Brechje is a woman who lives in the Netherlands, and when her mother fostered a litter of orphaned kittens in 2012, the benevolent gesture inspired her to do the same. Her first litter consisted of four one-week-old kittens who needed round-the-clock care. Since then, she has taken in more than 80 diminutive furballs. She has also harnessed the sharing nature of social media to fortify an Instagram account called Purrminators. It helps spread awareness of the importance of fostering kittens.
Also, it features video footage of the awesomeness that is kittens in pockets.
I spoke to Brechje about her early experiences becoming a foster mom, how she uses social media to facilitate forever homes, and the kittens that she just couldn’t bear to give up.
How do you use Instagram to help get kittens adopted?
When I started my Instagram account, it was just a way for me to share my kitten pictures with other cat-minded people. My friends were sick of me spamming them, so Instagram became my life-with-kittens diary.
Then I started following other foster accounts, and I noticed that Instagram is a great platform to inform, inspire and educate people. Like sending out the message that people should spay and neuter their cats in order to prevent stray kittens and illnesses, or showing how incredibly amazing it is to foster, and how rewarding and important it is to volunteer.
Do you get many Instagram messages about adopting the kittens you foster?
Yes, I get a lot of questions from people asking to adopt my kittens, but I am in the Netherlands so I have to disappoint many of them, because, of course, I don’t ship kittens. However, I always tell them to go to a local shelter to find their new family member there — and I always mention that an adult cat is just as much fun.
Especially when it’s kitten season, the adult cats get overlooked. I know as a foster mama how easily kittens are adopted, so I am a huge advocate of adopting older cats or the less pretty ones. I love it when I receive messages from people saying I inspired them to volunteer, foster or adopt a cat — it’s a small step in the right direction, I think.
What might you do differently if you began fostering kittens again? Are there lessons you learned along the way?
I had to find my way into fostering — kittens can be messy, and all of them have different needs and personalities. Even though there are guidelines and charts on when kittens should start eating solid food, for example, you don’t want to rush it. Now that I have fostered for a couple of years, I can trust my instincts better and I am more comfortable with what to do in different situations: Feral kittens, for instance, should be handled differently than tame kittens.
Also, especially when it comes to vet visits, I follow my gut feeling. I’d rather spend too much time at the vet than not going there soon enough.
Looking back, would I have done things differently? Yes, knowing what I know now, and having the experience. I have lost very sick kittens despite all my efforts. I wish I could turn back time and re-do all that — I can’t help but feeling guilty.
What’s the funniest or most bizarre behavior you’ve seen from a kitten?
I fostered a kitten in 2014 called Denver who would pat me on my head whenever I would scoop the litter box! He also stole my socks when they were still on my feet.
In 2016, I fostered two orphaned kittens called Moby and Misty and a pregnant mama, Crumble, who had an abortion of dead kittens. Crumble loved Moby and Misty and they loved her — she would care for them as if they were her kittens, she would call them and look for them, and they would come to her and suckle on her even though she didn’t give milk. It was very sweet.
Be honest, how often are you tempted to just keep all the kittens?
Hmmm, it’s tempting sometimes but it’s just not possible. If I would have kept them all I would have around 80 cats now! But I have “foster failed” twice.
The first was with Nugget. He was our first cat, a small ginger boy that my boyfriend crushed on straight away. Then the year after, we picked up new kittens and they were two gingers too; one of them was a ginger girl, and the second I saw her I fell in love. On the way back home I told my boyfriend we were gonna keep her. That was Biscuit. Unfortunately we lost both of them way too early — when they passed away I decided I wanted to adopt senior cats. That’s how we got Noodles and Pickles, and later we added Buddha to the Purrminators family.
So to come back to your question: I only keep the ones I really can’t part with, but whenever I find a perfect family for them it’s easier to let them go. I personally meet and approve all my adopters so I know where my kittens go. And when I don’t feel right about it, I don’t let my kittens go there.
To be honest, I am very lucky to foster kittens in their cutest phase. Whenever they are ready to go, it’s better for them to move on so they can settle down and so there’s room for new fosters who need me.
Beyond looking at cute pictures of kittens, can you explain why it’s so important that people commit to fostering kittens?
Fostering means opening up your home for temporary cats, very technically speaking. In kitten season, these kittens have nowhere else to go. In the Netherlands, we don’t have kill shelters, but I know in the United States they do; therefore it is extremely important to get these cats out of there as soon as possible.
Any space is better than a cage, even if it’s just a small bathroom. Cats do so much better in a loving environment than in a cage with other animals around them. It scares them and stresses them out, which also makes it more difficult to adopt them out because their true personalities might not show.
Foster families put a lot of effort into socializing cats and getting them ready for adoption. With the help of fosters, shelters have more time and space for other animals in need. Foster families can give food, love and medicine, and prepare their fosters for a happily-ever-after home. This would never be possible with the limited resources shelters have.
Follow along with the Purrminators at Instagram.