Congratulations to Ranee M., nominated and chosen as the September 2019 Multnomah County Animal Services (MCAS) Volunteer of the Month.
Animals have followed Ranee home her entire life, but operating a rescue and caring for bottle-baby kittens took her love and appreciation of animals to the next level.
Look What Followed Ranee Home
Ranee grew up with animals in her home, including Fifi, a Dachshund when she was seven, and Cindy, her sister’s Cocker Spaniel. Back then, it wasn’t common to spay or neuter cats, and there were always stray cats and kittens that Ranee could take under her wing. “They just came to me. I would want one, I’d bring it home, it would become a sibling’s pet, then one of us would move out, and I would end up claiming it as mine anyway.”
A Calling to Rescue
After departing her job in Arizona, Ranee turned to animal rescue work. A Petco store hosted an animal sheltering entity to offer adoptions of cats and dogs at the store, and Ranee would care for the animals at the store and walk dogs. Eventually, Ranee’s business partner started their own nonprofit rescue, and Ranee joined in for two years to help manage the foster-care-based rescue until she moved back to Oregon.
Ranee has volunteered at Multnomah County Animal Services since 2013, working primarily with cats. Her experience in rescue work proved invaluable when kitten season hit, and Ranee was needed to help feed bottle-baby kittens. She had taken in kittens during her rescue days, and remembered how their care can easily monopolize staff time, or thwart them from focusing on other responsibilities.
Ranee’s rescue work experience also gave her an appreciation for veterinary services and supplies available at MCAS- all expensive commodities for rescue work, where funding and resources are often scarce. It’s a comfort to have a team of veterinarians, on-call vets, and vet techs to call on in an emergency, which can be common with small neonatal kittens.
The 2019 kitten season was especially challenging for Ranee and other bottle-baby fosters, with many kittens failing to thrive, even with all due veterinary care, resources, and monitoring. No matter how many kittens you care for, each one is special, each one matters, and losing a foster never gets easy. For Ranee, watching kittens grow into healthy kittens makes the many sleepless nights and heartaches worth it.
“When you get something so small, and you see them grow- How do you not love this little guy? He just gets so big. It’s fulfilling and exciting, knowing that you contributed to an animal’s life, kept it safe, and found a home for them,” Ranee says. “When they’re really sick, it’s hard, and you don’t know what to do. Then you see them turn the corner and know they’re going to be ok. It’s a relief- it’s an accomplishment.”
A Community of Support
Instagram has become a powerful and effective tool for bottle-baby kitten foster volunteers. They use it to network, update each other, exchange tips and advice. They have also used the platform to promote kittens for adoption with staggering success. Many kittens are networked to interested adopters right from the foster homes, and Instagram plays a big role, with foster volunteers cross-posting content. Ranee’s account is @howaboutthosekittens, giving supporters and potential adopters a preview of the little personalities in Ranee’s care.
Ranee’s Advice for New Bottle-Baby Foster Volunteers
“We need you. We need more volunteers and fosters who can bring kittens home.
Know that you’re going to lose some sleep for a couple of weeks. It will take a lot of time, energy, and patience, but it’s really gratifying.
Know that if a kitten fails to thrive in your care, it just naturally happens in many cases, and it’s not that you did anything. It’s not your fault. It’s important that people know how important it is for kittens to stay with their mother whenever possible, to increase their chances of survival.
Try to learn what age of kittens works best for your life. Many fosters who work full-time only take older kittens, because they aren’t able to be with them around the clock. Or they only take kittens with a mother cat. That’s ok.
It takes time and patience to get them to eat on their own and use the litter-box. It can take a kitten one or two times to learn how to eat, and others will take a week. You can’t treat them the same, just like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates- you never know what you’re gonna get- they’re all different. Try different things in each case, and use your network for help.
Your second most important resource is a good heating pad or a warming disk. The most important is your network of Animal Health staff and fellow foster volunteers. I wouldn’t know what to do without Jackie, the kitten-triage program coordinator, and my volunteer mentor, Robynne R. You need to build a relationship with someone you’re comfortable approaching.
Learn to trust the Animal Health staff members. Our experiences and feelings matter to them, they take them personally, and we know each other. Be frank, ask questions, and voice your observations of what’s going on. They’ll listen to you, and research issues if they don’t have the answers right away. If one treatment isn’t working, they’ll try something else. You’re the most important stakeholder in a kitten’s life as a foster volunteer, and it’s ok to advocate for them- Animal Health staff will support you, help you understand what’s happening, and come to decisions as a team.”
Advice for Successful Kitten Adoptions
While many kittens are naturally social, engaging, and initially unscathed by a fear of people or other animals, Ranee says it’s a common misconception that they can be introduced directly into the mix of a home of other pets or children without a period of adjustment and gradual introductions. Instant harmony is rare, and expecting it can lead to unanticipated bites, scratches, negative associations, or trauma that could endure. Kittens need to adjust to foreign spaces, smells, animals, and people. Kids need to learn appropriate boundaries with new pets, which can take time and supervision. “Time is the key to everything,” Ranee says. “Patience, love, and understanding are the keys to a successful adoption.”
Thank you, Ranee, for your ongoing service and dedication to the animals and people at Multnomah County Animal Services.
September 2019 Nominees
Thank you to our stellar volunteers nominated for the September 2019 Volunteer of the Month!
- Carly G.
- Quimby L.
- Janice T.