mom who works as a volunteer for C5. She spends her days fostering the most fragile kittens before finding their forever homes. She also helps with TNR (trap/neuter/return), and she advocates for cats via her Instagram account.
Because Nikki has inspired so many, developed a strong following on social media, and has even been invited to speak at events around the country, we wanted to chat with her for a bit to learn about what goes into TNR, fostering, and adopting out stray kittens and cats. If you’re interested in learning more about rescue through fostering, definitely check out what Nikki had to say.
Related: TNR: What is It And How Does It Help Feral Cats?
What inspired you to start fostering kittens and cats?
Nikki: After a major surgery left me on bed rest for three months, I was finally permitted by my doctor to start driving again. It was at that time that I found a sick kitten in the road. I nursed her back to health, got her spayed, and adopted her to my aunt and uncle in California.
It might’ve seemed that I was there to help her, but she was there for me at a time when I needed her the most. It was right after that that I walked into my local SPCA and signed up to foster. That day, I took home a pregnant foster cat and she delivered her babies in my home 24 hours later.
Your Instagram account is impressive. You’ve gained a strong following, and people check in daily to view your photos, stories, and live videos. How long has your page been active? Why did you decide to start an account in the first place, and are you surprised by how big it’s become?
Nikki: I started my Instagram account, @myfosterkittens, about four years ago. I was actually posting my fosters on my personal Instagram and Facebook, but didn’t want to flood my friends’ feeds with cat pictures, so I created another account that would be devoted to my fosters.
Related: 5 Awesome Spay and Neuter Feral Cat Programs
I started the page a while ago, when there weren’t so many other foster accounts. It’s so great to see such a large online cat community now. It has become a great resource for saving so many cat lives and spreading awareness for things like spay/neuter, adoption, and fostering.
I love hearing people say that they were inspired by my posts to start fostering or even get involved with trapping and neutering/spaying stray cats in their own community. To be able to use social media for more than just posting cute kitten pictures is fantastic!
You often post about your experiences in TNR, sometimes even doing live streams of your efforts in trapping kitties and getting them in for spaying/neutering and medical treatment. What’s the process like, and why do you advocate for TNR so strongly?
Nikki: I work as a volunteer trapper with an organization in Las Vegas called C5. Those in the community call C5 and request assistance in neutering/spaying the strays in their neighborhood. The job requests are put on a list for trappers to contact. I usually take jobs that are close to my home.
Over the years, I have taken in kittens to foster. It’s tough because I can only take in kittens if I have space to foster. That’s why it’s important for people to know that fostering saves lives. If there are no fosters available, my hands are tied and I have to put the kittens back outside where we found them after they’ve been neutered/spayed.
I take in critical care and motherless newborn kittens to foster. I honestly got tired of seeing these poor kittens suffer because someone didn’t spay their mother. To know that the simple act of spaying/neutering a cat will prevent countless kittens from being born on the street to suffer before they die (from things like cars, weather, disease, animal or human predators) lights a fire under me to keep going.
Getting back to your fostering efforts, how do you get all of the resources that you need for your fosters? Also, what criteria and process do you use to find the perfect homes for them?
Nikki: I have fostered kittens both through rescue organizations and on my own at my own expense. When fostering through a rescue organization, they provide the basic supplies and basic medical care (vaccines, spay/neuter, etc.). I’ve also received some donations for the kittens in my care.
I really try to place kittens in homes in pairs, or into a home that already has a cat. Kittens can be lonely if left home alone all day. I want to make sure that they go to a home that’s prepared to care for them for the next 20+ years.
You have resident cats, along with multiple fosters at any given time. How do you protect both your resident kitties and fosters from getting sick?
Nikki: I’m a firm believer in quarantine. My fosters have their own space in my home. They don’t get to share food bowls or litter boxes with my resident cats until they’ve tested negative for disease.
Fostering can be challenging, so what advice would you give to those who want to start? And do you have advice for those who want to socialize feral cats and kittens?
Nikki: I always suggest that people contact their local cat rescue or animal shelter. Let them know that you’d like to start fostering. They’ll match you with cats or kittens that fit your lifestyle.
If you’re working away from home, for example, ask for an adult cat, or ask for kittens that are eating on their own. If you have a more flexible schedule, motherless newborns that require round-the-clock bottle feeding are at the greatest risk of being euthanized in municipal shelters, so they need the most help.
My goal is to help kittens become healthy, happy, social, and ready for their forever homes. While it isn’t impossible to socialize a feral cat, my time and resources are better spent trying to help kittens who are much easier to socialize and get adopted out.
With kittens, I make sure to give them a place to feel safe while gently pushing them out of their comfort zone. I try to get them to associate happy things with being around people and normal household noises. I use toys and treats to do that, and I handle them as much as possible.
You’re continually motivating a lot of people to get involved in rescue, but who inspires you?
Nikki: I’m inspired by those who are doers: those who see cats and kittens in need of help and are there to step up and help them, and those who see stray cats in their community and make sure they’re neutered/spayed so they aren’t continuing the cycle.
Is there anything else that you’d like to add regarding cat rescue?
Nikki: While fostering is fantastic and life-saving, TNR (trap/neuter/return) is even better! Spaying and neutering the feral strays in your community prevents so much suffering. Call your local shelter, ask to borrow a trap, and get those cats into a spay/ neuter clinic. Kittens are certainly cute, but with approximately 2,300 being euthanized
in municipal shelters every day, they need us to help fix the problem that humans created in the first place.