Fostering: Aurora!

Aurora came to me with almost no information and sometimes it happens that way; no big story of neglect or being found on the side of a busy road, just a cat that’s been found as a stray or the owners have surrendered them for personal reasons. One day you have an empty room and the next, there’s a big ball of fluffy ginger fur in your favourite chair.

I didn’t bond that much with Aurora for a couple of reasons, and I get asked a lot about how I manage to say goodbye to my fosters so I thought I would mention some of the reasons that I don’t bond with every cat and it can sometimes be really easy to send them off to a forever home.

The main reason is probably that I only had her for ten days. Sometimes I have cats for a long time, my longest being four months for a pregnant cat who had kittens, and sometimes they’re snapped up the moment they’re advertised. I don’t know if it factored into her adoption specifically but the rarer a cat, the faster they seem to get adopted. Ginger females are outnumbered by ginger males about 1/4 because the ginger gene is on the X chromosome and females need two to be ginger. She’s also long-haired, which a lot of people prefer despite the extra grooming. And she was cute as heck!

I joked on Twitter that I had never bonded with a long-haired female cat and that it was clearly the impact of 12 years of all-girls school but in reality, just like with humans, sometimes personalities don’t click. This is why I always recommend meeting a cat before you adopt them if you can. Sometimes people end up leaving with a different cat then the one they originally came for!

The last thing is that the reason I started fostering was that I had a ginger cat, creatively named by 7-year old Imogen as Ginger, who passed away and I wanted to help. Seeing a ginger cat that wasn’t my Ginger was jarring at times. Luckily, my area is overrun with black-and-white cats so I haven’t had a ginger cat since!

Do you prefer long-hair or short-hair animals?
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Fostering: The Three Kittens in a Boat!

When I got these three boys (exactly a year ago today!) I consulted my list of foster names and knew immediately that they were the Three Kittens in a Boat I had been waiting for. Three boys, all looking very handsome, and clearly the types to take a boat trip down the Thames. They came to me as an owner-surrender since they hadn’t been neutered and vaccinated yet, so couldn’t be adopted out.

I was surprised when Harris was first to be adopted. You always hear how black cats are the last to go, especially when he wasn’t particularly cuddly. But the people who came to pick wanted a good mouser and Harris was a perfect fit. He was basically a mini-panther. It was a little bit heartbreaking when Jerome followed him into the cat carrier. Once he left, his brother wailed and wailed for a good while.

Luckily, Jerome found a home soon after. He was the only long-haired boy of the three and the first long-haired cat I’d ever spent much time with. When they came to me they were infested with fleas, even after treatment, but none as badly as Jerome. The first couple hours I spent with them, I could pick them off with my fingers as they crawled all over them. Jerome was the only one who had the horror of a bath though. He got through it well though and the little kids in the family that adopted him were smitten with this pretty boy.

And finally, my favourite, George was adopted. I’ll admit, this one stung a little. Not as much as dear Gilbert but close enough that I shed a tear or two! He was such an affectionate cat, and would stand on the back of my desk chair and rub his face all over mine while I studied. Sometimes he would even ‘wash’ my hair. He ended up being adopted by someone who knew my dad so we got an occasional update and he broke his shoulder a few months after adoption, but bounced back.

I had these three in totally for about a month and it really shows how varied cat fostering can be. You can have shy kittens, neglected cats, pregnant queens, or in this case, three healthy boys who just needed a little tender loving care and a place to be while they wait for a home. It’s totally up to you how often you take them in and doesn’t cost a thing but time, since I foster through Cats Protection who cover food, litter, vet visits and even toys!

Cute, right?
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Fostering: Slug and Hedgehog!

After fostering Gilbert and Esther, I took a bit of a break from fostering as there wasn’t any to take in for a while, and I was doing some travelling. However, a week before my birthday I got the best present- cats to look after! Enter these two who were a painfully shy mother and daughter duo that needed socialisation while we found the perfect home for them.

Initially, I called them Selina and Helena after Catwoman and The Huntress because I thought their markings looked like the masks that comic book heroes wear! But eventually that turned into Slug and Hedgehog because Slug looked like a slug with her sleek dark fur when she settled on your lap, and Hedgehog was always a little prickly.

Being younger, Slug was much easier to socialise and would eventually lay on my lap for hours. But Hedgehog didn’t have such a drastic improvement. They weren’t feral, they didn’t attack and hadn’t been brought in from an outside colony. They had just hadn’t had the most interactive experience with humans which can be tough to ‘fix’ after they hit that 6 month mark. She had a habit of pulling the blanket that I keep on my desk chair, onto the ground in a heap and burrowing into it.

In the end, they were adopted together, a little over a month after I first got them. I got to drop them off at their new home, with their new human who was in love with them the minute they arrived and was prepared to be patient when it came to interaction. After Gilbert and Esther ending up in an adoption centre for weeks, which gave me a lot of anxiety even though Cats Protection adoption centres are wonderful, it was a great experience to take these two to their new home and say goodbye!

And five days later I had my next three fosters! But I’ll leave that for another post.

Have you ever seen such beautiful cats in your life? 
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Fostering: The Kittens of Wildfell Hall!

