COVID-19 may have us all staying at home with our family groups right now, but cats and kittens still need to be rescued—especially after the need to pause non-lifesaving treatments including spay/neuter surgeries at a crucial time in the feline reproductive cycle. That also means some of them need to be fostered and eventually adopted, along with all the fine felines rescues had in stock prior to the pandemic.
Many rescues have no central shelter where rescued and adoptable cats are held, instead, they are fostered in homes. When they are ready for adoption, the meet and greet with a prospective adopter is so important to see how both parties react to each other. That first impression and the adoption itself also typically happen in the foster home, especially now that the pet supply stores which have cage space for adoptable cats have temporarily closed that cage area, and customers can’t even shop inside but may need to order online and pick up at curbside for a while longer.
Meet and greets include welcoming visitors into your home who are often total strangers but for their adoption application screening, then a phone call or text messages. Both the adoption screener and the foster would have discussed the cat or cats and their care as well as adoption policies before the meet and greet, but a face-to-face discussion is still important. An adoption includes signing paperwork and possibly writing a check, more surfaces and objects that may become fomites, or objects or materials which are likely to carry infection from a touch, cough or sneeze, or even talking.
That’s a lot of interaction, and touching potentially a lot of things aside from the cats themselves, like the pen and papers to sign, doorknobs, toys, crates, carriers, furniture, you name it. And trying to communicate while half your face is covered and your voice is muffled can really be daunting. How do you do that and still observe social distancing recommendations and keep everyone safe? Fostering is already a lot of work, and then these steps crucial to everyone’s health are added to the list.
Adoption applications have still been arriving pretty regularly into Pittsburgh C.A.T.’s message box, especially with people being encouraged by national rescue groups to foster or adopt while sheltering at home. That means fosters have still been going through the processes of opening their doors to potential adopters and then sending the kitties home after completing the paperwork while observing protocols to keep everyone safe.
Planning the meet and greets
Several fosters with Pittsbugh C.A.T. described recent carefully planned meet and greets designed for strangers to come into and leave from their home with minimal surface contacts yet still able to meet and interact with the cats they wanted to adopt, and masks, contact points, distancing and sanitizing afterward were all part of the preparation. I will add that some of these fosters, and other fosters, are also in high-risk health groups, so following this whole process is more than a precaution, it’s critical for them.
Everyone wore masks in all events; in some cases fosters asked ahead of time and in some cases it just worked out that way. Tanya’s potential adopters weren’t wearing masks when they arrived, but when they saw her wearing one they went to their car and put masks on without her asking. No one seemed to mind the request or actually wearing one.
Everything anyone would touch could potentially be contaminated, so each foster planned a path of least contact for the adopter to both enter and leave the house, and interact with the cats. Margo has a large walk-in cage in her basement, so the adopters could come in through the garage to the basement, right where the cage was, minimizing surfaces they could touch. Margo opened the cage and moved across the basement, and the kittens “actually came right out to [the adopter] and were in her arms instantly.” The adopter had the cats in her arms, why would she touch anything else? Of course, she adopted them, and Margo had a pen for each of them to sign the paperwork. Adopters are required to bring their own carriers to adoptions.
Meghan had her adopter use the front door, which her family doesn’t use, then a hallway that connects to the living room where the adopter could meet the cats, and Meghan opened all the doors so the adopter didn’t have to touch anything. This person also adopted and brought her own pen for paperwork. Meghan mentioned that this person was “a trusted co-worker” but Meghan was leery of strangers right now and often used another foster’s home where there is a spare room near the entry.
Sue had an adopter to meet two kittens, had placed them in a play tent in her living room and pre-arranged for the adopter to sit on the floor to reach into the tent and limit contact with too many things. “One kitten fled and watched from her tree. Other kitten was imprinting on [him],” Sue said. Under normal circumstances an adopter might take the time to try to coax the skeptical kitten and end up touching a lot of surfaces and toys and other things in the room, but not in this case. He didn’t adopt right then but the experience was still positive, and he did adopt them at a later date. Sue knew him from Facebook and was somewhat comfortable with him in her home, but wouldn’t be comfortable with a total stranger.
Tanya also confined the path for her adopters to her living room, stairs and bathroom, and let them visit the cats in the bathroom without her. They also adopted at the end of their visit. Tanya had the paperwork set up on the ledge of her bay window and she explained the paperwork, then moved away so they could sign. Preston and BJ, featured below, were two of those two cats adopted—read Preston’s story here. Amara and Aurelia, at the top, were also fostered by Tanya and recently adopted in the same process.
In each case, they were either in an area large enough that they could move a safe distance from the adopter, or in Tanya’s case where she let them go upstairs to meet the kittens alone and could also safely distance when paperwork was signed.
Each sanitized with wipes and/or a cleaning solution afterward, made much easier by planning ahead for the path the adopter would take and what they might touch.
In the end, four fosters had successfully socialized and given regular vetting plus medical care to these rescued kittens and cats so they had the chance to live healthy lives and meet prospective adopters, eight young cats went to loving forever homes, four families have new feline companions they can come to fully know and love for the rest of their lives, and it all happened with masks, at a safe distance, and all was safely sanitized afterward. And the adoptions go on!
Below, BJ and Preston. The adopter was interested in BJ but was open to two cats. Preston and BJ were buddies, but Preston’s scar was still kind of pink so the adopter decided to foster to adopt. Just a few days later Preston’s adoption was final.
Read my entire series of articles on the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19
Wear a mask, wash your hands and don’t touch your face!
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Great Rescues Day Book:
Portraits, Rescue Stories, Holidays and Events, Essential Feline Information, All in One Book
Each month features one of my commissioned portraits of a feline or felines and their rescue story along with a kitty quote on the left page, and on the right page the month name with enough lines for all possible dates, with standard holidays and animal-themed observances and events. Great Rescues also includes a mini cat-care book illustrated with my drawings including information on finding strays or orphaned kittens, adopting for the first time or caring for a geriatric cat, a list of household toxins and toxic plants, or helping stray and feral cats and beginning with TNR.
Each book includes also 10 sheets of my “22 Cats” decorative notepaper with a collage of all the portraits in black and white so you can make your own notes or write special notes to friends.
The portraits in this book, collected as a series, won both a Certificate of Excellence and a Muse Medallion in the 2011 Cat Writers’ Association Annual Communication Contest, as well as the 22 Cats Notepaper mentioned below.
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
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Weekly schedule of features:
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!