Over the last few months, many of us found ourselves working, socializing and even exercising from our homes. Naturally, all that time in one place left people seeking new things to do. Some turned to knitting. Some turned to online quizzes. Others turned to cats, feeling that they could use their newfound spare time to help those that need a little extra care. We received a huge amount of foster applications in recent months. Tracy is one person that recently stepped up to the very important role of foster caregiver. We asked her [Tracy] about her journey to date.
What encouraged you to apply to foster with MEOW?
We have been long-time supporters of MEOW Foundation, but we hadn’t seriously considered being a foster family because our geriatric cat, Taj Mahal, wasn’t having any other cats in the house. Period. My daughters and I have enjoyed watching lots of Jackson Galaxy and Hannah Shaw videos on YouTube, and we are also big fans of any sort of cat shows we can find like Kitten Rescuers, Must Love Cats, that sort of thing. In early March of this year, we had to say goodbye to our 19-year-old sweetie, Taji. It’s always difficult to say goodbye to a family member, but when it was announced that Covid [COVID]was a pandemic, schools were closing and everyone was asked to stay at home in quarantine, well, the house just seemed so extra quiet it was almost impossible to bear. “Why don’t we foster a kitten, mom?” My seven-year-old [Saria] was excited to think about how we could help the feline community. It made sense to me. I was so heartbroken over losing Taji I knew I wasn’t ready to welcome anyone new into our family, but fostering would be a way we could contribute on a temporary basis and it would make a wonderful opportunity to supplement my daughter’s learning at home! So we decided that if we could help a pregnant cat, or a mama cat with kittens, that would be ideal. So we put in the application and the two of us did the training together!
How have you found the experience?
Honestly, we felt a little thrown in at the deep end in the beginning! We received the call at 10am one day inviting us to care for a feral mama cat and two kittens and could we please come get them by noon! It was a whirlwind for those first few days as we got used to our new routines! Then less than a week later, we were asked if we thought our mama cat (we named her Mitzie Niegel after a story character) would allow three more kittens to join her litter. I believe that there are certain times when we just feel the call to say yes when our logical mind is saying no! This was one of those times for me. I said yes without giving it a second thought because these kittens needed us and would five kittens really be that much more work than the original two we had already come to love?
We picked them up, brought them home and with a little trickery and crossed fingers, gave the kittens to Mitzie and waited to see whether she would take them on or reject them.
Of course, you already know it worked out for everyone! Mitzie actually seemed happier caring for more kittens. It was so satisfying to see this little feline family bond and grow.
Did anything surprise you about the foster experience?
It probably seems super corny, but the thing that took me by surprise with this fostering experience is how much I care to do the best I can for these little felines and their mama. It isn’t enough that they are fed, clean and healthy. I want them to be happy and I want them to be really ready to be adopted to a loving furrever home. We clip their nails and have started getting them used to brushing their teeth. We play with them (never with our fingers!) and encourage them to express their best feline natures. We observe them closely and provide new places to explore safely. We relish in watching them grow and delight in noticing what new talent or trait has shown up! We have fallen in love with all of them! When they do finally move on from here, I can know that we have really made a difference in these little lives, and given them the very best beginning to what will hopefully be long and satisfying lives.
Has fostering helped you during the COVID crisis and if so, how?
The rhythm of caring and cleaning for the kittens has become an anchor in our day. Being home all the time, it’s easy to let day to day things slide. Before the kittens, we were getting up later than normal, and life was just on perpetual vacation mode! With Mitzie and the kittens, we had to have a routine. A regular time to check them in the morning, feed them, clean the litterboxes, interact and play with them, weigh them, and generally make sure everyone was happy. They have integrated into our lives so well through this time. Saria helps me with all of it, and things like weighing the kittens daily has provided opportunities to bring in some school learning. She has learned how to make a graph and chart to keep a visual record of how well the kittens are gaining weight and she’s learned patience, since you can’t ever rush anything when it comes to cats! She has done a lot of extra kitten research as her own home project. She’s learned about kitten care and development, and it’s amazing to listen to her share things such as: at what age kitten’s eyes and ears open (8-10 days), what age they start learning to use a litterbox (about 3 weeks), what sort of litterbox is best (a low sided cardboard box like the kind that’s used to hold wet food cans), when they can start eating wet cat food (5 weeks) and how can you tell they are ready for it (when they have their premolar teeth). What toys are best and can we make them at home with what we already have? How can you tell a kitten is happy and does their body resemble a lightbulb shape? At seven-years-old, Saria knows all the answers and is quite the kitten expert now!
This experience has done wonders for helping us to stay grounded and it’s even helped keep us connected to our friends and family who have been watching as we navigate through this first fostering experience. It’s kept us busy, and engaged, at a time when globally it can feel challenging to keep going. And it’s helped us through our grief over losing Taji.
What is your favourite thing about fostering?
The kittens have been an endless supply of fun, and entertainment! I think my favourite thing about fostering is the feeling of love they have amplified in our home.
Litter: Greycat, Captain Finnegan,
Osmium, Snowy, Figaroe