Meet the Youngest Old Cat Lady
Ashley Morrison has been fostering animals in need for years. In 2015 she started caring for her first “bottle babies”, kittens in need of round-the-clock care. Today she helps spread knowledge and happiness as the “Youngest Old Cat Lady”, sharing resources and spreading the word about the most vulnerable feline population.
CatCon: What is the backstory of your name “Youngest Old Cat Lady”?
Ashley: I get asked a lot about how I came up with the name “Youngest Old Cat Lady”, and to be completely honest, I don’t really remember. I wish I had a more exciting answer, like it came to me one starry night in a dream, but nope, pretty sure it was a combination of names I wanted and what was available on Instagram 🙂
How did you get started fostering?
I never expected to become a cat lady, it was only by chance that I took bottle babies into my home after my dad passed away. But I am so happy I did! When I brought my first bottle babies home, it gave my mom and I something to focus on other than my dad’s death. The kittens had lost their mom, I had lost my dad, it felt like a perfect match to help each other get through that difficult time. It made us get out of bed in the morning and brought happiness to our lives.
Please check out my website for the full story: https://youngestoldcatlady.com/about/
What is the biggest challenge in what you do with bottle babies?
The biggest challenge for me is the worry! When I get a fragile, malnourished, lethargic kitten, I am so heartbroken and instantly fired up at the same time. Waking up every 2 hours to check on them and walking up to the incubator just hoping I see them still breathing, I worry that what I am doing is not enough. But then I remember, I am their only hope, and I want to do everything in my knowledge and skill set to bring them back to health.
I have had solo dance parties at 5 in the morning after realizing a bottle baby was making a turn for the better, and was no longer lethargic. There is no better feeling than saving a life.
Where do you get your fosters typically?
For the first two and a half years or so, my fosters were all from PAWS in Lynnwood, WA. Because of my account growing, and more people knowing about what I do in the area, I started to get messages from locals asking for help. Whether it was a stray about to give birth, or someone who didn’t know where or how to get their cat and kittens spayed and neutered, I had a lot of people asking for help! I started doing Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) in a neighborhood where multiple households were lost as to how to get a feral population under control, which lead to me taking in lots of kittens found in bushes. Most of my fosters now, come from people messaging me via Facebook or Instagram. I never know where my next foster will come from, because I leave that space open! For example, a sweet girl and her mother contacted me one day about a group of 5 kittens found on the side of the road. The girls friend wanted to try and raise them, but one passed away. They started to realize just how sick they were and that they were going to need immediate help or the kittens would die.
They picked the 4 surviving kittens up from the girls friend and drove 2 hours to get them to me. They would later be named Licorice, Skittles, Lolli and Poppy. Licorice was on death’s doorstep and I told them not to expect him to survive, but I did everything I could and after a couple days, his glassed-over eyes looked at me directly for the first time. At that point I knew we had turned a corner. I try to let life lead me to my next fosters now, leaving room for kittens like Licorice.
What is the biggest misconception of working with these ‘mini lions’?
That you can only do it if you aren’t working 9 to 5. There are so many kittens and cats that need to be fostered that do not need around the clock care. Even if you have an extra bathroom, a cat would much rather recover from an illness in your quiet bathroom than in a shelter kennel. It enables the shelter to take in more animals, and you get to spend time with a kitty needing a nice warm space to stay until they are healthy or old enough to be adopted.
Do you have an all-time favorite kitten that’s moved on to their forever home?
While we aren’t “supposed” to choose favorites, no one will be surprised when I say that I fell especially in love with a kitten named Grey Bae Bae. He came in on a transfer from Merced, California to PAWS with 7 other siblings and his mom. Sometimes, when a shelter is sending out litters, they put extra kittens in with a mom so that it counts as one litter. Grey Bae Bae and many of his siblings were clearly not related to the mother they arrived with. Every time my mom or I would open the door to the foster room, he would come running up to us, purring so loudly even though he was the tiniest kitten of them all. He wanted to be loved non-stop. Every kitten was sick, but he and his sisters Aurora and Marie were the worst off. Shortly after arriving, they all crashed. They couldn’t move out of their own feces, had fevers, and didn’t want to eat. At one point, I even brought Grey Bae Bae in to be euthanized he was so bad off. We decided to give it another couple days, which I swear he knew, because he made a turn for the better the next day. Even on his worst days, the moment I looked at him, he would purr. His favorite place was wrapped around my neck. He was the most loving cuddle bug ever!
