Every day at 4 a.m., Kathy Harthan pulls herself out of bed to attend to her “children.” She feeds them, collects their laundry, administers their antibiotic pills, and tries to spend a few minutes of quality time with each one before she heads off to work.
It’s not easy when you’ve got 30.
Harthan’s children are cats - kittens mostly. The Valley woman rescues unwanted felines from the Spokane County Animal Shelter. She’s saved more than 200 so far.
Harthan is one of about 10 active members of Partners for Pets, a local group that cares for unwanted animals. All volunteer as pet foster parents.
Each Tuesday, members visit the county animal shelter at 2521 N. Flora Road. Using money donated to the group, they adopt dogs, cats, guinea pigs - even an occasional goat or pig. They look for cages marked with a black “P.” Animals in these cages are scheduled to be put to sleep the next day.
They choose animals with the best chance of finding permanent homes. They have them spayed, neutered, licensed, microchipped and vaccinated for feline leukemia. Then, they take them home until permanent owners can be found.
Harthan, who owns nine cats, two dogs and a tarantula of her own, keeps most of her foster pets in a spacious downstairs recreation room. But the heavy kitten season recently forced her to give up her guest bedroom also. A mother cat and her seven 4-week-old kittens have taken it over.
And still more animals need homes.
‘Right now, Harthan’s foster kids include Gus, Ginger, Snickers, Sinbad, Rusty, Ricky and 24 more. It’s Harthan’s duty to name each cat she cares for, a task that gets harder as her list of former children tops 200. She also must buy her own cat food, and special kitty food for the 26 kittens now in her home.
If the cats get sick - right now, several are taking antibiotics for upper respiratory infections - she must pay part of the cost for medicine and vet visits. And while she could have borrowed cages from Partners for Pets, she chooses to buy or build her own. One spacious cage measures 6 feet by 8 feet.
In Harthan’s rec room, mother cats are allowed to stretch out on the soft, cushioned sofas while they suckle their kittens. Harthan, a proud mom also, enjoys showing off her photo album, filled with pictures of past foster kittens and letters they’ve sent her after finding permanent homes.
Partners for Pets has placed over 700 animals since its creation 15 months ago. Last December, it formed a partnership with the PetsMart pet supply store at 14024 E. Sprague and began showing adoptable cats in the store. PetsMart now allows the group to house up to four adult cats and two litters there.
The arrangement has led to over 200 adoptions in the last eight months. It also means Harthan, and other volunteers, must visit the store several times each week to clean cages and check on the animals.
Harthan, who works full time as a stock room supervisor, doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, she sometimes takes motherless kittens to work so she can bottle-feed them throughout the day.
“My house is full, full, full,” Harthan said, with a smile. “But when I don’t have any cats to care for, I’m bored.”
For more information on Partners for Pets, call 226-1486.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
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