Fostering feral cats has become a new passion for one Ahwatukee Foothills family.
It began one day as the Hatchers sat down for a meal at the restaurant On the Border. Lori Hatcher and her daughter, Maddie, heard several cries of displeasure in the sweltering Arizona heat. Upon investigation into those cries, the mother and daughter discovered a mother cat and her kittens living under the restaurant.
"The kittens were very young and they didn't cry like any other cat I had heard," Lori said. "It was 110 degrees outside so Maddie and I decided we would do something for them."
With the help of the local rescue organization Cactus Cats, mother and daughter set up traps filled with tuna. After several attempts, they were able to catch all of them. The mother was fixed and released, but the kittens came home with the Hatchers.
"The mom was wild, there was no taming her," Lori said. "But we took the kittens home and cared for them."
Because each weighed less than 3 pounds, the kittens could not be fixed. But once they were, the Hatchers, through a weekly Cactus Cats adoption event at the Ahwatukee Foothills PETCO, were able to find homes for all of them.
"Butterball was really sad to give up," Maddie, 9, said of one of the kittens. "But it felt good that they got new homes, better than taking them to the pound."
Maddie, whose job it was to show the kittens attention every morning, sees fostering as a precursor to a career in helping animals.
"I want to be a vet," she said. "I watch a lot of the animal rescue shows on Animal Planet and I want to do something like that."
The Hatchers are fostering one right now, a cat named Chandler.
"He is a very sweet cat and we are trying to find a home for him right now," Lori said.
Cats like Chandler are available for adoption at PETCO on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cactus Cats also has cats up for adoption on the website www.Petfinder.com/shelters/AZ258.html.
Denise Cote of Cactus Cats said that another big part of what she does for stray cats, besides fostering, is TNR, or trap, neuter and return. Cote said she has done this out of her own pocket for 26 cats since she become involved in the cause.
"It is very important," she said. "It helps decrease the overpopulation."
The TNR program is part of the Animal Defense League of Arizona. To learn more, visit their website, www.ADLAZ.org.