Falling in Foster Love
I love cats. I love their floofy toes, I love their watchful gaze, I love their intelligence, and prowess, and bellies and noses. I love the company cats offer and their unique personalities. When I first moved to Melbourne I was feeling a little lonely and grey in the cold winter; I was missing the kitty cuddles of my last share house, but for a variety of reasons, wasn’t in a position to adopt. I still had a home to offer and love to give, so when the idea of fostering crossed my mind I took a few weeks to seriously consider it. I kept an eye online at cats available for fostering and had my paperwork filled out and ready to go. I had sent a few inquiries, but they were placed with more experienced carers, so I scrolled on. Until one fine day, a timid, black ball of floof, all eyes and shyness, came across my dash. His name was Yakult, and I immediately felt like this was the meow I’d been looking for.
I sent in my application and within a day I got a call from a friendly, smart lady named Kathleen with Maneki Neko Cat Rescue. I could tell by her tone how dedicated she was to helping felines. She asked me some questions about my experience with cats and living situation, then after a few minutes approved my application and said she could drop off Yakult once his vet work was completed the next day. I was over the moon! I ran out to the pet store to get some kitty essentials, putting a great deal of consideration into which toys and flavour of wet food Yakult might like best. I got home and set up the apartment as recommended, so that he would be introduced into a small, safe space (in this case my bathroom) and after a few days could come into more and more of the apartment as he felt comfortable. Kathleen dropped him off the next evening and came up to chat and help us both feel comfortable before she left. Yakult was understandably terrified, hiding in the back of the carrier he came in and staring with giant, dilated green eyes at every little movement in the room.
After that, I gave him some alone time and quiet. I checked on him a few times in the night, but he stayed in his carrier, so scared he rathered to wet himself than venture into the unknown. The poor guy! I was scared I was doing something wrong. I offered him kibble and a toy at the edge of the crate but he just stared, afraid of ulterior motives. He did let me pat him a few times, but otherwise nothing. The next afternoon he was still in his carrier and I emailed Kathleen in a panic. She assured me this was all normal behaviour, and to try to give it a little more time. I did. I spent the next few days spending time with him, telling him about my life and the kitties I know, and he did come out of the carrier and onto a towel shelf. He let me brush out his beautiful hair and clean him with a damp cloth. He showed interest when I fed him, and after a few days, would come over to eat right away. It had only been a few days and already I could tell he felt safer and more himself.
That first week and a half I still kept Yakult in the bathroom, but left the door open during the day so he could explore if so inclined, occasionally to see his little floof face peering around the corner. At the end of that week, my partner and I had turned in for the night- turned off the lights and were cuddling up under the blankets drifting off to sleep when we were jolted awake with a loud POOF! sound and a featherlight weight on our legs. We used the light on our phones to see Yakult’s bright green eyes looking at us tentatively from the foot of the bed, feet sunk an inch deep into the doona. He had opened the bathroom door and decided our bed looked more comfy than the bathroom after all. We were thrilled, but tried to play it cool so as not to startle him away. It was such a rewarding moment. Gradually Yakult grew more and more comfortable with us until he would play with me all afternoon and greet my partner at the door every night with a big cuddle and stretch. Every little personality quality that came out felt like a victory. I loved having his company and the way his progress made me feel, but eventually the day came when I knew he didn’t need me anymore. The next part of my role was finding him his forever home and between his dashing good looks and debonaire personality he had applications lined up! When his mum-to-be came by to meet him it was clear they were a match and she took him home a few days later. I got a little teary as I waved goodbye, not out of loss, but out of accomplishment.
The lives of my partner and me, Yakult, and his new mum were all made better by this process. To anyone who has a bit of time, a bit of space, and a lot of love, this work is absolutely some of the most satisfying you could possibly do. At times the problems of the world can seem overwhelming, often we don’t know what to do or where to start. I like to believe a little bit of kindness can create a ripple effect.
Fostering a cat in need may not change the world at large, but it will certainly change the world for that cat.
Article Credit : Victoria Mellor Tendron