A premature kitten’s journey
With his waif-like appearance and soulful big eyes, Dooney looked like he could have stepped out of a Margaret Keane painting. One of the first kittens in 2019 to come through the Best Friends foster program in Los Angeles, Dooney received gifts that the new year symbolically brings to all of us: new hope, a new beginning and a fresh start.
Born prematurely in late November at an L.A. city shelter, Dooney was the only surviving kitten of a litter of two. It would be months before tiny Dooney would be big enough to be adopted, so he and his mother, Dior, were transferred to the kitten nursery at the Best Friends Lifesaving Center in Los Angeles. In the nursery, staff and volunteers looked after Dooney and Dior around the clock.
Still, Dooney struggled to thrive. Despite best efforts from his mama, he wasn’t getting sufficient nourishment from nursing alone and it became necessary to bottle-feed him formula. Ever so slowly, Dooney put on weight and eventually graduated to eating gruel, while continuing to bond with his mama. But he still remained skinny and small for his age. The nursery staff knew something wasn’t quite right and that Dooney required something more.
While the kitten nursery saves thousands of neonate kittens each year, it’s not a home. “We knew what he really needed was to be placed in a foster environment, where it would be less stressful and he’d get more individual attention,” said Nicole Wisneskie, a Best Friends kitten nursery lead in L.A.. That’s when Andrea Murphy stepped up and opened up her heart and home to the struggling mother and kitten.
A devoted foster volunteer, Andrea has a room in her house dedicated to fostering cats and kittens in need. The 2018 kitten season was particularly intense in Los Angeles and Andrea more than answered the call by fostering mama cats and their kittens exclusively. Dooney and Dior were the 26th and 27th fosters taken in and cared for by Andrea.
Within a few days at Andrea’s home, Dooney turned a corner. He started eating more, his energy skyrocketed, his personality bloomed, and his confident and playful side emerged. Curious and brave, Dooney ventured out of his room to explore the rest of Andrea’s home, where he became enamored with Andrea’s resident adult cats and fearlessly “booped” them on the nose.
Keeping a kitten warm
“His personality just came out,” said, Andrea. “And when he got tired, he would jump up on the sofa, climb onto my chest and fall asleep. And I’d bring him back to his room to be with his mom.”
Dooney and Andrea soon developed a routine. One of his favorite rituals each morning and night was when she heated up his warming disc, a microwaveable device that helps kittens regulate their body temperature. When Andrea brought it in to him, he would jump onto it, lie down and curl up to soak up the warmth.
Dooney had the best of all worlds: a quiet safe space to rest, nourishment to help him grow, a mother to teach him cat manners, adult cats to patiently teach him how to play, and a selfless foster volunteer who made all the above possible. Dior was also able to get the rest, recuperation and socialization necessary for transition into a forever home.
Dooney gets adopted
Dooney is only the first of thousands of kittens whose lives will be saved in 2019 by the L.A. kitten nursery and foster program. His story, like so many others, is proof positive of how impactful and important foster programs are. And while the need in Los Angeles is great due to the warm climate that results in a long and robust kitten season, dozens of cities all over the country also need foster volunteers.
Dooney’s foster home has provided him and his mother with a picture-perfect happy ending. Rested and recuperated, Dior went to the NKLA Center, where she’s sure to get adopted soon. And after just a few weeks in foster care, Dooney was ready to be adopted into a permanent home too. Shortly after Andrea brought him back to the center, that’s exactly what happened.