We Chat With Beth Stern About Her Life as a Foster Cat Mom
The first time I met Beth Stern, Howard Stern's wife, she was hosting an event at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City on behalf of the North Shore Animal League. Matilda, the hotel’s famous resident cat, was adopted from the organization, and Beth stood giggling amongst the guests and describing the fabulous outfits in the feline fashion show, which was the highlight of the occasion. Beth, mom of cats Apple, Walter, Leon Bear and Charlie, knows a thing or two about cats.
Recently, the actress, model, and animal activist was a speaker at an event hosted by Purina in New York City, called Better With Pets. Speakers from all spheres of the pet world shared their work, ideas and pet passions with each other and the media. For Stern, it was an opportunity to talk about her adopted pet family, how her life is better with pets and, her latest passion, rescuing and fostering kittens. She has even gotten her famous husband, Howard Stern, involved. He is having fun photographing the cats and then sharing their stories on his radio show to ensure that the kittens get fabulous forever homes.
Here's video of the Algonquin Hotel benefit and kitty fashion show:
“I have seen firsthand how mutually beneficial having pets can be,” Beth told me. “My childhood pets were always considered members of our family. They were my confidants, my students when I played teacher as a child, my outdoor playtime partners. Even now, my pets are my very best friends. It made me realize that I didn’t want kids; I just wanted more pets."
Bianca taught Beth to take in the beauty of the world and not rush, and she says that the dog was very accepting when they adopted their first cat, named Apple. "She was bald and in a very sorry state," said Beth.
“When Bianca passed away last summer, I truly felt I lost a piece of me. Then I woke up one day decided that I wanted to do more with animals. While adopting adult cats is very rewarding, I decided that I wanted to foster kittens, too."
It was June and kitten season, and thus the shelters were overcrowded with both cats and kittens. Stern turned to her associates at North Shore Animal League and they helped arrange for her to visit a local municipal shelter and save a litter of kittens from being euthanized.
“I came home with six kittens and I will never forget Howard's face when he came home to find them running all around and climbing on our curtains!” she said.
A besotted animal lover, Howard Stern instantly became involved in Beth’s new project. “He took such joy in naming each kitten,” said Beth. “He’s an avid photographer -- a newfound hobby -- and he instantly started photographing the kittens and posting the photographs on his radio show website and encouraging his radio listeners to apply to adopt one of ‘Beth’s Fosters.'”
And, according to Stern, the applications started pouring in. After reviewing all applications with the adoption counselors at NSALA, Beth and Howard personally screened and spoke to each potential family and finally delivered the kittens to their new homes.
“My first thought after they’d all gone was how can I not continue doing this?” said Stern. “Fostering the first litter had truly been a life changing experience for me. I remember when we said good-bye to that first foster litter, both Howard and I had tears streaming down our faces. He looked at me and said, ‘Can’t we just keep them all?’"
“Personally, I never knew how strong I could be after having nurtured these little babies and then having to hand them off to never see them again. I still cry like a baby each time I have to say good-bye, but I am in contact with every family and they keep me informed of how they are thriving.”
To stay in touch with the kittens and their families, Beth set up a Facebook page called Bianca’s Furry Friends, where adopters can post photographs and discuss their kittens.
The very day the last foster kitten from her original foster litter was delivered to his new home, Beth was back at the municipal shelter and came home with a mama cat and three two-day-old kittens. Howard named the mother cat Grace. Soon the application process started all over again.
“I remember an application from the mother of a precious four-year-old little girl named Lorelei. She had recently lost her cat due to old age. She adopted one kitten and then applied to adopt more. They now have four and named them Henry, Cookie, Charlotte, and Sam.”
Despite her role as kitten foster mama, Beth has a special place in her heart for adult foster cats, too.
Kitna is a blind cat who was found wandering the streets and brought to a municipal shelter. NSALA learned about her and pulled her from the shelter to discover that she was also pregnant. The blind cat and her litter became Beth’s next foster family. It was decided that Kitna needed to have her eyes removed to make her more comfortable.
“The surgeon detected that she could see shadows in one eye, so he removed just one and performed an operation on her 'good' eye,” explained Beth. "While nurturing her and guiding her and administering her eye drops six times a day, we started calling her Bella. She just wormed her way in to our hearts, and our own cats were also quite happy to have her around.”
Howard started talking about her on his radio show and the applications to adopt her started coming in. While this was going on, Beth recalled how Howard asked if she was making any progress with the adoption applications. “Then he said to me. ‘Well, no need to. We both know she is home.’”
To date the Sterns have fostered 44 kittens and don’t plan on stopping. And remember, for those who apply for “Beth’s Fosters,” she and Howard deliver them personally to their new homes!
Do you know of a rescue hero — cat, human, or group — we should profile on Catster? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author: Sandy Robins is an award-winning multimedia pet lifestyle expert and author and spokesperson. She is the 2013 recipient of the Outstanding Journalism and Contribution to the Pet Industry award, presented by the American Pet Products Association. Her third cat book, The Original Cat Bible, will be on bookshelves spring 2014. She lives in southern California with her family and fur kids cats Fudge and Ziggy, and has been voted “favorite auntie” by every dog on the block. Follow her on Facebook.