When it comes to cats, Beth Stern has a heart of gold. Years ago, the model turned animal activist was asked to walk the runway for an event hosted by the North Shore Animal League. After learning about the organization’s no-kill animal rescue and adoption efforts, Stern began fostering and helping cats in need.
The feline activist and her husband, radio personality Howard Stern, have a constant rotation of foster cats (they’ve given over 300 cats short-term homes) and own six of their own, including Yoda, a foster who was in such bad condition when Stern stumbled upon him that he was given only three months to live. Four years later, the Persian is going strong and even inspired Stern to write a story about him.
When he’s not on Sirius radio or judging “America’s Got Talent,” Howard helps his wife in her cat-rehoming efforts, and yes, he even cleans his share of litter boxes, Beth says.
We caught up with Beth to discuss her dedication to cats in need and what life is like with her six kitties – “Of course they are spoiled rotten,” she says. “It’s their house; we just live in it.”
PawCulture: Where did your love of animals come from?
Beth Stern: My parents are huge animal lovers. Their “firstborn” was a Collie mix named Suzy-Dog and we always treated our pets as family members. As a child, we were always rescuing animals – even wildlife. It’s something that I’ve always been doing.
PC: How did you get involved with the North Shore Animal League?
BS: I was modeling for a New York agency and one day my booker asked if I would be willing to volunteer my time at a luncheon for the North Shore Animal League America and walk the runway with adoptable dogs and cats. That day, I learned that they were the world’s largest no-kill rescue and adoption organization. I volunteered my time and have been working with them ever since. I believe that was 12 years ago.
PC: Tell us about the Stern cat clan.
BS: We have six resident cats, all rescues. Walter was adopted as an adult and he is in love with Howard. He literally drools whenever Howard walks into the room. Leon Bear is a 22-pound black cat. So many people think black cats are bad luck, but Leon has only brought good luck and love into our home. He was found walking around the rubble of a tornado in Alabama and brought back to the Animal League.
Charlie was adopted as an adult shortly after our Bulldog, Bianca, passed away. I went to the Animal League and asked to meet a cat that had been there a while. Charlie is an angel but he loves his food. We call him Charlie Chunk.
Bella was pulled from a high-kill shelter after being rescued from a junkyard, pregnant and blind. She gave birth at the Animal League and after six weeks of nursing her kittens, I fostered her kittens while she was spayed and had her eye removed. After I found her kittens homes, I brought her home to foster but I couldn’t let her go.
Yoda, another foster failure, is a pure white Persian. He was dumped at the Animal League as a young adult, completely matted and emaciated. I took him to my vet and was told he was in heart failure and probably had no more than three months to live. Howard and I adopted him so he could live the last months of his life with us. It’s now four years later! He’s healthy as can be and helps me with the foster kittens. I truly believe that by helping me with the kittens and finding his purpose and getting love, we healed his broken heart.
Sophia, our sixth cat, is also blind. She came to us a year ago from Vegas as a kitten. I work closely with another foster mom located there and I offered to take her to a specialist for eye surgery and find her a home. Turns out, my Charlie Chunk fell madly in love with her so we adopted her on Valentine’s Day. I am happy to report that their love is still going strong.
PC: What is a day in the life of the Stern cats like?
BS: They rule the house! I love mornings with Howard reading the paper on the couch and having all six cats either on top of us or nearby. I also love when Howard plays with each one individually or I walk into a room and he’s talking to them and brushing them. Melts my heart every time.
PC: Do your current clan of cats help with the fosters?
BS: I usually have at least six fosters at any given time. Currently I have one adult foster as well as a young mama and her six 2-week-old babies. I have a designated foster room for kittens and an entire area for the adult fosters.
Yoda is a permanent fixture in the foster room. He loves taking care of the babies. He grooms them and keeps them in check. And Charlie Chunk visits the foster room daily. He loves kitten food (laughs).
PC: Any favorite fostering memories that you can share?
BS: Every foster is special to me, but the adult cats with special needs are the hardest to let go. Of course there is Buddy, who I wrote my second children’s book about. He was abused and lost both of his eyes as a kitten. We nurtured him and found him an incredible home.
There’s also Miracle, the kitten who was found in a dumpster in the middle of a New York blizzard with her ears cut off. Both Buddy and Miracle are now in loving, amazing homes and I get to follow them on their Instagram accounts.
PC: What’s the secret to helping get a cat ready to go to a new home?
BS: Getting to know the individual cat and informing people through my social media of the cat’s personality and what kind of a home he or she would thrive in helps. Through my Instagram I get a lot of interest in every cat or kitten I post, and I work closely with the Animal League to screen and interview each applicant to find the best home for that particular cat’s needs.
PC: Is it true that Howard helps clean litter boxes? In what ways does he help support your animal advocacy efforts?
BS: Yes, he does! He is my partner in rescue. He is right there with me. He helps me socialize and nurture them. He’s the best.
PC: What’s next on the agenda for you in terms of your animal advocacy efforts?
BS: I will continue spreading the word of adopting and the North Shore Animal League America’s no-kill mission to save lives. I will continue fostering and finding my fosters loving, forever homes. It’s my life’s purpose. I love it.