Bernie, a grey tabby cat, with striking white tufts on her ears, is as cute as a button. Her matching white bib and paws add to her overall adorableness. But tiny kittens are as fragile as they are irresistible – prone to illness and requiring specialized care – kittens of all ages don’t do well in a high volume shelter environment. The shy kitten was found in West Valley City and luckily there’s a place designed just for her to go. The Best Friends Kitten Nursery in Salt Lake City welcomed Bernie, and over 1,300 more kittens, into the facility last season. While the Kitten Nursery is a wonderful place to get the care these kittens need, it’s the legion of foster folks who increase the ability for the facility to save more lives and provide further socialization to help the kittens grow into terrific companion animals.
Bringing it all home
Lydia LaSalle, senior manager of support services for Best Friends Animal Society-Utah, loves fostering shy cats and bringing them out of their shell. When she met Bernie, Lydia saw she was very shy and needed extra attention. To get her the additional TLC Lydia decided to take Bernie home. She quickly became one of Lydia’s favorite fosters. “She loves playing with her string toy, she chirps and trills,” says Lydia. “She makes very unique noises that are so cute.”
With Bernie being more fearful of attention than seeking it, Lydia put a plan in place to help her. “We were really patient, I spent a lot of time being in the room with her so she would get used to me,” says Lydia. One of the ways Best Friends-Utah helps educate volunteers on working with dogs and cats of every stripe is by offering clicker training classes. Lydia used the knowledge she learned during the class to help Bernie overcome her shyness. By using clicker training methods based on positive interactions with food and humane contact, Bernie’s confidence and trust of Lydia increased. Lydia also took the steps to get Bernie more acclimated to people by just sitting and reading to her. That special time was called shy cat story time, and it helped Bernie become more relaxed.
Who’s that girl?
One day Bernie surprised Lydia by approaching her and her husband on her own. They knew a corner had been turned when she further became a big purr bug and started rolling on her back initiating tummy rubs. Lydia knew the sweet kitten was ready for her forever home.
Lisa Apodaca saw Bernie’s adoption profile online and knew she would be hers. When Lisa met Bernie, the attraction was cemented – she adopted her on the spot. Lisa also has a soft spot for shy cats and felt like Bernie would fit right into her home. She was right.
“Today is 3 months that I've had her and I never would have thought she would come this far is such a short amount of time,” says Lisa. “I don't think she can be any happier.” Bernie is queen of the house and follows Lisa around. She loves to sleep with Lisa at night and when she comes home from work, Bernie is waiting on the stairs for her.
Bernie was the last foster kitten of last season, and her fairly quick turnaround from elusive kitten to loving companion cat is a testament to what foster mean to saving many more lives. This season the Best Friends Kitten Nursery is poised to save many more lives thanks to foster folks who have some love and room to spare.
Learn more about the Best Friends Kitten Nursery.