Saving kittens and raising awareness with social media
Abdul and Shamiyan didn’t grow up with cats, but these days, their lives revolve around kittens. Their home is constantly filled with the sounds of purring and playing, and they make sure to catch the silliest (and snuggliest) moments on camera. It’s a whole lot of fluffy fun, but it’s also important lifesaving work.
The couple foster orphaned kittens for local shelters and rescue groups in the Washington, D.C., area, taking in the fragile felines and caring for them until they are ready to be adopted. They’ve become pros at bottle-feeding kittens, medicating those who are sick, and socializing the ones who can’t make heads or tails of what a human is. They share each kitten’s story on their Instagram account, @AbdulsCats, promoting them for adoption as well as answering feline-focused questions from their growing number of followers.
It all started with one very special foster cat.
“I’ve always wanted a cat, but my parents weren’t on board,” Shamiyan explains. “As soon as I had my own place, I started fostering.” She was taking care of Bambi — a shy, green-eyed tabby cat who liked to hide under the bed — when she and Abdul met, and it was a love story all around.
“She warmed up eventually and really grew on me,” Abdul says. “She became playful and loved getting pets and treats.” As Bambi came out of her shell and started laying on the charm, it became clear she was settling into life with these two humans she now considered hers. It didn’t take long before the family was official: Abdul and Shamiyan adopted Bambi and got married.
“After seeing her transformation,” says Shamiyan, “we knew we wanted to continue fostering and help more cats grow and get comfortable before adoption.”
In the three years since then, the family has fostered and found homes for more than 80 kittens — and they have no plans to slow down anytime soon. In fact, in the future, they hope to start their very own cat rescue group.
“Ask me about my cat,” reads the latest T-shirt available in the @AbdulsCats shop — so we did just that. In the following interview, find out more about Abdul and Shamiyan, their feline foster family, and their recent trip to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
What does Bambi think of her foster siblings?
Shamiyan: She’s always a little wary at first; she’ll come around and sniff them when they’re asleep and then run in the opposite direction.
Abdul: It takes a few days, but Bambi eventually warms up to all the kittens and sits with them and helps keep them clean by teaching them her adult-cat ways.
Why did you decide to share your foster journey online?
Shamiyan: I actually started the @AbdulsCats account. I had accumulated all these sweet and funny videos of Abdul interacting with our foster kittens. I thought it was really cute and wanted to share the fun. There were a lot of benefits to starting an account, including sharing each cat's fostering journey and helping them get adopted as well.
Abdul: Yeah, and as our account grew, it became easier to get kittens adopted, and we learned a lot from the cat community online too.
The internet is full of cats. What do you think brings followers to yours?
Shamiyan: I think our account is a great place to find joy. Sharing the positivity and outright cuteness of our foster kittens has been great.
Abdul: And there is always more! So a foster kitten’s journey can be followed until they’re adopted (and sometimes even after), but you always know there are more cats coming.
Could you share a particularly memorable experience you’ve had while fostering?
Abdul: We learned a lot from one of our more recent foster kittens, Mica. He was two days old when we got him, and he needed feeding every two hours. We weren’t prepared for the commitment and sleeplessness that required, but he’s also the kitten we’ve learned the most from after more than four years in fostering. It helped me better understand how vulnerable younger kittens are and the amount of care and time that goes into helping them grow.
Shamiyan: Mica was also particularly fluffy and cute but didn’t know how to act like a cat very well. It was great when we were able to bring in (Jack), another foster kitten his age, and see Mica and Jack grow together.
What brought you to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary?
Abdul: We’ve heard of Best Friends Animal Society and even did a few campaigns supporting their work. We didn’t know much about the Sanctuary though. We were visiting a nearby national park and decided to visit.
Shamiyan: It’s nothing like we’ve ever seen. If you could imagine a perfect rescue animal haven, this is it. It was so moving to see so many different types of animals with the space and resources they need to heal and grow. They were being cared for by the kindest staff who were so welcoming and helpful.
Abdul: Yeah, it was really a special place to be. We immediately started making plans for when we could come back and spend more time there.
Which areas did you visit? What would you say was the highlight of your trip?
Shamiyan: We got a pretty thorough tour, so we saw a little bit of everything. I loved seeing the goats, but I’m biased, so my favorite part was the cats!
Abdul: Cat World was great. There were several buildings housing all sorts of cats. We met some really sweet cats at the adoption hub — if you remember Meteor from our video. The senior cats were also great, so affectionate and just happy to be there.
Was there anything that surprised you during your visit?
Abdul: I was surprised at the size of the Sanctuary and how it catered to so many different animals. I like how they each had their own place and so much space to roam.
Shamiyan: I was surprised that this place even existed. It is such a thoughtful place that really takes into account what each animal needs to not only survive, but to thrive. It’s also worth mentioning how beautiful the nature in the surrounding area is.
Did you find any inspiration for your own goal of opening a cat rescue group?
Abdul: What it really helped me realize is how much organization, effort and support goes into running an effective rescue. We have a lot of research to do and so much to learn!
Do you have a superpower, and if so, what would that be?
Abdul: We’ve both developed the superpower of being able to let our fosters go. It's so hard not to adopt each one, but after adopting Bambi, we knew we couldn’t adopt any more and continue to foster. And that’s the goal of fostering anyway: preparing the cats to be happy and comfortable in their new home.
Shamiyan: It's funny because we talk each other down. Every once in a while we’ll have a foster kitten one of us really considers adopting, but we have to remind the other of our goal of continuing to foster.
What would you tell others who are thinking of fostering?
Abdul: Be prepared to adopt your foster pets! Just kidding. I would tell them to prepare properly by reading up on what cats need, reviewing resources from the rescue, watching informational videos, etc. Once you have a good idea of cat care and needs, it comes naturally. Foster animals might have experienced a lot but can improve and grow so much with the right love and care.