Fostering Furbabies is a Calling For Orange County Resident Beth Otto

Community & Services

Although she’s fostered more than 900 abandoned cats and kittens since 2009, Beth Otto admits she wasn’t always a cat lover. “I actually come from a family of dog people. I was always an animal lover, but I didn’t really care for cats,” she said. That all changed when a feral feline chose Otto’s Colonialtown backyard as a safe haven to birth her kittens.

Her husband Richard began feeding the newborns and Beth soon found herself bonding with one sickly kitten in the litter. The couple adopted the kitty they simply called “baby girl,” enjoying her company for 19 years. “I nursed her back to health, took her to the vet, and never looked back. That’s how I became a cat person,” she said.

In addition to fostering strays Otto and her husband provide a forever home to three adult cats; Leilah, a female found trapped in a tree, Smudge, a male wandering her church parking lot, and Sterling, a silver tabby born with no eyelids.

Otto grew up in Cincinnati and earned a degree in Deaf Education from Kent State University. The retired teacher who now loves to work out, volunteer and travel, has called Orange County home since 1977.

The devoted cat enthusiast is passionate about the benefits of fostering and urges neighbors to get involved. While the Orange County Animal Services (OCAS) shelter boasts more than 300 foster parents, there is still a great need for additional help.  From spring to late fall “kitten season” brings a wave of orphaned kittens to the shelter. These very young ones are too young or sick to remain in the shelter and require specialized care.

“It’s life or death for some of these animals,” she said. “If they are under a pound and a half, they cannot stay in the shelter.”

A tight-knit group of experienced caregivers like Otto welcome new foster parents with training and education during a two-to-eight-week fostering period. Fostering doesn’t pose a significant financial burden because OCAS covers basic supplies including litter and food as well as necessary medical care.

“We are a foster family, and we offer a lot of support. We want them to know there are people to help them,” she said. “Foster families are truly supported. If they want the help, it is there.”

Fostering the homeless animals has been incredibly rewarding for Otto.  But saying goodbye to her furry friends – especially if they have been unwell – has sometimes been difficult.

Otto keeps a spreadsheet with adoptive parent information and stays connected with many families who happily share photos of her once-fostered pals. “It makes it easier to let them go when you know where they are going,” she said.

The full-time foster mom recently cared for four three-week-old “bottle babies.”

“They were the sweetest things. I became attached,” she said. “The ones that stick with you most are the ones that need you the most.”

While some kittens require around-the-clock bottle feeding and care, those duties are entrusted to the most committed foster parents.

Potential fosterers are required to provide a safe and loving home with a designated sleep and play area for the orphans. It can be a pack-and-play, crate, or even a bathroom, she said.

Otto is also active in an organization called Kindness for Cats, comprised of a small group of foster parents who volunteer for OCAS.  The motto is to “provide safe, comfortable and stress-free environments for hundreds of the countless kittens and cats abandoned at the shelter and attempt to find them permanent and loving homes while in our care.”

In closing, Otto said, “All I can say is, it’s really rewarding. I mean, who doesn’t love kittens?”

For more information about Orange County Animal Services fostering and adoption programs, visit

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