To call Beth Stern a cat lover would be an understatement.
The longtime animal activist is not only North Shore Animal League America's national spokesperson as well as a volunteer for the organization, she and husband Howard Stern are foster parents to an endless rotation of kittens and cats. Beth Stern spoke about her experience fostering cats at the league's 2016 Lewyt Humane Awards Luncheon.
"The ultimate goal of fostering is to get kittens and cats adopted," Beth Stern explained. "I take the kittens when they're very young. We wait until they're a certain weight and then get them spayed and neutered, and get them 'ready to fly,' so to speak. So we take kittens who aren't ready to be adopted out of the shelter environment and bring them into a home environment; socialization occurs and they become these cuddle bugs that end up in people's homes."
Raising awareness about fostering and adoption is a big goal, as well.
"Through my Instagram, I'm always posting pictures of kitten fosters and if it inspires one person to go to his or her local shelter and adopt, it's worth it."
Kittens aren't the only ones Stern gives her time and attention to, however.
"I'm also focusing a lot on special-needs adult cats. It's really the most rewarding experience. My husband and I have two blind cats."
This time of year is "kitten season," Stern explains, meaning that municipal shelters are overcrowded with strays in need of foster or permanent homes. That's why Stern say she's excited about North Shore Animal League America's upcoming Bianca's Furry Friends Feline Adoption Center, a capital campaign project that will expand the league's adoption center. (Net proceeds from the Lewyt Humane Awards Luncheon went toward Bianca's Furry Friends.)
"It was a dream of mine just two years ago and to have actually raised the money and be on target to break ground in a few months is really, truly a dream come true," Stern said. "It's going to be a cage-free habitat for the top floor and free up the entire downstairs for more puppy mill and adult dog rescues, so dogs are benefitting, as well."
The new state-of-the-art adoption center will feature a feline wellness center and a grooming room, among other amenities, making it a comfortable habitat for these cats while they await their forever homes.
Said Stern, "I'm hoping it will set an example for shelters all across the United States."
While Stern says the opening of Bianca's Furry Friends is probably still a few years away, they will hopefully be breaking ground at the end of the summer.
"When I spend time at North Shore Animal League America, I always feel so sad for the cats, especially the kittens," said Stern. "Once they're at North Shore, they're safe and I know they're going to find homes, but it's that time in between that they're in cages and waiting to find homes that breaks my heart and I feel like their spirits are gone. I feel like they will thrive in this new situation and I'm so excited for them."