Notes from a foster home: How can I give them away?
When I tell people I foster cats and kittens, the most common response I hear is “I could never do that,
because I couldn’t bear to give them away”. Yet the only way SCAT can help more cats is with more
foster homes, and with spring approaching we’ll be inundated with calls for help; hungry young cats,
injured cats, abandoned cats, kittens born under decks and sheds, boxes of kittens left by the roadside.
So I’d like to provide a perspective from inside a foster home.

 

Over the last six years, I’ve had over one hundred foster cats and kittens come and go. (The numbers are
high because I’m able to take in Moms with young kittens and cats with medical needs). I’ve had kittens
born in my home, and I’ve fostered a geriatric cat who passed away while living with me. I’ve had babies
snuggle in my hair while I try to sleep, and kittens climbing my pant leg while I wash dishes. I’ve had the
joy of coaching a timid cat to stay in the same room with me, and then take treats I toss to them, and
finally be brave enough to eat from my hand and let me pet them. When I watch TV, my lap is never
empty; the cats take turns, each getting their dose of affection, some staying longer, some preferring to
lay alongside my legs or wait until bedtime for their snuggle. I know vets from at least six different clinics
now, and I’ve learned more about cat behavior and medical care in the last three years as a foster home
than I did in thirty years as a cat owner; I can now usually tell just from touching them if a cat or kitten
has a fever.

 

My own cats have become very accepting of the cats who come and go from my home, and now they
barely blink when a new cat leaves the quarantine room and joins their ranks in the house. My Beagle is
thrilled to have so many companions! I’ve had cats adopted after only a week in my home, and I have
two timid cats who have been with me for almost three years; except for a few who were very sick or
special needs, all the rest, regardless of age, have been adopted. I treasure the memory of even the
ones who didn’t make it, as they were cared for and loved in their last days, and provided with medical
care to give them the best opportunity to survive, rather than passing away sick, hungry and neglected
on the street. My hard drive is full of cat pictures, cute and silly and adorable, regal and contented, all
with wonderful memories attached; if I ever question why I do this, I browse through them, and it’s easy
to remember.

 

Each cat is different; some have unique challenges, some are timid and need gentle taming, some need
more care, but each and every one brings joy with them. I love them and cuddle them and feed them
and clean up after them, and as I do so I tell them stories about their future homes that are out there
somewhere, their future families that are waiting to discover them, however long that might take. I try
to learn as much about each of them as possible, so that I can describe them well in their adoption
profiles. Each time a potential adopter comes to my home I watch for that moment, that spark that tells
me they’re the ones, as if this particular cat was destined to go to that home. You’d be amazed how
often it happens, that visible connection, and it is wonderful to see. When they are adopted, rather
than being sad that I am ‘losing’ them, I am so glad that they have found a forever home with a person
or family who is committed to loving them always. And for each one who leaves, I know I then have
room to rescue another. I could never had rescued a hundred cats on my own, or kept them all. It is an
amazing feeling, knowing they are all out there, well fed and safe in their loving forever homes, simply
because I opened my home to them.

 

I did adopt one of my fosters, a kitten who walked into my home and heart and said ‘this is mine’. Some
foster homes do adopt one or more of their fosters; some people call this a ‘foster failure’ but I think it’s
a foster success, since each adoption provides a forever home for a cat who had no home. Some of our
foster homes take only one cat at a time; some will only take kittens; some will take only adults; and one
very special home takes our teeny tinies, the babies from birth to six weeks without moms who need
very specialized care. And some of us will take multiple cats, either singly or in groups, moms and kittens
or bonded cats from colonies. We need all kinds of foster homes, from those who only want to take a
single healthy adult at a time to those who can manage multiple cats of multiple ages or cats with
special needs.

 

If you’ve ever considered fostering, please take some time to consider whether this is the time you
might be able to open your home to a cat or kitten(s) rescued from the street who needs a safe, warm,
caring environment. Maybe, like me, you’d be able to see fostering as an incredible opportunity to
rescue cats from situations where their lives are often short and they struggle to survive. Maybe you can
see every adoption as a success story, the best conclusion of the foster process. And, perhaps, over
time, you’ll have a hard drive full of pictures of the cats you’ve rescued too.

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