Dog that fosters kittens on Salt Spring Island inspires foster family

Alice the dog is shown. (Jen MacLellan/BC SPCA)

The B.C. SPCA is highlighting Mother's Day by celebrating moms in all shapes and sizes, including Alice, a Chihuahua-Pomeranian mix who fosters kittens on Salt Spring Island.

Alice's owner, Jen MacLellan, says the small, 13-year-old pooch "definitely chooses cats over dogs" and helps kittens adjust when they're being fostered at MacLellan's home.

"She's definitely helped," MacLellan told CTV News. "We've had cats that we were worried wouldn't come around. But they'll follow her and see her come to us and then they'll come to us."

The Salt Spring Island woman told the SPCA that Alice is unendingly patient with kittens.

"She loves to kiss and lick them and lets them knead her," she said.

"She is very patient when they try to nurse and is so tolerant and affectionate," she added. "When the kittens start getting a little too aggressive, I often have to remove them altogether because she’s so patient she will let them keep doing it."

It's not often that animals look after a different species' young, but it can happen if an animal has a strong maternal instinct, according to Kim Monteith, manager of animal welfare and operations for the B.C. SPCA.

"It is kind of like when humans see kittens and puppies," said Monteith.

"We know they aren’t human, but some of us are instinctively drawn to them because we want to help them or mother them because they’re so vulnerable and we have this maternal instinct to care for babies," she said.

Animal rescue agencies on Vancouver Island are seeing a surge in pet surrenders as pandemic restrictions ease, and MacLellan says the SPCA is always on the lookout for foster volunteers.

"Fosters are always desperately needed," she said. "A lot of people tend to avoid them, kittens in particular, because they think it will be really difficult to say goodbye."

"But seeing and making new little families is really (rewarding)," she said.