Kitty Cornered: High Point couple’s adventures in kitten-fostering

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Never a dull moment at Wendy and Stephen Hughes-Jelen’s High Point townhome.

They always have a variety of enterprises under way. For one, they’re companions to Sophia, the Italian greyhound, who’s appeared on the cover of CityDog Magazine. For two, Wendy has a green real-estate practice, and a social-media sideline with multiple blog-format websites (most recently, she’s been producing videos to promote Eat Local Now! – the local-food celebration coming up Sept. 30th).

We could go on, but why bother, when the next thing we’re going to list is so all-consuming: Their current sideline is round-the-clock kitten-raising. Five heart-stealing kittens – with, best of all, webcams. (One’s here; the other’s here.)

On behalf of West Seattle-headquartered nonprofit shelter Kitty Harbor, Wendy and Stephen volunteered to foster the little fluffballs – now six weeks old, two weeks away from adoptability – and decided to chronicle the whole thing online.

The ongoing saga is on a Facebook page called Kitty Cornered. After browsing the page, we asked Wendy if we could catch up with her to write a WSB story about the adventure; she pinged us back a night or so later: “Coming over for the midnight feeding?”

We thought the invitation was a joke. It wasn’t. (Well, we do make a point out of 24/7 coverage – and that doesn’t just mean we’re there for 2 am helicopter questions.) So, off we went to observe.

The kittens have been headquartered in an upstairs bathroom. Bringing them over to the nearby office space for feedings first requires the feline fosterers to gate off the stairs.

Once that’s accomplished – Sophia gets to stay, but the pre-existing Hughes-Jelen cats (adult rescuees Havana and Sprite) are downstairs somewhere – out come the kittens. And darlingness ensues. Including their interaction with always-curious Sophia (that’s Wendy in the background, answering a question about how the dog and kittens get along):

Four of them are siblings – Smudge, Ashlee, Cinder, and Purrl. (The latter is the only one who’s not a shade of gray, therefore the name – Purrl looks to have a whole lot of Siamese.)

They were all of one day old when they arrived with their mama Mia, who was barely out of kittenhood herself – maybe six months old when she had them. Then there’s a feisty little striped one, Legacy, who turned up all alone in Highland Park a day after Wendy and Stephen received the other four.

Raising kittens isn’t something you can do in your spare time. The Hughes-Jelens work from home most of the time with their realty and tech enterprises, which makes it possible to handle the three daily feedings – which have included bottles as well as special kitten-formula cat food (Mia was only able to nurse them for about three weeks) – here’s Legacy getting a bottle from Stephen:

Wendy estimates they’ve been putting in up to five hours a day, but, “we get the honor and enjoyment and laughter of (doing) it.” She says they found out about the opportunity through Kitty Harbor’s Facebook page (which you can see here). But when these kittens are ready to seek their “forever homes” at Kitty Harbor, Wendy and Stephen say they aren’t planning to take in replacements right away. Their current plan, in fact, involves doing this “only” once a year – since it’s a two-month enterprise to have them underfoot!

If you’re interested in fostering kittens, there’s info about that – and other volunteer possibilities – on this page of Kitty Harbor’s website. And if you need inspiration – here’s the Kitty Cornered link again (lots of videos there too), and the Kitten Cams (One’s here and here).

9 Replies to "Kitty Cornered: High Point couple's adventures in kitten-fostering"

  • Babs September 19, 2010 (9:43 pm)

    LOVE THIS, and kudos to both Wendy and Stephen, your simple unsung heroes in my eyes.

  • lenguamor September 19, 2010 (11:28 pm)

    Thank you, Wendy and Stephen, for doing this and for sharing it with us.

  • sophista-tiki September 20, 2010 (2:02 am)

    EEEEEEe Kitties! WANT ONE!

  • Rita Lee September 20, 2010 (8:13 am)

    Wendy and Stephen – you are angels!

  • Wendy Hughes-Jelen September 20, 2010 (3:40 pm)

    Thanks for the support and positive comments! I don’t think we fully understood what we were getting in to – we had to be a lot more involved than we thought since momma Mia wasn’t able to keep feeding them. And so much laundry!

    Mia is headed down to Kitty Harbor today to get ready to be adopted. She needs vaccinations/spaying and then she is ready for a new forever home. We think she must be “black Siamese” since her bone structure is like that. She has a few white hairs on her chest. She’s become very companionable to us but she plays too rough with the babies so we have been keeping her in another room. So since she’s not been nursing for over 3 weeks and he kittens are almost fully weaned and we can’t leave her alone with them we wanted her to get going to a new home.

    The kittens will be here thru September 30th and I am processing new pictures and video from the weekend to post to Kitty Cornered. Thank you again for your support and think of a West Seattle shelter when adopting a cat or kitten.

  • me on 28th Ave SW September 20, 2010 (7:57 pm)

    Bottle babies are so much work! Thank you to Wendy and Stephen for doing this; it really is a labor of love.
    We were foster parents several years ago and ended up keeping Momma cat and her two sons which was not our intention, but I have no regrets. They make me smile every day.
    Hopefully, someday (after retirement?) I will be able to do this again.

  • MMB September 20, 2010 (8:45 pm)

    Very cute story – thank you for all you are doing! We once took in an abandoned pet mama kitty with her 4 babies. We kept her and two of her offspring. Only one is left now, much later. We will never forget how much fun a basket o’ kittens can be!

  • lori September 20, 2010 (10:41 pm)

    steve & wendy… thank you again for taken “izzy” and her babes in… we could have not done it… i cant believe how far they have got… yes when we called kitty harbor for pick up she was barely 6 months old…. i plan on bringing the girls down this weekend to volunteer were it is needed. also we have treats for all…. ty again

  • Wendy Hughes-Jelen September 21, 2010 (11:24 am)

    Lori – it has been nice to have you a part of the process, to be able to share her “before” name with us. I am sure it has been great closure for you to watch the success of Izzy/Mia and her kittens, and know Kitty Harbor is a great shelter doing good work!! There are a lot of volunteers that keep that place running. They are only open to the public for adoptions on the weekends but there are people there 7 days a week caring for and playing with everyone. We will miss the kittens when they go but the purpose behind the Facebook page was to give them early exposure and perhaps have someone with “dibs” on each one when they arrived to be adopted!

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