Jean J. - November 2021 Volunteer of the Month

Jean J. fosters kittens, and cats with medical or behavioral needs while enjoying some purr therapy as well. Community support is an important part of our shelter system. She is happy to be part of the positive community at Multnomah County Animal Services.

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Volunteer Beginnings

Jean J. grew up in a house full of pets. “My Mom was truly kind, whenever an animal ‘followed us home,’ we could keep them,” Jean says. “Growing up with this menagerie was a childhood nirvana for me. They added much to our family, they do become members after all. Why don’t more animals purr, I always wondered?”

Jean started fostering in 2013 after reading a Multnomah County Animal Services invitation for community support. The goal was to save animal lives, especially cats and kittens, and increase the live release rate. Having fosters provides additional space and socialization which leads to better adoption outcomes. She went to a volunteer meeting with several friends, and they all signed up. Her friends ended up adopting their foster animals, which “I get, it’s hard to resist that purr!" Jean hasn’t adopted yet, but it has been close a few times.

Jean tends to specialize in fostering cats with health issues, because the isolation ward of the shelter has very limited capacity. “With no other pets in our house, we need not worry about transmission of their colds.” Jean also fosters cats that need behavioral support and some that just need a timeout from shelter life. She has an unpredictable travel schedule and fostering fits well.

Tricks of the Trade

Jean was nervous about fostering kittens, and began with adult cats. “Pill pockets, special animal soundtracks, confident cat protocols, and stuffed animals are some of the tricks I learned. When cats come from the shelter, they can be shut down and fearful, especially if they are ill. Patience and routines is my approach. Some cats need more time or 1-1 attention, while others need a space to grow or heal or just to chase a feather.” For Jean there is nothing as heartwarming as hearing the first purr as their inner kitty comes out.

Jean started with just a small space in a laundry room. “We converted a small craft room to be a larger, dedicated space for the cats. We installed LVT flooring, nicely waterproof, for accidents and sanitation. We have fostered as many as 3 cats at a time in this bigger space. We jokingly call it “The Kitty Spa." Each guest spends a few days at the Spa. As they demonstrate good box manners and interact comfortably, they graduate to larger spaces. The Spa is filled with toys from neighbors and treats, they get spoiled rotten. My neighbors have been generous donating cat beds, toys, food, and their time in helping the cats adjust.”

Fire and Ice

“We fostered a pair of kittens named Fire and Ice. It was the first time we had fostered two animals. A neighbor adopted them so we still get to see them, I think they still remember us.”

Little Lucky

Jean fostered one kitten that was rescued by local firemen from a sewer grate. “This little kitten came to the shelter quite sick and malnourished. Foster volunteers sometimes get to name the kittens. We called this little one, Lucky. The name stuck as his adoptive family thought it fit him too. What a loud purr! He was a special little lucky one and almost stayed with us.”

Support from Shelter Staff

Jean appreciates the help she receives from shelter staff, at all levels. “One foster kitten was really failing to thrive. I was worried, cats can be so much sicker than they appear. The veterinary team was fast in assessing the situation and gave the care he needed to get over a GI obstruction, before he was returned to foster and then adopted. My schedule is unpredictable and their flexibility for pickups and drop-offs is a big plus. Also a big thank you to the front desk- you keep things rolling along.”

“All the staff have been helpful, whatever the situation. Roberta is a gem for me, such a knowledgeable CVT. She’s calm, collected, and always has a plan B if plan A is a bust. She takes the time to talk with me about any concerns or questions, which I appreciate.”

Thoughts for Interested Foster Volunteers

Jean encourages community members to become foster volunteers. “Pets add so much to our lives and strays are a human-created problem. Fostering helps the shelter and the animals during crowded times. This leads to more adoptions to fur-ever homes.”

Jean is supported in her foster work by her husband, who is “a great cat papa, and many cats bond with him immediately. He is a big part of the team, helping in litter box duties and totally enjoying feather chasing sessions with the cats.”

Jean is a retired engineer, and has lived in Portland for 30+ years. When the “Kitty Spa” is empty she is often out in the Gorge hiking. Jean enjoys biking and kayaking too.

Thank you, Jean, for your service to the pets and people of Multnomah County as a Foster Volunteer.

Volunteer of the Month
Jean J with foster
Jean J with fosters
One of Jean's fosters