Bay Area Proud

Bay Area Proud

Inspiring stories of people making a difference

SF Woman Spends Decade Saving Thousands Of Newborn Kittens' Lives

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Toni Sestak says she was just a "normal" volunteer at an animal shelter when someone asked her to foster a mother cat and her kittens. 20 years, and close to 10,000 kittens later, Toni is far from normal.

    Toni Sestak is used to a crowded house.

    One of nine children growing up in Southern California, Toni and her husband went on to raise five children of their own in their San Francisco home.

    Perhaps it is her comfort among numbers then that prompted Toni, once her children were grown, to begin filling up her house again.

    This time, with kittens.

    Toni's Kitty Rescue, founded by Toni Sestak, is responsible for fostering close to 10,000 kittens over the past decade.

    Toni is the face in front of, and the energy behind, Toni's Kitty Rescue. Started 10 years ago, Toni's group has fostered close to 10,000 kittens under the age of eight weeks, saving many of them from certain euthanasia.

    Shelters without a foster program like hers, Toni says, just cannot care for animals so young. "Most shelters don't take neo-nates, so they are killed."

    Toni says her career in kitty-saving began 20 years ago while volunteering at the San Francisco SPCA. "I was actually a nice, calm volunteer," Toni recalls. "I just sat at my desk and talked to normal people."

    Toni, herself, is fostering close to a dozen kittens in her San Francisco home. None weigh more than 2 pounds.

    But then, Toni says, her one cat died and she was asked to foster a mother cat and her litter of kittens. She clearly liked it and fostered more and more kittens.

    "I only took orphan kittens, babies home," Toni says. "I just started asking other volunteers and we kept building the program."

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    Last year Toni's Kitty Rescue fostered more than 700 kittens.

    During kitten season (late spring through early fall) Toni can be found almost every day at San Francisco Animal Care and Control. Volunteers bring a steady stream of kittens, mostly born to feral mothers, into the shelter.

    Almost ever day during kitten season (late spring to early fall) Toni can be found at San Francisco's Animal Care and Control, taking in stray, mostly feral, kittens.

    Toni gives the kittens much-needed baths and shots, then works with her team of volunteers to give each one a foster home until they are old enough to be adopted.

    At the moment, Toni is fostering close to a dozen kittens in her Upper Haight home.

    To an observer, it looks like a lot of work not to get paid for. Toni says nothing is that hard when you are surrounded by so much cuteness. "I just love it.."