If you read my post “My week of unexpecteds” you will already know becoming a cat fosterer had not even crossed my mind.
As usually happens in our house, one of my daughters (in this instance Hannah) arrives home with a fabulous idea which undoubtedly involves massive change. I’m used to it…… but if I’m being honest any time I hear “I’ve got a great idea” my initial reaction is PANIC.
This time when Hannah announced she had applied for us to become cat fosterers, yep that’s what I said she had already applied, I was surprised, to say the least. I knew it was a good idea but that’s not to say I didn’t have my reservations.
I knew we would all be good carers as we had cats for years (our last cat died of old age a few years ago).
It was the attachment thing that worried me most, how could I possibly let a cat move on once we had bonded?
Then the cost, health care, would our house be suitable, we live next to a main road (not a good place for inquisitive cats’),would we be totally tied down and no longer able to shoot off at the drop of a hat and what sort of support system was in place?
It’s a pretty long list of reservations and if I’d been given a little more time I would have come up with a whole heap more. Good job Hannah, who knows me so well, had everything sussed and had researched it from every angle in anticipation of the flood of questions coming her way.
Today I thought I’d fill you in on every thing we have found out about temporary cat fostering and our experience in our first 6 weeks with the lovely “Brutus” alias Big Cat just in case it’s something you may be considering.
Why are cat fosterers needed?
It really is a vital role in the processing of finding a cat it’s forever home, and here’s why:
- It frees up space so that other cats’ can be taken in.
- Cats that are used to living in a home environment will continue to receive the care and love they are used to, reducing any trauma to them, especially if their owner is deceased. Just because it’s a cat, it doesn’t mean they will not be grieving. One to one attention and love will be important and more than a rescue center would be able to provide.
- Cats that are not used to much human interaction or have suffered abuse will need time and patience to learn trust. A home environment will give them confidence and become accustomed to what it’s like. This leads to a much better chance of them finding a permanent home.
- Fostering gives an assessment period where problems can be identified and cat personalities understood. Each cat is an individual and will have it’s own special needs and requirements. Some may be best placed with mature owner with a quiet lifestyle, others may not interact well with other animals and some will love an active bustling house. Being able to understand the type of home best suited to the cat will lead to a happy cat and a happy owner.
Requirements and procedures
At this point I can only tell you in detail what is required by Cats Protection as that is who we are volunteering with but I would imagine most organisations run pretty much the same.
APPLYING AND REGISTERING
You can get in touch with them in a few ways:
• Phone the Helpline on 03000 12 12 12
(open Mon–Fri 9am–12.30pm and 2–5pm)
• Email at helpline@cats’.org.uk
• Visit the website at www.cats’.org.uk
• Write to Cats Protection, National Cat Centre, Chelwood Gate,
Haywards Heath, RH17 7TT.
We typed in Aberystwyth Cat protection and emailed directly from there.
They will then get back in touch with you asking you to complete a simple application form and supply a couple of references.
Once the references are back someone will visit you, in your home to check your home is O.K, chat about what to expect and make sure you are suitable. This was all very informal and extremely informative, not at all intimidating.
Next there is a short online training course you need to complete prior to receiving your first cat. Hannah took her time and completed it in two evenings after dinner.
You will then receive your paperwork with your number and contact details and you are ready to go.
It was as simple as that and everyone we met was wonderful, and bent over backwards to help and answer any of our queries.
The cat will be required to stay indoors and not allowed out so living by a main road is no problem.
It is preferred that you have a dedicated room which can be easily disinfected for the health of your family, the present cat you are fostering and any future cats’ you may have.
I didn’t think we had one! As it turns out though the utility room is perfect.
I felt terrible about this at first. I was used to giving the cats’ the run of the house and the utility seems so bare, as we all know cats’ love their comforts, but it made sense. If the cat you are fostering has something contagious, or easily passed on to other cats’ isolating it in an area that can be completely cleaned down is the only sensible thing to do.
Once the cat tree, blankets and bed were in it was it seemed really quite cosy.
The great thing is that if your cat is healthy it is up to you whether you let it have the run of the house or not.
We chose to let Big Cat have the down stairs and then popped him into the utility if we went out and when we went to bed. Turns out he liked it in the utility and on the nights he decided it was bed time before us he took himself off to bed and was asleep well before we went up.
