Volunteer Spotlight: Amy Coy
Meet Amy and her family (also known as the Mighty Mew Crew), one of our life-saving feline fosters! Amy has been volunteering for the shelter for six years and has lots to share about what it takes to rescue the tiniest in our care.
Q. How long have you been a foster?
A. My 16-year-old daughter and I (my husband occasionally helps as well) have been fostering since 2016, so this is our 6th year fostering. We foster approximately 80 felines a year for a total of about 400 fosters over the years. The most fosters we have had in our home at a single time is 18 (in 2020, we had 17 at one time). Fortunately, we have multiple areas within our home that we can use to keep the litters separate. These have all been fosters from the Humane Society for Tacoma and Pierce County.
We mainly foster very fragile kittens (very young or sick), but we also foster momma’s with babies, pregnant mommas who give birth in our home, or older kittens and adult cats that are under social or have medical needs.
Because there is such a need for fosterers, we will take pretty much any feline in need as we want to give all animals a chance at life. Unfortunately, this has meant that we have lost many kittens to illness. As everyone deserves a home and family, even those that we have lost become a part of our family.
We have also fostered a baby bunny and now have two puppies.
When I ask people how many resident animals we have in our home, they usually guess ten cats and four dogs. Haha! They are very surprised to find out that we only have one resident pet, a medical needs foster kitten we adopted in 2019. Her name is Field Pea. She was a part of a group of foster kittens we called, The Pea Pod Crew (Momma Sweet Pea, and siblings who were named after species of peas; Snow Pea, Snap Pea, and Mr. Big Pea).
Field Pea loves, loves, loves everyone and everything — especially baby animals. She acts as their big sister/momma. Field cleans them up, sleeps with them, and teaches them manners. Field is definitely a critical part of our foster team.
Q. What made you want to foster for the Humane Society for Tacoma & Pierce County?
A. When my youngest daughter was 9-years-old (she is now 16), she begged my husband and me for a kitten or a puppy. We had an old cat and an old dog at the time and did not want to bring any more resident animals into our home. She finally talked us into a hamster (and then a second one when the first one passed away from old age). Then she begged us to at least foster kittens. After two years of wearing us down, we finally agreed to foster one litter.
We picked up a momma cat with five adorable babies. That litter was a dream litter, and so we agreed to foster a second litter.
When we picked up the second litter, a momma with six of the cutest kittens, the shelter staff warned us that the kittens had been born the day before and were premature. Therefore, we might lose some. What? We didn’t think that was possible. Three days later, the mother cat came down with a uterine infection and stopped producing milk.
We called asking what we should do. This was before the shelter had a robust foster department that bottle-fed neonates, and we were told that there were no available bottle-feeder foster homes. We immediately picked up medication for the momma cat, bottle feeding supplies, and sterile fluid solutions. The staff gave us lessons on everything, and we went home.
That week was the roughest ever. I did not get any sleep, and the smallest two kittens passed away…but we saved four kittens and momma! After that experience, I knew how great of a need there was for fosterers and that if we could survive that ordeal, we could take on anything.
We now mostly foster fragile kittens. They are often very young or very sick. We have dealt with most of the common and uncommon diseases such as panleukopenia, calicivirus, feline lice, ringworm, toxoplasmosis, etc. Additionally, we have had kittens that were born blind, born without an eye, born deaf, or had to have limbs amputated.
We call our litters “crews” and pick a theme to name them after. We call ourselves The Mighty Mew Crew and have a foster-only Facebook page of the same name.
Q. What does a day in your life look like when you have a litter of kittens?
A. We have kittens throughout the year. During the busy kitten season, we typically have at least two litters of foster kittens at the same time. We try to have different ages, one litter of neonates and an older litter that we can play with. Having a younger litter makes it easier to say goodbye to the older kittens when they are adopted, as we know we have more kittens at home waiting for us.
4 years ago, after having fostered many litters of tiny newborn kittens, I decided to purchase a pet incubator. Most fosters use the tried and true method of housing newborn kittens in a pet carrier with a heating disk. We were fostering so many litters of tinies that I wanted to make life a bit easier on myself. The incubator has temperature and humidity control and a clear glass door, so we can all sit and watch the little cuties for hours.
Our day is pretty much like any other fosterer, but perhaps with more bottle feeding and medication dispensing.
