Trent Warren, 13, of Ankeny, filled out an application to adopt his favorite foster kitten, Marty, and took him home Saturday.
Trent Warren, 13, of Ankeny, filled out an application to adopt his favorite foster kitten, Marty, and took him home Saturday.

January 11, 2019

Trent Warren’s family has fostered more than 70 kittens for Animal Rescue of Carroll in the past two years.

The 13-year-old, whose family lives in Ankeny, knows the gig. They keep them for a few weeks and then send them on to their “forever homes.”

But with Marty, one of a litter found in a cardboard box on the side of the road that joined the Warrens’ home late last summer, it was different. A striped cat with white feet, he stood out among — and didn’t quite fit in with — the family’s non-fostered cats, all of whom boast solid colors. That was a rule for cats in their household, joked Trent’s mom, Lisa Warren, a veterinarian in Ankeny.

Trent named the kitten Marty, after the zebra in the movie “Madagascar” who ruminates over whether he’s black with white stripes or white with black stripes.

And then Trent — typically more a fan of dogs — fell in love.

“Marty was skinny and scrawny and barely looked like anything,” Lisa said.

But he clicked with Trent, standing out in a long line of foster kittens who streamed in and out of the household.

“He’s kind,” Trent said. “Plus he likes to cuddle a lot.”

The family began fostering kittens for ARC in 2016 and had a rough start with a litter of four who succumbed to the same illness within days.

Trent’s brother, Bryant, now 11, looked at his mom and said, “Mom, they were warm and full and loved, and they weren’t alone. Let’s do it again.”

So they did.

Then came Marty, and Trent’s friends wondered if he’d keep the kitten, but then they heard there was a family who really wanted Marty.

“I talked this poor guy into giving up his kitten,” Lisa said.

After all, that was what they did, and they really didn’t need another cat.

Then a series of unexpected events barrelled into Marty’s life — the planned adoption fell through, and then he got sick and couldn’t leave the shelter for a while.

In the meantime, the Warrens got another striped foster kitten, Valor, who reminded Trent a bit of Marty, and another special bond was born. But Valor became injured and had to be put down quickly.

Trent decided it was important for him to be there — after all, he said, Valor had been there for him when he lost Marty.

The loss compounded his sadness over losing his first striped kitten — and then the family saw online that Marty was still available for adoption.

“I missed him,” Trent said. “I was really happy. My mom came in the kitchen and he was on the adoption site, and I was like, ‘No way!’ ”

Trent filled out the application himself and saved up money for a donation to ARC.

“I fostered the little guy for a long time and grew a very strong bond,” he wrote. “I miss him a lot and I want him to come home.”

And when ARC Director Sammi Elliott saw who wanted Marty, she knew it was a perfect match — particularly after a tough kitten season, with several losses for ARC.

The Warrens traveled to Carroll last weekend to pick up the newest member of their family — what they call a “foster fail.” Marty, now about six months old, joins the family’s other four cats: Simba, Flash (another foster fail), Ashley and Eclipse — and an ever-revolving host of foster kittens they’ll continue to briefly love and then send off.

ARC foster families keep cats — typically kittens, although older cats can be fostered as well — temporarily, typically for several weeks or months, and bottle-feed them if necessary, socialize them and care for them until they’re old enough to be spayed or neutered and then adopted.

“If we didn’t have the foster program that we have, we wouldn’t be able to take in as many cats or kittens as we’ve taken in since we moved into (ARC’s new) building,” Elliott said. “We just don’t have the space and manpower to take care of kittens, especially the neonatals, the bottle babies — we’d have to say no to them. The foster program has helped us save more lives.”

And the shelter needs more. Those interested in fostering can contact ARC at 712-790-9116 at or stop by. It’s located at 1721 East 10th St., just north of Farner-Bocken.

Although most foster families are a blip, albeit a much-needed one, in pets’ lives, every once in a while a story like Marty’s comes along.

In this case, everyone got involved in his story. Lisa recently was at a parent-teacher conference when a teacher asked her out of the blue, “So are you keeping Marty the cat? I’m secretly pulling for Marty.”

It was the right call. The kitten, who hadn’t seen Trent in several months, stuck close to him on a busy day at the shelter last weekend.

He’d already found his home.