Personally I don’t mind which cat I’m given. Over the years I’ve looked after a whole range of cats’. I’ve no idea why but I’m a natural cat magnet. They seem to find me and then just say. Strays have arrived on the doorstep and decided OK I’m home and then never leave. One was pregnant and within a few days of making herself well and truly at home delivered four beautiful kittens. She stayed wild for the rest of her life but strangely was comfortable with me and I was the only one she allowed to fuss her and pick her up.
The great thing about Cats Protection is they will discuss with you, what you are comfortable with and what suites you. If you do not have much time it may be that kittens would not be suitable or maybe you are not confident dealing with cats that need socialising or are ill. That’s fine CP do not try to push anything on you and will always make sure you are happy and comfortable with the cat you are fostering.
Costs healthcare and equipment
Cats Protection has it all covered.
We were given blankets, beds, toys, cat litter trays, a cat tree, and a carrier. All medical costs are covered, you simply make the appointment with the designated vet in the area and let them know you are from Cats Protection.
Food and cat litter is delivered regularly and if you are running short just drop them a line and they will bring some round.
You incur absolutely NO costs.
Our First 6 weeks
Our big boy Brutus alias Big Cat arrived just over 6 weeks ago and what a gorgeous boy he was!
Sadly his elderly owner had died. He had obviously been well looked after and had the most amazing house manners. He didn’t jump on furniture or work surfaces or try to sneak food when you weren’t looking.
From the moment he stepped out from the carrier his personality was obvious. Quietly confident, a cat that knew himself owned his space and filled the room with calm.
Within the first hour he had investigated the whole area and decided which was his spot (on the rug in the center of the room!) and this never changed ! Yes he sometimes varied it a little……to stretch out under the coffee table or by the side of the table! Then after a few weeks he discovered he could jump onto the window sill. He also found out he could fall off the window sill which totally freaked me out the first time it happened, but he still owned the rug.
Week 1 -Settling in.
Settling in was not difficult. I found out he LOVED company, and I mean really loved company but at the same time was not over fussy. This meant just as long as he was in the same room as you he was happy. He was fine with being picked up and petted but was off at the first opportunity. This makes him sound a little stand offish but he wasn’t, he just showed his affection in his own way.
Week 2 – The vet visit
His cat carrier really freaked him out. To make it easier for him I covered the carrier with a towel to help him feel more secure, this did work ……until I got into the vets. The smells and noise totally unnerved him so I placed him down on the floor at the side of me and out of the way to give him the chance to acclimatize.
Now here’s where I’m going to have a rant! I don’t do this often… but heck, what is the matter with pet owners ( and here I’m only talking about a couple of dog owners I came into contact with on the day…..not everyone and certainly dog owners per se) who have no consideration for anyone or anything other than themselves and THEIR PET!
Honestly I was sitting there obviously tucking the cat carrier as far away from other animals as was humanly possible. It sounded as if I had a freight train rumbling past my feet as Big Cat was growling so loudly! The next thing I knew I was asked what’s in the box? I explained it was a cat who was very nervous about his visit.
They then approach the carrier with their DOG! I said again…. it’s a cat and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t like dogs. He’s not happy with being here today.
Instead of then moving the dog away they then let it poke it’s head under the towel and right up against the mesh.
It doesn’t take a genius to guess what came next. Big Cat hissed and strikes out and catches the dog across it’s nose accompanied but a loud whine from the dog.
At this point I have to point out I am in no way blaming the dog for this, I love dogs. They are inquisitive and it’s their natural instinct but surely the owner should have more sense and you would hope more compassion for an animal (my cat) that is already stressed out. Apparently not! Then just to add salt to the wound they gave me the filthiest look dragging the dog away saying it’s OK come away from the naughty cat.
I couldn’t believe it, Big Cat and me had suddenly gone from sitting there minding our own business to the villains at the vets.
To make matters worst the whole scenario repeated itself again not 10 minutes later, almost word for word!
Being the baddie twice in one day is a new experience for me and truthfully I really don’t like it.
I should have learned from the first encounter but hadn’t. On my next visit I am going prepared.
