Shelters recently have shared heartwarming stories of absolutely clearing out all their pets up for adoption to foster homes as they prepared for the coronavirus reducing staff and bringing in surrendered and abandoned pets. Thousands of households stepped up and made a difference, and you can too, right now, for your local shelter or rescue. While we can’t “TNR” because we can’t do surgeries, kitten season was not ordered to stay at home. Cats and kittens still need to be rescued and need a foster home, and in a few months when we resume TNR again the need for foster homes will be even more urgent as the volume of rescues will increase.
This is a two-part series on preparing your house for fostering rescued cats, whether you do or don’t have cats already, and covering the needs of abandoned kittens to senior cats.
On a cold and miserable afternoon in November 1986, I looked out my kitchen door at the friendly and affectionate tabby cat with round white paws who’d taken up residence on my porch, in my yard, and in the alley by my car. He’d been around for two weeks, waiting outside the door, helping me in the garden, following me to my car, talking and rubbing himself up against me, while I was playing hard to get. On this day he had stationed himself out on the walk in my garden and was collecting ice crystals on his fur in the sleeting rain. No one had answered any signs or ads for a missing cat. I gave in to his histrionics and opened the door. He ran up on the porch, sniffed the door, looked inside, and walked in. I closed the door.
That was the last time I let an unknown cat just walk in the door without any veterinary records, and I was lucky. Stanley was clean and healthy. FIV and FeLV were just becoming an epidemic among cats and as yet there was no vaccine or cure, nor regular testing protocol that I knew of, and I didn’t even think about the importance of vaccinations. That was near the beginning of my rescuing career and I was glad that the veterinarian I saw on a regular basis, knowing I had other cats and was likely to take in more cats, let me know about FIV and FeLV and all the other things Stanley could be carrying in with him, and what to do the next time a cat asked to join my household. Actually, the lecture terrified me and I never forgot the sick feeling I got when I thought of possibly killing one or more of my beloved cats with a tortuous and painful fatal disease—and I’m glad for it. In all the years I’ve rescued and fostered cats, I’ve never had anything but fleas spread to the rest of my household.
Fostering cats saves lives, whether you bring them in yourself or foster for a rescue or shelter, whether it’s kittens, adult cats, cats who need a cage break or a level of care they can’t get elsewhere. In spring when litters of homeless kittens show up under every porch, bringing them and their mom indoors, socializing them and spaying or neutering and vaccinating them to prepare them for an adoptive home is not only kind but saves the lives of those cats and prevents the lives of other kittens that will be born to those kittens and their mother if left outdoors.
Adult cats in shelters often lose their lives at this time of year to make space the number of kittens with or without mothers entering the shelter, which is finite and has regulations about how many animals it can handle, and taking them into your home for a period of time saves their lives on the spot. Taking in cats to foster from someone whose life is in transition and temporarily or permanently can’t care for them such as divorce or separation, illness, or permanent disability or incapacity, helps a cat transition from a life it’s known to a new reality that may have many changes that often turn a cat defensive and even violent if it doesn’t feel safe.
This two-part article is written from my own experience and a lot of advice from my veterinarians and other animal professionals over the years. I hope I can encourage you to foster and help save lives, safely and happily.
Why foster, and an overview of things to consider.
What to prepare for, and preparing your home and yourself.
Read more articles in the category Health and Welfare
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Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters Tuesday: Rescue Stories Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork Thursday: New Merchandise Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!
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