Feel free to watch the video of my latest group of adorable foster kittens. I am and have always been an animal lover. I remember when I was learning English I asked my mum to buy the various encyclopedias of the animal kingdom so I could learn to read while simultaneously learning about my favourite subjects. My home as a child was somewhat of a zoo, with my parents lovingly getting me rabbits, hamsters, cats, ducks, chickens, tortoises and fish. Now, all these animals were spread out over 18 years but you get the picture.
Why I foster
Since my move to Australia in 2012, I knew I would not be able to have a pet for a very long time. My beloved Ashley was back home in France happily purring on my mums lap. For about a year and a half I looked forward to hanging out with any of my friends who had a pet and was dreadfully home sick for the sound of little paws running around my house. I honestly do not even remember how, but I came across Katina from Cuddle Cat Café who was looking for foster carers. Foster caring? You mean taking care of an animal until it gets adopted to a perfect forever home?! That was the answer.
Since then, I have fostered 1 dog and 15 cats and honestly could not be happier.
I have always considered myself as priviledged. After all, I have never gone hungry, have a roof over my head, my family could afford my education, I have travelled and spend money on eating out. I consider myself frugal, achieving the absolute maximum out of the money I do have by camping outdoors, loving free activities such as free diving, or even diving (Thank you PADI professionalism!), adventuring, hiking or swimming. I figured that the very least I could do was give back to the community. Fostering fit in perfectly, helping save animals who otherwise would not have had a spot in the kennel or catery and potentially would have had to be put down while filling the hole in my heart.
The Animals I Fostered
It all started with a beautiful litter of four in 2013, unfortunately I cannot remember their names for the life of me, but they were beautiful. Since then, I have taken care of several litters. Some have been shy with my job being to provide them with love and cuddles until they warm up to humans. Some were sick needing more careful attention with syringe feeding, regular weighing and frequent trips to the vet. Some needed to be de sexed, evaluated or just recover after surgery.
Here are some of the absolute legends I had the honour of having in my life.
Kovu, Shiva and Lucifer
This little band of beautiful kittens created quite a ruckus in our house.
Bowie, Alan Rickman, Lemmy and Robyn
Named after four legends who died shortly before these four precious bundles found their way into my house. Bowie was snapped up immediately by a cat loving architecture student from UQ. To this day, I follow Bowie’s facebook page and am stoked to see how much love he receives every day. Robyn went home with a lovely couple while Lemmy and Alan Rickman had a much harder life. Turns out the mother and daughter pair which came to pick them up, were not the lovely balanced people we thought. A recovering drug addict the mother was clearly trying to get into the good books with her daughter, while in reality the girl lived with her grandfather who had strictly said no cats. (Due to fear that they would be ignored. Surely enough we receive a call a few weeks later from the grandfather asking us whether Alan and Lemmy were our kitties, he informs us that he’s very sorry but they had been dropped off at a shelter following some arguments. He tells us the situation and gives us the information of the shelter. Which unfortunately is a kill shelter and shut for easter weekend. Needless to say, I spend the whole three days in terror hoping the two brothers were alright. On Tuesday before opening a volunteer from the Cuddle Cat Café almost knocked the door down to get the two boys. Apperently they were in separate cages with their paws stuck between the wires to touch each other. Their bond only grew stronger at their next foster home, then the second adoptive home who returned them after a week and a third time in foster. These two beautiful angels, Lemmy had always been my favourite, were being thrown around the system. Now luckily they have a lovely home and we all sighed in relief.
Montana, Charles, Moet and Greg
These four came from two separate litters but had the cutest bonds together. Montana was the only girl and clearly mothered the other three, while Greg mostly hid, Moet peed everywhere and Charles was king. All were adopted in a flash.
Probably the most unvegan name I have ever heard, we considered changing the name to Tofu. I do not think it would have worked as well with his brother Spagetthi, who unfortunately perished after some complications during hip surgery. Meatball was a bit of an annoying kitty, meowing all night and getting up to mischief all day. His quirky attitude and stunning eyes did ensure a quick adoption.
Clearly, another name I did not pick. Another teenage kitty who needed some socialising prior to finding a forever home. He was the biggest sweetheart, always coming to give kisses before bed.
This poor girl was found in somebody’s garage limping. They took her to Cat Haven Au who quickly found out she had a damaged pelvis and required some extensive surgeries. I took her home after her second surgery while she was still drugged up. Her shaved leg gave me the heebie jeebies just thinking about what the poor girl had gone through. She was extremely vocal but also very cuddly. I felt I could have whole conversations with her.
Lastly, but not least, came the Ocean Four.
Mama Ceres, Ray, Fin, Polyp and Coral
The mother had given birth to four tiny kittens on a street in a suburb, when someone grabbed them and brought them to the cat rescue place. I received a call asking me if I could take five cats. Honestly, it probably was not the best idea but I could not say no. So in they came in a huge crate. Five frightened sets of eyes looking at me through the mesh. Polyp and Coral, the smaller of the two needed regular syringe feeding and the whole lot needed to be weighed every day.
With this bunch I also learned about fading kitten syndrome which can occur at any point until the kitten is 3 or so months old. Polyp started to get very lethargic and did not eat, tell tale signs of this deadly condition. Sometimes, little kittens just don’t make it. Especially in the ‘wild’ where mothers chose to put their energy into the healthy babies, rather than spreading her milk and care thin between all the babies. Luckily, we could intervene and ensure Polyp had enough food and water to survive.
What Fostering Entails
Fostering is basically the same as owning a pet, apart from in some places such as Cat Haven AU they provide you with everything except the litter. This includes
- Wet Special Dietary Food
- Dry Food
- Litter Boxes
- Litter Scoops
- Pamphlet on Kitten and Cat Emergencies
- Contact Number
- Cat Carrier
- Any medication they might need.
Most rescue agencies have a team of fosters who have fostered for many years, or potentially own cats of their own which they entrust with the most difficult cases. Whether this is abandoned kittens who need syringe feeding every three hours or severely sick cats with Calici or Ringworm. If you are a new foster, you can simply say so and they will provide you with the cat or kitten to fit your needs. Kittens are always given into foster homes in pairs so they do not get lonely, while sometimes older cats just need time away from the shelter.
Fostering kittens and cats gives you one main job : love them. Give them as much love as they can possibly handle and more. Socialise them as much as you can, invite friends over, see how they behave around children and other animals. All these qualities will help them get adopted into the right setting for them.
Of course I am only talking about kittens, and that is because honestly fostering dogs is too difficult for me. They require much more individual attention, training, love and time. A side affect of this is that you develop a two way bond which is tremendously strong. Anyone who has owned a dog can imagine what I am talking about. Basically, its impossible to not become a foster failure. Which means you keep the pet you’re fostering. This is considered a failure because that animal has just taken up a spot in the wonderful halfway house you were providing previously. It means that rescue agencies lose a potential foster and a space to put an animal in need. However, it does provide a forever home for an animal.
Please remember to encourage friends to adopt, not shop. As there are so many wonderful personalities hidden in catteries and kennels. If they do not find homes, unfortunately not all are lucky enough to get a foster home. If you do want to get a puppy or a kitten, please also remember that they are not things, they are parts of your family which are going to live for up to 20 years. You need to be able to provide for them! I know I’m unable to provide for an animal, as much as I’d love to, because I do not know where I will be six months from now. Let alone six years. Fostering was the perfect middle for me.
Do you know of any people who foster? I would love to hear any stories!