Due to his illness, and his sister Marie having ringworm, we wound up having him and his three siblings for months. The mom and three of the seven siblings he arrived with went to another foster home because of the amount of intensive care the ones I kept needed. Grey Bae Bae, Aurora, Marie and Tod became a part of our family for the next 4 months. Tod passed away from an abnormal liver, which broke my heart, but seeing the other three thrive was one of my best fostering memories. My own two cats even loved them, they would groom them and cuddle together. Saying goodbye was one of the hardest days, but now Grey Bae Bae spends his days wrapped around his doggy siblings neck, grooming each other. He is so happy, and it makes everything I went through worth it.
Can you share a funny story of one of your experiences?
One of the funniest foster stories I can remember is that of “The Donut Kittens.” We had a mom cat named Sprinkles and her two babies Coco and Fritter. Mama was so protective of them that every time we would come in the room she would have moved them to a new hiding spot. One day, we couldn’t find them anywhere, then I heard tiny little mews coming from the bottom drawer of our cabinet. Sure enough, I opened the drawer, and there were Coco and Fritter. Mama had opened the drawer, stuck them in there, then jumped out and managed to close it almost all the way. I had to move blankets in there because she continued to move them back into the drawer every day for the next few days. As they grew up, she was always very concerned, especially about Fritter. If she saw him start to walk somewhere she didn’t approve of, she would pick him up in her mouth and plop him back down where she wanted him. She loved them to bits! Coco and Fritter were eventually adopted together, and mama got to be a kitten herself again with her new wonderful family.
How many kittens are you fostering currently, and what was the most you had under your roof at one time?
I am currently fostering Lucky and her two newborn babies, as well as 6 kittens from a farm near Soap Lake, WA. Both came from different people who contacted me on Instagram asking if I could help. Unfortunately in Eastern, WA there aren’t as many resources for getting cats spayed and neutered, so when I was contacted about a farm that is starting to be overrun with kittens, I knew I wanted to step in. It’s about 8 hours round-trip for me to go from my house to Soap Lake and back, which I will be doing twice this week to get more cats from the farm fixed. Luckily, I have an awesome resource, the Feral Cat Spay and Neuter clinic, that spays feral and non-feral cats. It is a lot of driving for me to bring them back over the mountains to where I live to be fixed, but totally worth the effort! Even if you can get the most reproducing females, or the big tomcats on the farm fixed, you make a huge dent in the population and prevent a lot of births.
The most I ever fostered was 22 kittens and cats; I do not recommend it! Haha. In short, I was already fostering multiple litters when I was told about kittens living in bushes not far from my house. I went out to the field, shook a bag of food, and a bunch of little heads popped up wanting to eat. Over the next few weeks, with the help of awesome neighbors in the area (who had initially contacted me), I took in another 13 kittens and cats from that field. We had to move our cars out of the garage so they had space to run around. All of the kittens were adopted, and only a couple older cats were returned at the request of the neighbors after being fixed. I couldn’t turn down helping them, but it meant I got to spend less time and attention on each individual kitten. I always recommend finding what works for you. If I hadn’t had the help of my mom, I would have lost my mind! We often work as a team to be able to help more kittens at once.
I remember a couple years ago, the shelter I was working with was told, “whatever kittens you don’t take will be at high risk for euthanasia”, and that is how my bathroom, office and moms bathroom all became foster rooms. We had three different litters. Most of our time was spent cleaning and picking up litter, giving flea baths doing laundry, etc. but knowing that we saved all of those lives made the work worth it!
National Cat Lady Day is this Friday, April 19th! What do you think it means to be a cat lady in 2019?
I think being a cat lady in 2019 means showing you care for animals and not being apologetic for it. It’s no longer about being the “crazy, unstable, loner” and more about standing up for yourself and that you can help animals without being ashamed of being called a cat lady. I think we often concentrate so much on what others think of us that we don’t show our true selves. Often my most posts with the most responses are those about my own struggles with depression and anxiety, and how fostering has helped me, not just the cats. I will never apologize for wanting to make a difference in animals’ lives, and being called a cat lady is an honor to me, because people recognize the amount of time and effort I put into helping them.
There is such a mutual benefit from helping animals, and until you have been lucky enough to experience it, you may not understand it. I highly recommend anyone thinking of getting involved in fostering, to take the plunge. It has certainly made a huge impact on my life and brought together a community of caring and loving people who have helped support me and my work.
Follow Ashley @youngestoldcatlady for videos and pix of her latest fosters.
CatCon 2020 is taking place August 29th & 30th at the Los Angeles Convention Center. TICKETS ON SALE SPRING 2020.