Summer 2012 Magazine

The Joy of Fostering Cats

By Nancy Marano

Why would you want to foster kittens or cats? It takes time and effort on your part to care for them, socialize them and transport them to the adoption center every weekend. You learn to love them and then you have to give them up when they get adopted. They also can cause disruptions in your household with your family and your own cats because you don't have as much time for them.

But there are people who look at these possible disadvantages to fostering a cat and turn them all into positives for themselves and the animals they help. I was privileged to talk recently with three such people, Nancy Palmer, Barbara Schubert and Inez Thomas, who all foster for Felines & Friends New Mexico. They each have fostered for at least eight years so a lot of experience shows in their answers.

PETroglyphs: Why did you decide to foster for Felines & Friends New Mexico?

Nancy: "I was working in a nursery where there were some newborn kittens. I called the shelter to borrow a trap when it was time to get them but learned they might be euthanized at the shelter. The people at Petco told me about Felines and Friends. Bobbi Heller helped me trap the kittens including the one who was up in the ceiling of a storage building. Then she asked me if I would foster the kittens and I said, 'Yes'."

Barbara: "Felines and Friends gave my three cats a second chance. They faced possible euthanasia because they didn't do well in the shelter. They are gentle, loving creatures, so I wanted to help give a second chance to another deserving kitty."

Inez: "My female cat was sad because she'd lost her mate. I thought I'd get a younger male for her. I went to Petco and talked with two women working there. I really liked what they were doing so I adopted one of their cats. When I went to pick him up from the foster, she also had other cats she was fostering. I took home my cat and several of his siblings to foster. I've been with Felines & Friends New Mexico for nine years now."

PETroglyphs: What is the best thing about fostering?

Nancy: "Being able to enjoy kittens! You get to watch them play, grow up and develop. Then they go to good homes."

Barbara: "Knowing you are saving a life and giving love to a creature who may never have known love in his/her short life."

Inez: "It's fun. Homeless animals are a big problem but it feels as though you're addressing a small part of that big problem. These animals need a place and someday the animals I foster will bring someone joy and unconditional love."

PETroglyphs: What is the worst thing about fostering?

Nancy: "Giving them up. I generally get to talk to whoever is adopting them. All the other workers understand I need to know who is adopting my kittens and I get to say goodbye to them."

Barbara: "Giving up the kitty to a new home can be hard but because we screen our applicants well, we know the cats are going to a loving home. That makes it all worthwhile."

Inez: "Having to deal with another litter box! Seriously, the worst thing is when they don't get along with your own cats. That's why I take kittens. They aren't threatening to my cats and they provide entertainment for them."

PETroglyphs: How many cats have you fostered?

Nancy: "I've fostered 128 kittens since 2004."

Barbara: "I foster adults who will fit in with my own cat family. People love fostering kittens but it is much more difficult to find people to foster adult cats."

Inez: "I've fostered 30-40 kittens. I only take one litter at a time. Right now I'm taking a break from fostering because two of my own cats are having medical problems and need my attention. But I'll go back to it soon."

PETroglyphs: Tell us about some of the memorable cats you've fostered.

Nancy: "I had a white and red, feral kitten named Electra. She was the only kitten who ever bit me. I had to hold her with gloves at first but she came around. She was a wonderful cat and I wanted to keep her but couldn't because one of our cats didn't like her and chased her under the furniture. It was hard to give her up.

I had another litter with two black cats, Duncan and Brady and two silver tabbies. I had them a long time before they got adopted. Duncan had a 17" tail. I measured it. I'd never seen a tail that long and it was almost always straight up in the air. Brady was almost too smart for himself. He'd open doors and cabinets all the time."

Barbara: "Shadow came to us when he was 10-years-old because his human passed away. He was very thin and suffering from dental disease. After immediate treatment, he became a permanent foster of Felines & Friends New Mexico. I had him for seven years before he died. He brought so much joy to our house and became the boss over my cats even though he was only half their size.

Leona was part of a TNR project. She decided she didn't like cold weather and came to the door at Smith's Veterinary Hospital. Once inside she needed to be trapped. She's what's known as a social feral. She wants to be near people but not touched. I've had her for three years and still can't touch her but I'm confident I will someday. She loves my cats and they love her. It's as if I have three cats and they have their own cat."

Inez: "A neighbor called me because a cat had kittens under her bush. I reached in and managed to get four kittens and the mama cat out. She was so emaciated and exhausted but she was taking good care of the kittens. We raised her kittens and they were adopted quickly. She turned out to be a beautiful Maine Coon cat who we named Mabel. Mabel was adopted with one of her kittens but the woman called me to say she thought Mabel was unhappy. When I went to the woman's house, Mabel saw me and ran right to me. She was purring and wanted to go home. She is very attached to one of our cats so she'll stay with us.

Sunny was a semi-feral we adopted because he was so terrible when we put him in the cages at Petco. He was all right with people but he hated being confined. We named him Sunny because he was such a grouch. He followed me around all the time. One day he was walking through a door. The wind came up and slammed the door on his tail. It was broken so he had to walk around with a cast on it."

PETroglyphs: What advice would you give to people who think they might like to foster?

Nancy: "It's wonderful to be able to give these cats a chance. In this throwaway society where people don't seem to care much, it is just really rewarding. As hard as it is to give some of them away, you feel you've given them a chance and they go to good homes."

Barbara: "Open your heart and just do it. It is rewarding and you will find a new feline friend. You will never forget your foster kitties and they will never forget you."

Inez: "I encourage people to foster. I would tell someone it's a great experience. It gives you pleasure and satisfaction that you are doing something to help. And you aren't committed. You provide shelter and love and food. At least you know when the cat's adopted, it's going to a good place. If you decide to keep one of your fosters, that's all right, too."

Thanks to the unselfish actions of these three women, and many fosters like them, thousands of cats and kittens receive a good start in life or get a second chance to find happiness in new homes. If you want to perform a rewarding and valuable community service, consider fostering cats for Felines & Friends New Mexico or one of the other cat rescue organizations in New Mexico. They all could use your help and the cats would repay you with lots of purrs and love.

Nancy Marano is an award-winning writer who is owned by three cats, Sammy, Callie and Max. Callie and Max are new additions to the family. She is a member of the Cat Writers' Association and Dog Writers of America.

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