The last time I interviewed animal lover, animal rights activist and author Beth Stern, she was promoting her book Oh My Dog and working with North Shore Animal League America, the world’s largest no-kill pet rescue and adoption center, as their national spokesperson.
Eight years later, Beth is still working tirelessly with the team at North Shore Animal League America to raise awareness and find homes for adorable animals.
“Life is good. I am really happy,” says Beth, who stopped to talk with the Press while on a media tour for Kitten Bowl VI.
Beth was eager to talk about her passion for fostering cats and kittens at the home she shares with husband/radio personality, Howard Stern — who is just as smitten — and the unconditional love she has for her pets, which she describes as a “love affair like no other.”
What can you say about how our pets benefit us emotionally, physically, spiritually? Howard and I don’t have human children together. He has three daughters from a previous marriage who are very much a part of my life. Our children are our animals and our family. I feel like I gave birth to all of my cats — that is how much I love them. We are in tune with each other. My cats know when I am sad. They know when I am crying, just like dogs. I think with any animal that becomes part of a family, you feel very connected to them.
I know how much you love dogs too. Is it all cats all the time now at the Stern residence? I am equally a dog person. I love all animals and I work with the wildlife rescue. Right now, Howard and I have four resident cats. They are my world. We have Yoda, the Persian cat who is the star of my children’s books. We have Walter, a domestic short-haired white cat. Walter is Howard’s favorite and his best friend. We adopted him as an adult. He was returned to North Shore Animal League America a few times. We don’t know why because he is the perfect cat. We have Bella. She is a calico. She is our blind cat. She was most likely abused. She is also a mama cat. She gave birth to four kittens. She is the love of my life. She is so in tune with me, and is the happiest little kitty. And, we have Pebble. She had one eye removed from an infection. She is eight months now. She is so bad. The worst little kitten in the world [she laughs]. She jumps on my poor senior older cats. I love her madly. She is definitely making things interesting in our household.
What are some of the routines at home? They are part of every single day. Howard and I wake up in the morning with our cats. It is such a bonding time. When we go to sleep at night, they are around us. When Howard is having a stressful day the cats come downstairs, and they all run over to him and all of a sudden smiles are there, and we are talking to them. It is such a beautiful part of our life.
Is it true that the cats are obsessed with Howard’s hair? Yes, [she laughs]. Our blind cat crawls in his hair. It’s the funniest thing. She’s nestling in his hair, and he’s reading the newspaper.
The last time we spoke you had mentioned how much Howard enjoys playing chess. Is Walter his new chess partner? It’s funny, Howard doesn’t play chess as much as he used to. He now paints watercolors. A lot of the time the cats are his inspiration.
Beth, with love also comes loss — the human or furry kind — that we all experience at some time in our lives. The hardest part of having an animal is when you lose one. I lose a part of me too. I have gone through so much pain over the past year and a half. I lost three of my resident cats. The depression and what anyone goes through is not anything I wish on anybody, but the love they brought into our lives is worth it.
I’m intrigued and want to hear more about this “foster room.” I call it the “foster room” because we have rooms in our home designated for the fosters that come into our house. We have an apartment in Manhattan with a foster room. Our house in Palm Beach has a foster room and our house in the Hamptons. I think [the cats] are pretty lucky when they get through my door.
What was the largest number of fosters you had at one time? Last summer during kitten season we had 25 fosters. We had a pregnant mama, a nursing mama, a litter of kittens, and a couple of teenagers.
Your children’s books are so sweet. Can you tell me the inspiration behind them? I have been fostering kittens for the past six years. We adopted this Persian cat named Yoda knowing that he had a heart condition and had only three months to live. He started hanging out outside the foster room. I let him in one day, and he started taking care of the kittens. That was the moment his life changed and it was the most incredible thing I ever witnessed. I watched Yoda getting healthier. I took him back to the vet and they could not even detect anything wrong with his heart. I thought, “Oh, my god, love and purpose has truly healed him.” That may sound ridiculous, but I witnessed it. It’s been five years now. He’s doing amazing. I thought, “I have to share this with children,” so that was the story of Yoda: The Story of a Cat and his Kittens.
