KAMLOOPS - The phrase ‘labour of love’ pales to describe Valerie Wilson’s commitment to the welfare of animals in Kamloops, even feral cats and kittens.
For Wilson, who is an employee at the local SPCA branch and opens up her home to foster animals, their very survival is her responsibility.
“You’re saving lives. If you don’t do it, who will?” Wilson says.
She admits her reasoning is extreme and has led her to the verge of burnout. But as the animal welfare supervisor with the Kamloops B.C. SPCA branch, what she’s seen can’t be unseen.
Wilson not only fosters the cats, she also helps trap the feral kittens in an effort to rehabilitate and, hopefully, rehome. Many of the kittens she has brought to the shelter have sinus or eye infections, are abnormally small for their age and the victims of inbreeding – born with limbs so bow-legged they could not walk.
There are so many cats the SPCA has had no choice but put a number of them down.
“It’s just, we have to. There’s nowhere else for these cats to go.”
Admittedly, the stresses of these animals’ welfare take a toll. Wilson has been fostering for nearly 10 years, beginning back when she first started as a volunteer with the shelter. The problem persists today — as much of an issue then as it is now — but she continues with her work.
“They’ve had a crappy, crappy start to their lives. If you can give them a good ending, for me; why wouldn’t you?” Wilson explains. “It’s so rewarding to take this little thing that’s instinct is to fight and flee and then you turn it around and it becomes this creature that has to sit on your shoulder and nuzzle your ear. It’s good for your soul and it’s good for the animals.”
The Kamloops SPCA needs volunteers to help foster feral kittens like Dizzy and Sid.
(DANA REYNOLDS /InfoTel Multimedia)
Wilson says the SPCA will provide foster homes with everything you need, from food to supplies like cat crates. All a foster parent requires is time — time and penchant for snuggling.
“Hug them, maul them, love the crap out of them,” she says, noting if the kittens start to rely on humans for affection, they will learn to trust and be able to be rehomed.
In a technique called flooding, fostered kittens are put in wire crates open to the sites, smells and noises of a home. Instead of hiding in the darkest, smallest corner of the house, they are forced to be part of everyday life.
“We want to get them used to activity, noise, things happening. Nothing hurts them; it is scary but eventually... they will get over it,” she explains.
Wilson says flooding is a technique that only works for kittens, not adult cats, which is why only the smallest are fostered.
“This to an adult would be too shocking.”
Kittens can be removed from the crate and swaddled like a baby or what Wilson calls a ‘purr-ito.’ The tight wrap prevents escape and protects foster parents from anxious teeth and claws.
“Walk them by the dishwasher, the flushing toilet, the washing machine, sit there watching Walking Dead re-runs,” she says, noting anything helps to get the kittens used to the home.
But the best part of being a foster parent?
“After a hard day it’s nice to be able to go home and play with kittens.”
Wilson’s work is not without its challenges. She witnesses the circle of life and death on a daily basis. While there are many kittens who didn’t meet her in time, Wilson continues on for the ones she knows she can help.
“At least you’re saving some, at least you’re giving these guys a chance.”
(DANA REYNOLDS /InfoTel Multimedia)
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