Proactive is the way to go. It’s no good saying my cat doesn’t like dogs, instead I’m replacing this with my cat will swipe you dog if it gets anywhere near the carrier.
That makes it pretty clear… doesn’t it? Does it sound too aggressive? I’m not sure, we’ll see how it goes.
Any way he was fine when we actually got in to see the vet and better still didn’t hold anything against me when we got home.
Weeks 3-4 – It’s time to play.
For the first two weeks big Cat had no interest in playing AT ALL.
I have to admit I was a little worried that for a cat of 4 years of age he was very sedentary. He spent the whole day and then the evenings too sleeping, most of the time not moving from one spot.
Now, I know how much cats love their sleep and spend most of their time curled up in their comfy place, but even older cats usually get a little excited in play.
We persevered trying different toys and approaches, then one day we got it right. It was as if a light switched on and he suddenly found his mojo. After that he even played on his own pouncing and bouncing on his favourite toys then stretching out for a well-deserved snooze.
Week 5 – Meeting his new family
It is really important (the cat and) the new family have the opportunity to meet before they adopt and don’t just rely on the photographs provided by the website. For this reason when you foster you need to be happy with accepting people into at least one room of your home to let them get acquainted with each other. It also has the advantage of you being able to talk with the family and pass on what you have learned about the cats personality, their likes, dislikes and anything which affects them. This all makes for a smooth transition and hopefully an easy adjustment period for the cat.
In week 5 Big Cat met his new family. What a lovely experience this was. They immediately connected and it was quite obvious they were a perfect match.
Week 6 – It’s time for good-bye
This of course is what I had dreaded from the beginning. After 6 weeks there is a real bond between you and your foster cat. A trust has been built and they have become a part of your family. Big Cat had been wonderful company and I would be lying if I didn’t say that the temptation to keep him wasn’t overwhelming.
Knowing that he was finding his forever home where he would be totally happy, be able to go outside (which he longed for) and finding a family who already loved him made letting go so much easier. It also helped that from the very beginning I kept in my head that he wasn’t mine. I was his temporary carer only their to help him on his way in the very best way I could.
My third strategy for letting go in the most positive way sounds a little weird so don’t judge me on this. I held a conversation with him the day before he left, explaining to him exactly what would happen and what he could expect. Yes I know you probably think I’m nuts but the way I look at it is this;
1. If he has any understanding of anything I’m saying, even if it is the emotion I am projecting, it will help him.
2. If he hasn’t got a flipping clue what I’m on about, no harm done.
Which ever scenario it is, it’s makes me feel better.
I had a knot in my stomach as I placed him in the carrier but the sadness I felt was far outweighed by the happiness. The new family had already told me about everything the had bought for him and how they had set everything up to make him as comfortable and as happy as possible. They showed me photos of the garden he would be able to play in and as the husband worked from home he would have the company in the day he loved so much. It really could not have turned out any better
Then he was off.
The great thing is a couple of days later his new family sent us some photos of how he had settled in. He really looks like the cat who’s got the cream.
So What Do I Think of the Whole Cat FosteringThing?
Here again I can only speak about Cats Protection and specifically Aberystwyth Cats protection but they are awesome. Nothing is left to chance. There is a solid structure in place and a support system you can call on at anytime. All of the volunteers go out of their way to ensure you have everything you need, you can call on them at any time and they respond quickly.
You receive a great sense of satisfaction knowing you are doing something worthwhile and helping cats who have fallen on hard times.
The cats themselves give an enormous amount. Big Cat brought an amazing calm and peace with him, showed us affection constantly in his own special way and enriched every day we were with him.
As yet I haven’t had to face loosing a sick cat or nursing a cat that has arrived with an illness and can only comment on this if it ever happens. I also know if I didn’t feel totally confident to take this on there would be no pressure for me to do so.
If you are going away on holiday CP will arrange for your cat to be looked after so you are not totally tied.
So is it something I would recommend…absolutely 100% yes.
Today we get our next cat and I’m really excited to meet her. I’ll fill you in with our time with Lola and what she teaches us in a couple of weeks.
I would love to hear from you if you have any cat stories or any advise you think would help me. Just drop me line in the comments below and I’ll be sure to get back to you.