Sharing Yoda’s story and meeting all these little people when visiting schools must be so fun. I’ve been reading to schools, and I love it. The kids love the stories. More magic was happening in the foster room, so I decided I needed to continue Yoda’s story. I had a kitten named Buddy, both his eyes were removed. Yoda was in the foster room with Buddy. They became a little tag team taking care of the fosters together, so that was my inspiration for Yoda Gets a Buddy. Kids come up to me asking about Yoda and Buddy. I love it, and all the proceeds go to NSAL America.
You just came off the promotion of the Cat Bowl and Kitten Bowl for the Super Bowl. How was that? I can’t believe I get to do this every year. It is such an honor to be the host. The past six years, we have been showcasing adoptable adult cats and kittens. We had our first Cat Bowl, which aired the night before the Super Bowl. We were able to showcase adult cats and special needs cats. That is what I love to focus on, the ones that are sitting in shelters for so long people walk right by them not realizing how incredible they are. We do the adoption at the end of the show, and we found the family of one of my fosters that was featured in the Cat Bowl. It was very emotional. We also have these cat and kitten Super Bowl parties where all of our partner shelters hold specials. Right now — not including this year — more than 25,000 cats and kittens have been adopted as a result of the Kitten Bowl.
You must be thrilled that Bianca’s Furry Friends Adoption Shelter, an adoption and wellness center, will be opening this summer in memory of your beloved bulldog, Bianca. Everything I do is for Bianca. She is my inspiration. I was so excited when Joanne Yohannan and I came up with this idea. It started as a vision to save more lives of dogs and cats. It is happening, and it just gives me chills. The 14,000-square-foot space is going to be designated a cage-free cat habitat adoption center and feline wellness center. We are freeing up the entire bottom floor for more adult and puppy mill rescues. I feel the mission of North Shore Animal League America is going to expand because we can save more lives.
What is next for you? I think I am going to keep doing what I am doing because life is pretty great. I love saving lives, so I don’t see any end in sight with my foster work and my participation and dedication with North Shore Animal League America.
How do you like living on Long Island? It is the best. It’s my favorite place to be. We have a place in the city. We end up spending most of our time out here. I love this time of year when it is off-season and I have all this beauty surrounding me. It is quiet and magical and then the summer is incredible too. Howard and I are happiest when we are at our home in Southampton. We spend most of our time on Long Island and travel back and forth to the city when Howard works. Most of my cats are in my home here.
How can a potential adoptee get in touch with you? There is an email address on my Instagram.
NORTH SHORE ANIMAL LEAGUE AMERICA EXPANDS, PROVIDING EVEN BETTER CARE FOR PETS
This year marks the 75th anniversary of North Shore Animal League America, the world’s largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization, and there is plenty to celebrate.
Since 1944, more than 1 million animals’ lives have been saved, and that number is growing, with nearly 18,000 pets placed successfully into loving homes each year, according to the nonprofit. Joanne Yohannan, senior vice president of operations at North Shore Animal League America, who has been involved with animal welfare for decades, remembers a time when hundreds of thousands of animals in New York City alone and millions across the country were being euthanized every year as a means of population control. But since 2011, the number of dogs and cats euthanized in shelters nationwide annually has declined from approximately 2.6 million to 1.5 million, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
“Today we have advanced,” Yohannan says. “Last year, fewer than 6,000 animals were euthanized in New York City and between two and three million across the country. We’ve really come a long way but still have work to do.”
One of the ways that the nonprofit will continue its mission to save pets’ lives is with Bianca’s Furry Friends Feline Adoption Center, a state-of-the-art facility that will include exam rooms, a feline behavior department, grooming facilities, kitten adoption facility, 24-hour-care nursery, respiratory ward, surgical suite and a recovery room that will enable North Shore Animal League America to provide the highest quality of care.
The center, spearheaded by Howard and Beth Stern and named in honor of their beloved bulldog Bianca, who passed away in 2012, is set to open over the summer.