Options in Fostering, Choose One, Save One Life Or More

Mia and Scarlett in the basket bed in the tub.
Mia and Scarlett in the basket bed in the tub.

So I have 10 cats in my house right now: the five regulars Mimi, Giuseppe, Mr. Sunshine, Jelly Bean and Mewsette, and five fosters, Bella, Basil and Charm and, yes, two extras, Scarlett and her recent BFF Mia are in the bathroom. It’s not a big deal. I have often housed 10 cats and even more in this 666-square foot house with basement, and last month, in fact, had 13 if you counted Charm’s five kittens. Others house many more than I do.

It’s the end of June and the first big wave of kittens was born in April, stray and trapped or caged and brought in by strangers or owned litters brought in by owners who didn’t want them, and hit the shelters with or without mothers beginning in May. People were waiting for the cuteness and socialized kittens were adopted left and right in singles and pairs.

By now the fascination with kittens is slowing and they aren’t adopted so quickly, their mothers often not at all. Adoptions are stalling, but kitten births and surrenders are not. Shelters are filling up if not full to capacity already.

Open door shelters have a mission to take in all domestic animals presented to them regardless of age or condition and often do their best to try to keep animals in their home rather than have them surrendered. Many of the surrendered kittens are ill or underweight or underage and could not stay in the shelter. Many of the mothers are feral and unsocialized or had been abandoned at some point before, during or after pregnancy, trying to feed themselves and raise kittens in whatever safe spot they could find and are not friendly enough to be put up for adoption after that experience. If surrendered, hopefully these kittens and mother cats could go to foster homes connected with shelters or to rescues who work with shelters to be socialized, medicated, bottle fed, whatever it was they needed to be later presented for adoption as a healthy and socialized kitten or cat.

If you have the ability to foster even one cat or one litter of kittens for a shelter or rescue, you will save lives, and now is the time to do that. But the biggest objection I often hear isn’t space in the house or time to spend on the foster or effort at feeding or socializing, it’s that the adopter will not be able to give them up when it’s time to go. I understand that fear, but fostering isn’t so much about the person who fosters as it is about the animal who needs the fostering. Looking far beyond the one-on-one relationship with an individual cat or kittens to the scope of cats in need described above, fostering saves a life, and that reward is greater than any fear of loss or heartbreak, and sometimes more than one life because keeping one cat out of a shelter by fostering allows more space for the shelter to save other cats, kittens, even dogs, rabbits, ferrets and other animals. Surely saving a life is more compelling than a short time of sadness at giving up a cat or kitten you’ve come to love as it goes to a loving adoptive home.

I love every cat I meet but I don’t want to keep them all. That would be a huge disservice to all the cats concerned and to myself. I want others to love cats, learn to love them if they don’t already, and find the cats good homes for all their lives. I don’t want my fosters to have me, I want them to have a lifetime bond with a human who loves them in return. And personally I feel very little sadness at giving up a cat or kitten I’ve fostered, because in finding the perfect adopter I feel I’m giving a gift to both the cat and the person—the gift of each other, bringing together two spirits in that bond that lasts beyond forever.

child with cat and dog
Ernie with his new family.

(I have links to more adoptions of recent fosters, “happily ever afters”, at the end of this article.)

Current fosters

There are thousands of people fostering cats, dogs and other pets right now. Most don’t have the time or the place to write about their experiences so I write this for them as well as for myself. Here is a little bit about my current fosters to give you an idea of the scope of your choices in fostering for shelters, for rescues and on your own. I don’t suggest jumping in and doing it all at once, though. Try just one or two to get used to it!

Basil was a frightened shelter kitten considered unadoptable unless further fostering could be found, and Bella was rescued from a feral colony, socialized, but became frightened and unsocialized from an experience in an offsite store adoption. I socialized them beginning last August to the point of adoptability and they are both here until their adopter, caring for a beloved elderly cat with the effects of a few lifelong conditions, is able to take them home. Charm was abandoned and living on the street in another area of my town, cared for by a neighbor and rescued; I took her in to socialize her and her kittens, who have all been adopted, though she is still settling in to being a house cat and learning some manners, here until someone adopts her. Scarlett was abandoned along with Charm last year and at the end of April I took her in and surrendered her to the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society with a reclaim to take her back if she needed fostering for any reason or if in any way her adoptability was in question.

Scarlett is fine, but she was so social and friendly with both cats and people she was placed in one of the cat colony rooms and found her BFF Mia, a tabby girl who is affectionate but not totally trusting, and who developed a condition requiring drops in her eyes. She is very difficult to treat and she could not remain with the eye condition untreated. My contact at the shelter asked me if I could foster her long enough to finish off her treatment since she was, after all, Scarlett’s BFF. I offered to bring Scarlett home too, so that Mia would have her buddy there and Scarlett could have some home time, and I could cuddle this absolutely perfectly sweet round little black cat.

