Martha Rockwell has experienced not once, not twice, not three times, but four times, what few people experience once in a lifetime: cat labor and delivery. “It’s just amazing how they know what to do. It’s all instinct,” she says.
Rockwell, assistant bank manager at Cape Cod Five in Harwichport, has had cats and rabbits all her life. She’s been fostering both species for the MSPCA for three years now. Rockwell is currently fostering Tulip, a mother cat she estimates is one year old. Tulip was found abandoned outdoors. “If nobody had found her, she’d have given birth outdoors and been left to the elements,” Rockwell says. Now Tulip and the six kittens she gave birth to in Rockwell’s spare bedroom on September 7 have their own room in Rockwell’s Hyannis home.
Depending on how far along the mother cat is, the duration of her foster kittens’ stay can be as long as two months. Rockwell sees the mother through pregnancy, and cares for the mother and kittens after delivery. The kittens usually return to the shelter a week before the mother cat. Surrendering the kittens has gotten a little easier, Rockwell says, but not much. “I leave quickly. I’ll shed a little tear in the car, but I know they’re going to a good forever home.”
Sometimes, that forever home is hers: two of her cats are cats she fostered and later adopted. Rockwell says her four cats—15-year-old Abbi, who was found abandoned on Main Street in Hyannis; 8-year-old Roxi, who was adopted from the MSPCA; and a two-year-old brother-and-sister duo, Nico and Fibi, who were also adopted from the MSPCA—are sociable. Rockwell says they must think to themselves, “Okay, there’s another one” when she returns from the shelter with another litter or pregnant mother.
“If you have the love in your heart and the room in your house, [fostering] is the most rewarding experience you can have,” Rockwell says. She plans to foster dogs, too, when she retires and has more free time. “It fills that need of mine to nurture.”