Clare Flaherty, 13, of Maricopa, Arizona, an eighth-grader at BASIS Scottsdale, volunteers as a foster “mother” for homeless newborn kittens, caring for them for up to two months at a time until they are ready for adoption from the Arizona Humane Society. “My mother has instilled in me the deep impact an animal can have on a human life, and the importance of treating animals properly,” said Clare. “Animals enrich the lives of humans.” In 2017, she learned that the local animal shelter was at capacity for cats and kittens and could no longer accept any more strays. She also discovered that there aren’t enough people in Arizona willing to provide short-term care for homeless animals. She said she was particularly struck by the phrase “Save a Life Today” on the shelter’s website.
After persuading her parents with a PowerPoint presentation, Clare completed two classes on the humane society’s website to become a certified foster parent. Initially, she thought volunteering would be mostly about “playing with cute, cuddly babies,” she said, but quickly found out that there’s a lot of work involved. Some kittens need feeding by bottle or syringe every three hours, even in the middle of the night. Some need medication up to five times a day. Clare also has to keep her kittens clean, maintain detailed charts, work on socialization and even help some of them relieve themselves. Once a kitten reaches two pounds, it goes back to the shelter and is put up for adoption. “Giving my kittens back is a sad day,” Clare said. “There are tears. But it is a wonderful day when I learn of my kittens’ adoptions.”