Q. What’s your favorite part?
A. What keeps us fostering is the staff at the shelter and the other volunteers. Certainly, we love seeing very sick kittens transform into healthy, social kittens who are adopted out to wonderful families, but it is the humans that keep us coming back. We know that it takes a team to foster our babies and that we only play one small part.
The wonderful vet staff is very knowledgeable about kittens and they take our concerns seriously. Their compassion for the animals they care for is second to none.
I honestly do not know how the Foster team does the remarkable job they do with such a limited number of staff. They are professional, organized, and stay on top of the thousands of felines that come through their department each year. I can always count on them for anything I need.
The top-notch adoption staff continuously provides the best service to adopters. I find adopters for the majority of the kittens I foster. Many of these are repeat adopters or friends of previous adopters. I know that when these adopters interact with the shelter staff, the interaction will be stellar. I ask each and every adopter to provide me with comments about their experience adopting their feline. I have never had a single adopter give anything but glowing reviews.
Other volunteers (especially other fosterers) provide a lot of my support. We have a Foster Facebook page that I often utilize to ask questions and seek help. Some so many fosterers have valuable experience that I don’t have, so this group is often my first go-to for information. My fellow fosterers also understand both how challenging and how rewarding fostering can be. I have made many friends within the foster group.
Meeting the adopters of our felines is the icing on the cake for us. We have put so much time, effort, and love into these felines that we really want to know the families that adopt them. We know that we will always worry about each foster, so our goal is to match the right kitten with the right family and to make sure that everyone is set up for success from day one. For us, nothing can beat seeing adopters meet their new furry family member for the first time.
Q. If you could give one piece of advice for a new foster parent, what would it be?
A. Ask for help early. If something seems off about a kitten, run the situation by the Foster staff and mentors. No question or concern is too small or silly. Everyone is there to help and will take you seriously. I have had kittens appear healthy in the morning, and by the evening, they are deathly ill. The quicker the treatment, the more likely they are to survive and the less stress you will encounter as a fosterer.
Q. Why are you so passionate about the work we do?
A. In our home, we are passionate about every living thing. Being able to make a small difference gives us an immense amount of joy.
I am a researcher by trade and a wanna-be Virologist. I thrive on finding out about every feline illness and treatment imaginable—the more obscure, the better. One benefit of having fostered so many kittens is that we have seen a lot of stuff. From every litter, we take the knowledge we gained from fostering them to use for future fosters litters.
My daughter and Field are on the socialization team. My daughter loves to show them off to her classmates virtually via Zoom. The two of them are constantly inventing new games for the kittens and cuddling with them.
Because we foster so many felines each year, we need a system and have adopted our own best practices. From food to housing to play, everything we do is done deliberately and with great thought.
Q. Any special stories you’d like to share?
A. I literally have hundreds of stories as each foster comes with their own tale. Every one of our fosters takes to their adoptive family a letter from us. That letter describes what we know about their new furry family member’s history, both before their time with us as well as their experience in our home. It also helps me to remember how every animal has touched our hearts.
Out of the hundreds of stories, I will share this one:
The Snow Crew:
On February 7, 2019, Tacoma was in the middle of a big snowstorm. Early that morning, a Good Samaritan found a newborn kitten alone, outside on the ground, in the snow. Being without a home himself, the man knew he needed to get the kitten to a safe place. He put the kitten in his pocket and started toward the only help he could think of, a human hospital.
As the Good Samaritan was walking to the hospital, he flagged down a Tacoma Police Officer. The kind officer got the kitten to Animal Control, who took the kitten to the shelter.
The kitten was very, very cold and hungry. Once he was looked over by vet staff, a Foster team member called us asking if we could foster him in our incubator.
We named the kitten Neve, which means “snow”.
Another kitten was found that same day. It, too, was a newborn orphan found outside in the snow. We named her Olwyn, which means “white footprint” or “footprint in the snow”.
We named the litter of Neve and Olwyn, The Snow Crew.
Both kittens had a rough start, but within a few days, they began to thrive. After 8 weeks in our care, each kitten went to their own perfect forever home.
The two kittens looked identical, same age, same coloring, etc. We will never know if they are blood siblings, but they certainly were meant to be siblings.
This story highlights all the compassionate people that came together to save the lives of these two tiny 3.5-ounce kittens. From the Good Samaritan to the Police Officer, to Animal Control, the shelter intake, vet, and foster staff, the volunteer fosterers, the adoption staff, and finally, to the adopters. Like I said earlier, it takes a team to save an animal, and our family only plays one small part.