I tend to focus on books when it comes to my blog, but today I want to take a minute and talk about something that goes hand in hand with books- Cats! More specifically, the first foster cats that I had for longer than 24 hours. You can read about that experience and what I learned here! But if you love pictures of cats, this is the post for you.

So, let me introduce to you: The Kittens of Wildfell Hall. Gilbert and Esther were named for characters from my favourite book of 2017, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë.

I fostered Gilbert and Esther after they were spayed/ neutered for a little over a month before a place opened up for them in the nearby Cats Protection adoption centre. My task was to socialise them because they had been feral for the first six months of their lives. Feral life is not easy. Along with finding food, unless these ferals are TNR’d (trap, neuter, return) they won’t be vaccinated and will constantly be reproducing. Not to mention that around 80% of feral kittens die in their first year.

Socialisation is a sooner-the-better kind of deal. It takes longer the longer they’re out there and not interacting with humans. And the general idea is that six months is about when it stops being effective. So Gilbert and Esther got taken in just in time, the vet that neutered them aged them at about six months! It’s actually pretty lucky that Esther wasn’t pregnant as cats can start reproducing at four months.

It was a long and tough journey socialising these two. Esther was much more amiable and loved to play, but Gilbert was frightened half to death by humans. He spent the first few days hidden under a side table in the corner, creeping out for food and occasionally batting at the toys. I even heard him having a nightmare one night, whining in a way that made my heart break.

But persistence, spending every spare second holding and stroking, and even hand-feeding (jelly cat food is gross to touch) softened up both of them to the point where I think both of them could be definied as lap cats! When they were taken to the adoption centre, I’ll admit, I shed a tear! I was constantly refreshing their pages on the site, keeping an eye on the centre’s Facebook and double-checking my emails. In the end, they were adopted seperately.

Esther is now called Dotty. Her adopter was lovely and sent me a couple updates. She has settling in nicely and they adore her. She’ll always be Esther to me though!

Gilbert took a little longer to be adopted. They found a heart murmer at the vet check that happens when a cat is taken in to the adoption centre. You can imagine that a pre-existing condition, unable to be covered by insurance, can be a major consideration for someone! He was eventually adopted, but not before I was seriously considering foster failing (a term for when you just can’t give them up).

So that was my experience with the Kittens of Wildfell Hall! I’ll be posting a little more about cats I foster but don’t worry, lots of book posts too!

Aren’t they just the cutest? 
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5 Things I Learnt from 24 Hours of Kitten Fostering!

In August I became a volunteer for Cats Protection, with my main interest being fostering. I discovered Kitten Lady about a year ago but up until a few months ago I had a very old and defensive cat. It wouldn’t have been fair to him to put him under the stress of kitten roommates. When he passed, it was unbelievably heartbreaking. But eventually I realised that I now had the opportunity to help cats find homes with people that would love them like I loved him. The adventure started with looking after three kittens for 24 hours, and here’s what I learnt…

1. It’s hard. 
Seriously, kitten fosterers who deal with orphan newborn kittens are warriors. The three tiny babies I was taking care of were maybe three weeks old and I probably got about four or five hours accumulative sleep while I was taking care of them. They needed feeding every two hours because they were so malnourished, and because they weren’t used to a bottle it took about an hour and a half to get them fed and settled. Half an hour later, it started right back up again!
2. You have to recognise your limits.
These three-week old abandoned kittens were originally estimated at about five weeks. At five weeks kittens are starting to wean from the bottle to solid food, they’re starting to use a litter tray, they’re much less dependent and I like to think I could’ve handled it. But when I actually got them, they were much younger, hadn’t been fed overnight and throughout the day I discovered they were far from healthy. They needed more help then I could give and that was tough! I felt like a failure. But kittens come before pride and I knew that there was a limit to my knowledge. They were taken back to the vet, then taken in with a more experienced fosterer and have since flourished!
3. Kittens are always cute, even when they pee on your hand.
Very small kittens can’t pee or poop on their own. They need stimulation. Normally this is the mother licking them but luckily a paper towel rubbing also does the trick. Sometimes, though, there’s a very full bladder and pee gets on your hand. I swear I washed my hands more times in those 24 hours then I normally do in a week. But- kittens! They were so cute, they could pee on me and I’d just be like- oh you little sweetheart! Good job!
4. It’s lifesaving.
While the kittens I had were under the wing of Cats Protection and luckily there were fosterers other than me to take care of them, in certain areas and shelters- there isn’t. Orphan kittens who require bottle feeding every two hours, heating pads and manual help to pee and poop, are put down in a lot of shelters because there just aren’t enough people to do the work. And not everyone can do it! It’s full-on and full-time for the first couple weeks. But it literally saves kittens lives and even though I was only keeping the little guys alive for 24 hours, it felt really great to be able to do that.

5. Boy names are tough!
Throughout this post, the kittens didn’t have names because they were three little boys and I couldn’t think of any for the life of me! And just as I thought of some, they were leaving. I have so many girl names but boy names? I’m lost. Luckily, the kittens I’m looking after now are a boy and a girl so it wasn’t quite as tough. Esther and Gilbert are named for Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Literary names are the best.
Have you ever fostered kittens? Aren’t they just the cutest?
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