Sarah Karsh and Nikki Tan help little felines get a good start in life. They have fostered 37 so far.
By Wanda Wierzbicki
Sarah Karsh and Nikki Tan often have to get up overnight to feed litters of tiny kittens. If the kittens are only a day or two old they can be up at midnight, 2 a.m., 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., which can be very tiring. But Sarah and Nikki are happy to help the little bundles of fur get a start in life. They have been fostering kittens since May 2019 and have fostered 37 so far.
Nikki started volunteering with Toronto Cat Rescue (torontocatrescue.ca) in 2018 as a Cat Caretaker. The responsibilities included feeding cats, cleaning cages, administering meds and providing cuddles. A year before COVID hit, she and Sarah decided to start fostering.
Looking back, Nikki said, they really did not know what they were getting into. They attended a TCR workshop that taught kitten basics and they watched a lot of videos by Hannah Shaw, also known as the Kitten Lady, and still often refer to her kitten care textbook “Tiny but Mighty.” Veterinarian costs are covered by TCR, but Nikki and Sarah provide the transportation, food, litter, toys and love.
Recently they received a litter of four orphaned kittens that had been born overnight and then rejected by their mother. Sarah and Nikki already had a litter of four kittens that were only four weeks old. Usually they prefer to take only one litter at a time. The orphans have to be fed a special formula every two hours. Nikki and Sarah are hoping the mother cat of the older litter will accept the orphans. All eight kittens are in the same big box with the mother cat and she is tolerating the orphans.
The kittens usually leave their box when they are around two weeks old. Around six weeks of age, they learn to escape from the bedroom and roam free in the house.
Nikki and Sarah also have three cats and a dog of their own. Their cats and dog are accustomed to having the little “terrors” around. Akira, a rescue dog, is great with the kittens and lets them play with her tail and climb all over her. Their cats can get jealous and sometimes growl, but the kittens don’t really mind.
The kittens stay with the foster family until they are about 1 kg, at which time they are spayed or neutered and vaccinated. This is usually when they are about two months old. Adoption is handled by TCR. Sarah and Nikki write a bio for each one and meet virtually with successful adopters to ensure the kittens go to the best home.
Sarah and Nikki form a special bond with each kitten and say it can be hard to see them go to their forever homes, but the intention is never to keep them. “It’s hard to stay sad when you see how excited people are to welcome a new addition to their family,” said Nikki. They often get updates from the people who have adopted their kittens. But she said she would be lying if she said that no tears have been shed.