When Beryl Williams moved to Tūrangi earlier this year, she was initially at a bit of a loss.
Having lived in Whanganui all her life, the adjustment to a new town was hard for the 91-year-old, who had moved up to live with daughter Moira Mollinson and Moira's partner Tim.
The change was made harder by the fact that before she moved Beryl had had to put down her beloved seal point Siamese cat who was suffering from leukaemia.
But Beryl has found new purpose and joy in caring for some of Turangi's tiniest residents.
The life-long animal lover spends three days a week fostering kittens for Animal Care Tūrangi, where she encourages them to eat and use the dirt box, to get used to people and socialise, and showers them with love. In return, the kittens entertain her with their antics - wrestling one another, climbing curtains and leaping on the furniture - and enjoy their cuddles with Beryl too.
It's a win-win situation for all involved and it was the idea of Stacy Lewis of Animal Care Tūrangi. Moira was bringing her mother to Animal Care Tūrangi to visit the animals, and Stacy hit on the idea of asking Beryl if she wanted to foster the kittens during the day.
Now Beryl has the kittens three days a week while Moira, who is allergic to cats, is at work. Stacy drops the kittens off in the morning with everything they need and picks them up again in the afternoon. She says it's the perfect arrangement. The kittens need human contact, it saves them being in a cage at the Animal Centre all day and frees Stacy up for vet appointments and the other jobs she needs to do. The kittens also provide Beryl with company and as an experienced pet owner, she's able to provide all the care they need.
"I've always had animals at home ever since I was little. The only thing I haven't had much to do with is horses because they're so much bigger than me but other than that I've got along with animals very well. I've always had cats, dogs, budgies and fish and I had a family of ducks one time."
Beryl says her job as foster carer is just to love and cuddle the kittens and it's not hard to do, although feeding them from a syringe when tiny was "a bit tricky". The active little cats love to climb and she'll often have one climbing up her back to drape itself around her neck, and a couple more on her lap.
"They sleep on me and purr and just lie on me and play, they get up around my neck and purr.
"I usually have a lap full [of sleeping kittens] and one on my shoulder, and sometimes I go to sleep too. They're entertaining. I love them."
Stacy has two different litters of kittens she brings to Beryl for fostering and one litter, which was abandoned by their mother in a garden shed and brought to Animal Care Tūrangi to care for was so tiny when they first arrived that the kittens were just over 200g in size. She says this year has seen more kittens than ever, with three breedings and it seems cats are now reproducing year round. Having Beryl has been a godsend.
"At the moment I have 16 kittens at the centre plus a cat and four teen (cats), and 14 puppies and a dog," says Stacy.
"I had 20 adoptions last month and 19 the month before and they've been coming from all over."
The kittens have to stay in care until they are 1kg in size and can be desexed, then adopted.
Stacy says she would love to have more animal fosterers because carers often get employment or move away.
"They [the animals] do need to be somewhere safe and a little bit of experience is helpful, but I bring the litter tray, crate, bowls, food and all she has to do is give them a bit of time and attention and help them along their way."
Moira says having the kittens has made a big difference to her mum's enjoyment of life.
Postscript: Three weeks after this story was published, Beryl passed away. Our sympathies go to her family.
"She was a bit lost when she first got here but when Stacy brought the kittens around she lit up like a Christmas tree."