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Longboat resident provides foster care for kittens in need

Humane Society board member Caryn Wilbraham has fostered more than 40 kittens since 2021.

Caryn Wilbraham and her foster kittens Tarporley and Neven
Caryn Wilbraham and her foster kittens Tarporley and Neven
Photo by Petra Rivera
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There is nothing like the instant connection between a pet and its owner. 

Longboat resident Caryn Wilbraham felt that connection in 2021 with the first cat she fostered. She said that Caymus was her “first bottle baby" — Wilbraham had to learn to make formula for and bottle-feed the newborn kitten. 

Now, Caymus is a full-grown cat that she adopted to be her second-in-command as she continues her kitten-fostering journey. He will always be found next to Wilbraham as she makes the formula for the latest litter. 

Since that first connection with Caymus, Wilbraham has fostered over 40 kittens from the Humane Society of Sarasota County since 2021.

Caryn Wilbraham and her foster kittens
Courtesy image

Wilbraham was called “a volunteer on steroids” by HSSC board member Melinda Foster. She will go the extra mile to care for kittens like she is their mother and they do view her that way. 

“My kids ask me all the time how did I become a cat lady like this, which I find hilarious,” said Wilbraham. 

Wilbraham joined the HSSC board six years ago when her friend and past president of the board saw her passion for animals. After having different pets throughout her life, Wilbraham considered herself an animal advocate and wanted to get involved with the organization immediately.

Since board members are not allowed to volunteer, Wilbraham signed up for the kitten fostering program. It was the only way she could proactively participate with the animals. Wilbraham fell in love with the program after fostering her first litter, which included Caymus. She thought it was a rewarding way to give back and a great retirement pastime. 

Wilbraham fully committed to being a kitten foster mother. She will usually foster around three or four kittens at a time. Her youngest litter was five days old. She said that they usually are smaller than her hand when they first come to her. 

Caryn Wilbraham's foster kitten
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Each kitten arrives with different medical needs and illnesses. Wilbraham is prepared for most health situations through HSSC training.

She will care for the kittens until they are 2 pounds or 8 weeks old. After that, Wilbraham will take them back to the shelter for them to be neutered and prepared for adoption.

Her night routine now includes waking up multiple times through the night to feed the kittens. 

Through her years of experience, Wilbraham has noticed that her care trains them to be smart and well-behaved for their new homes. She said that most of her kittens have survived their medical issues and have been adopted.

Wilbraham usually has a kitten or two with her at all times. She will take them to restaurants, stores and on road trips. Wilbraham said her favorite way to show her kittens is by taking them on walks in a stroller around her complex or down Gulf of Mexico Drive.

“They will always surprise you by how smart they are,” said Wilbraham. “Like, I thought they would slam into the shower wall because it’s glass, so I always have it padded with towels. Not one of them has slammed on it. Another thing about them is they think that I am their mother so they will climb on me and treat me like a tree. They'll sit on my shoulder and will knead my hair. It is the cutest thing.” 

Caryn Wilbraham's foster kittens
Courtesy image

Though HSSC foster parents are not required to, Wilbraham also invested money to buy the kittens different food, toys and an incubator to keep them warm throughout the night. 

With kittens in and out all the time, Wilbraham said that she avoids getting attached to them by viewing the experience as a business. She will care for the kittens until they are ready for their forever home. 

Wilbraham and Foster are excited that the HSSC has recently joined the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce to get more involved in the Longboat community. Foster said that everyone can get involved through through its “Time, Talent, Treasure, Adopt, Foster, Volunteer, Donate” motto. 

Since March, HSSC has been in “Kitten Season,” Foster said. This time of the year is when adult cats give birth at higher rates. There are hundreds of cats needing volunteers to care for them. 

On March 26, HSSC hosted its second annual Foster Open House to prepare people’s homes for fostering new kittens and puppies and educate more about what this would look like. She said it is her favorite time of the year and perfect for anyone interested in fostering kittens.

Wilbraham is not the typical foster parent and goes above and beyond what other volunteers do, Foster said. Foster parents have the option of how many cats they want to foster and can give nothing else but their time to care for these kittens for however long they want. Everything else will be provided by HSSC including food and medical needs.

People can also help by bringing any unattended kittens that they find around the area to provide for them a safe place to be taken care of, Foster said.

It is an easy way to feel even an inch of satisfaction that Wilbraham has by giving back to her community about a cause she is passionate about. 

“Everyone has a purpose,” said Wilbraham. “It’s hard to find in retirement because you do have so much free time. This is my purpose. Nothing has been more fulfilling than helping these kittens grow to their full potential and prepare them for their forever home."



Petra Rivera

Petra Rivera is the Longboat community reporter. She holds a bachelor’s degree of journalism with an emphasis on reporting and writing from the University of Missouri. Previously, she was a food and drink writer for Vox magazine as well as a reporter for the Columbia Missourian.

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