Spring is the season of new life, and in rural Cambridgeshire one family has just welcomed four furry new arrivals. Helen Foster-Henson is one of animal charity Wood Green’s many Moggy Midwives, and lives near Godmanchester with her husband and three boys.
“We really enjoy it,” says Helen, who has been fostering expectant cats or cats with young litters for four years. “Some cats arrive when the kittens are about a week old but we’ve had a couple of mums who’ve had their kittens while they’ve been with us. It’s a little bit scary; you’re just hoping everything’s going to be alright.
“We’ve got one cat here at the moment called Biscuit, who had her kittens on Friday. I woke up about 6am and there were two, then I kept checking on her and an hour later there was another and by about 9.30am we had the fourth. It’s wonderful for my boys to see them turn from this tiny helpless thing that can’t walk and can’t see into a mischievous ball of fun, running around the house.”
Every spring, Wood Green sees an influx of cats at its units in Godmanchester, London and Heydon – including many that are in the late stages of pregnancy. Last year alone, the charity’s Godmanchester headquarters took in around 300 pregnant cats. To help cope with the demand, and to ensure that Son Thomas with newborn kitten Harriet Helen Foster-Henson with three of her foster kittens ￼￼mother cats are found the most calm and comfortable birthing environment possible, Wood Green invites members of the public to care for a pregnant cat, or a cat who has recently given birth, in their homes until the kittens are ready to be rehomed.
“We’ve fostered about 20 cats and around 100 kittens, as every time we take one back we tend to bring another home!” says Helen. “The first placement lasted about eight weeks and I have to say that myself, my son and my husband cried our eyes out when they went back, but that feeling does get less over time – particularly if you go straight on to caring for another litter. It’s quite addictive.”
Helen was pregnant with her third son, Sam, when she heard about the scheme.
“We fostered a couple of cats while I was pregnant with Sam, so we were going through the same things at the same time! The mother was actually very nervous, so it helped her a great deal to be in a home where we could really nurture her and gently increase her confidence.”
Helen, who now has three children, had wondered whether her hectic family life might count against her, but as it turned out, the opposite was true.
“Wood Green encourage the idea of cats coming into a loving and sociable family with normal noise and activity. By the time they go back, the kittens are really chilled and nothing spooks them. So they’re ideal family pets.”
And though it’s hard to give them up, Helen occasionally hears from her foster kittens and their new families.
“Often my friends or colleagues have wanted to foster the kittens they’ve seen at our home, so we’ve seen some of them growing up, which is just lovely.”
Interested in becoming a Moggy Midwife? Get in touch with Wood Green on 0844 241 8181. You will receive boxes, bedding, toys, litter and feed, plus the charity will cover all medical requirements. The cat and her kittens would stay for up to 12 weeks.