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Photograph: Jason Little
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Secrets of a Serial Cat Foster Mom

A chat with Elly Greenspahn

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Photograph: Jason Little

I’ve been fostering for six years. I started after my dad died. It was a way of dealing with grief, and then it became a lifestyle. I’ve had over 100 cats — most from PAWS Chicago. Once, I had a mom and seven nursing babies for a month, plus my own four cats. All I thought all day long was, Damn, there’s a lot of cats in here.

Yes, I’m called a crazy cat lady. Jokingly — I think. But it doesn’t matter. I’m usually called that by a dog person who just got their dog’s face printed on socks.

When I was newer at this, I took in a mom and her six nursing babies. I’d dealt with frequent poopers before, but these seven did not stop pooping. I’d never experienced anything like it. If I didn’t clean their room every 45 minutes, there’d be poop smeared everywhere — on the walls, on the ceiling, all over their little bodies. I had to get special booties from the paint store just to go into the room, and the smell was indescribable. Finally, I brought them to the vet, who discovered they had a parasite called coccidia. After a round of antibiotics, they were fine — but that room will be forever stained.

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Until I got my first cat, I always thought cats were aloof. I didn’t know they were affectionate. Mine are just as snuggly as my childhood dogs. And cats play fetch. I tried to teach the dogs I grew up with, but cats just come wired that way.

“Kittens came from PAWS Chicago. Adopt a kitten like them at one of the organization’s two Chicago-area adoption centers. pawschicago.org

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