It’s always nice to hear that Catster inspires our readers. I was especially excited to hear about 15-year-old Blake Austin, who, according to her mom, has been an avid reader of Catster (and Cat Fancy) ever since she learned how to read. Blake is also a volunteer at Midcoast Humane (midcoast humane.org) in Brunswick, Maine, and is a certified foster cat caregiver.
So far, Blake has fostered 103 at-risk kittens and cats, and has found forever homes for all of them. She showcases her fosters on social media and has meet-and-greets with potential adopters at her family’s home. Her lucky fosters don’t have to go through the stress of living at the shelter until they’re adopted because Blake can adopt them out directly from home on behalf of the shelter.
Blake got her start in animal welfare when she was 8 years old and started going to the shelter to spend time with the cats — she could never have one of her own because her father and brother are allergic. After a while, she realized that there were cats there who, for various reasons, weren’t ready to be on the adoption floor. “I convinced my dad to let me short-term foster these cats in our home,” she says. “I created a dedicated 12- by 12-foot cat room in our basement called ‘the cattery.’” She has spent her own money to create the perfect space for these lucky cats.
She loves taking a cat from the high-stress environment of the shelter and bringing the kitty home to the cattery. “They often show a whole new, more relaxed personality,” she says.
Earlier this year, Blake was recognized by U.S. Cellular as one of its “16 Under 16” recipients in the company’s National Future of Good program, receiving a check for $10,000 to use as she sees fit for animal welfare services. She plans to use the money toward helping her local animal shelter.
Blake hopes her work inspires other people to get involved and help shelter cats. “Whether you donate cat supplies, volunteer or adopt a shelter cat — there are so many ways to help!” she says.
What does the future hold for this amazing teenager, who is also a three-season athlete and plays the flute in her school band? She definitely wants to continue in the world of cat welfare. “I am considering becoming a veterinarian,” she says. She has also considered becoming an immunologist to work to find a cure for cat allergies. “I would love to live in a world where no one was allergic to cats — especially my dad,” she says.
Annie Butler Shirreffs has worked in the pet industry for 20 years and is currently the senior editor of Catster and Dogster magazines. A cat lover since she was a little girl, she has always had feline friends in her life. She and her husband share their Southern California home with their four cats, Agatha, Alastair, Jack and Mathilda, and an ever-changing clowder of foster kittens, all of whom enjoy being testers for cool, new products.