They’ve been here since Thursday, and Scarlett has been fine since I opened the carrier, but though I prepared by wiping things down with pheromone wipes, spraying flower essences into the air and dripping them into the food and water, Mia first hid in the carrier, then overnight scurried into the cubby by the tub and froze into position. I talked to her, I hummed to her, I wiped things down with more pheromone wipes, wiped flower essences onto things and again dripped them into the food, the water, and onto Mia. I even dripped a dose of her eye drops into her eye as she crowded into the back of the cubby, frozen into position, only blinking when the drops landed into and around her eye. She was frightened by the sound of the water running in the pipes in the wall right next to her, so I washed up elsewhere and called it a day.

Finally, yesterday, as I dropped four drops of the flower essences onto my hands and rubbed them in, and then four drops onto her back, her front paws began to knead the shelf in front of her. Later, more drops on my hands and her back and she tentatively reached her nose toward my hand, nervously, then enthusiastically rubbing her face on both of my hands. She cautiously crawled out of the cubby, then leaped back in, back and forth; last night she ended up in the basket bed in the tub with Scarlett, who gave her a big greeting and a licked her all over her face and neck. Sigh. Again, I washed up elsewhere.

Today Mia still takes a little coaxing but she is out and affectionate and eating and drinking with me there—one bite, then back to me to rub on me, then back to the bowl, then back to me. However, my shower frightened her again and she tried to dig her way out the door and leaped all over the bathroom…but this time I persisted and finally had a decent shower. We were all okay afterward.

Charm was due to go to an offsite adoption event today but she’s still not okay with being contained in a carrier or cage. I had put a harness and leash on her a few days ago and she did well, and thought it would be nice if she could be on the harness and leash at the event instead of the cage. But this morning when I put it on her when Margo came to pick her up Charm was less than charming, scraped me up a bit and with Margo’s help I got the harness off and we decided she would stay home. I’m sure that was Charm’s plan.

Charm while I'm at the computer writing this article.
Charm while I’m at the computer writing this article.

Mia’s eye looks fine, so she and Scarlett will return to the shelter tomorrow. I had hoped for a little more time with them but had also promised Debby, another Pittsburgh CAT foster home with several litters of young kittens in foster, that I would help socialize two or three slightly older beautiful solid black and gray fuzzy kittens so they could go up for adoption and she could focus on her little ones.

I’m glad I have the experience to take whoever comes along that I can fit in here, but I also have to keep my regulars in mind; this is about their limit judging by the little spats that arise. I’ve cleaned up enough errant cat pee in my life and I’m not going to do that again. I also have to keep my own household needs in mind and while food and litter are often donated there are still expenses associated with fostering, and I not only live here but work here as well, the bathroom is also part of my studio and I rely more on selling things I create than I have before. Unfortunately, with a tight schedule to begin with, fostering takes the time I had spent on new artwork, writing more stories and research articles, and even daily sketches. And getting my posts to my blog on time!

But right now, at this time of the year, fostering is more important. Take your choice of fostering for your shelter to socialize a frightened cat or litter of kittens, help those kittens grow healthy and happy to be spayed or neutered and put up for adoption, or just give a cat a cage break or a medical break for your shelter. Or you can work with a rescue and foster cats who need the same things but have been rescued off the street, help to find cats in need, capture or trap them, get them veterinary services, teach them about live in a loving home and help to get them adopted. I’m sure my adventures will continue!

Read about the adoptions of a few recent fosters: Ernie, Simon (Bert), Charlie (Splash), Higgins and Samwise, Dinah and Finn (Zorro and Crayola). And some fosters of old: Jack, Murphy, Tess and her kittens.

. . . . . . .

Animal rescue unfortunately also includes losses of its own for cats and kittens who were too ill to survive. So sorry for the loss of rescued kitten Alien/Treble after a surgery for a cleft palate, it was just too much for him, and for the loss of feral kitty Potato Face after successful surgery to remove a chin growth and she seemed friendly and was about to have a home, likely the growth was cancerous and had spread. Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to rescue and save these two, and others too.

Read more Essays on The Creative Cat.

Inspired by felines you know! Visit Portraits of Animals on Etsy.
Inspired by felines you know! Visit Portraits of Animals on Etsy!

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Weekly schedule of features:
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From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

3 thoughts on “Options in Fostering, Choose One, Save One Life Or More

  • June 28, 2015 at 8:49 pm

    So many cats owe their lives to fostering people.
    Big purrs for the help you give and the lives you touch.
    Purrs Georgia and Julie,
    Treasure and JJ

    • July 2, 2015 at 10:06 pm

      I hope more people can foster, Georgia and Julie, and someday there are fewer cats who need it.


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