Being in a shelter can be very stressful for animals.
It's in those tense situations that pet foster parents can make all the difference.
Caroline Esclapez is one such volunteer for the Maryland SPCA. She's been volunteering with the nonprofit since 2004.
As a long-time animal lover, becoming a foster parent to kittens just made sense for her.
"I grew up, I wanted to be a vet, so it was a perfect fit. I mean for me it was like I was so excited about it," Escalapez said.
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Five years ago, she welcomed her first litter of foster kittens into her home. Since then she's helped a total of 73 cats thrive until they can be adopted.
Every time it's been a rewarding and adorable experience, she said.
"It's magic, you know, I mean it's corny but it's magic. It's really cool. Like very time I pick up my foster kittens I think I feel the same as when I was a 4-year-old opening my Christmas presents." Escalapez said, "It's like oh, what am I going to get? They're just so cute."
She even has a surprise helper in the fostering process. Her full grown, male cat Theodore has taken on the role of surrogate father to each new litter since he joined Escalapez 's household.
"All of the sudden I found him in the playpen and he was sleeping with them," she said.
Male cats aren't known for their nurturing side, but Theodore, a rescue cat himself, bonds with the babies.
"That's where Theodore is instrumental in getting them ready for a successful adoption because he's teaching them how to be a cat, he's teaching them how to play nice and so, you know, he's giving them the comfort and life skills that they need," she said.
The hardest part, Escalapez said, is saying goodbye to the kittens when they're old enough to go home with their forever families. The comfort , she says, is that there are always more litters who need a temporary home.