Another of our “day in the life of” series: one of our Trustees, Kate shares her ARC fostering experiences.
Growing up on a farm in Devon where we had lots of animals: cows, dogs and cats mainly I spent a lot of time hanging out with them so despite the fact that I have been a city dweller for most of my adult life, it just feels normal to have at least one four-legged friend around. However, I am also an avid traveller and my lifestyle is not conducive to having a particular furry friend long-term so when moving back to Twickenham from abroad in 2014, I discovered ARC online and contacted them to find out more about fostering cats. (as unfortunately cows are not that easy to fit into an urban garden!)
The process sounded quite simple. Mostly I would just be delivered a cat (or two) who needed a temporary place to stay until their forever home is found. All I would need to do is feed, play with and cuddle them; take a couple of decent photos once they were settled in to be used on the website; and then be available to answer any questions when prospective new owners wanted to visit. Sometimes I might add in a couple of vet appointments as all ARC’s new cats are checked out, get their vaccinations up to date and will be neutered if old enough and not yet done. Easy!
At first my husband was not very sure and was rather worried about the “stupid cats who were going to scratch the furniture”…now he is almost as besotted with them as I am! We even vie with each other as to which one of us the cats will select for a lap to snooze on in the evenings.
Our very first foster cat, a beautiful ginger tom, had the same name as my husband so that was quite confusing for a few days…here he is below, lording it over our sofa.
Since then they have arrived with all sorts of names, even one beauty who came in with a fully fledged pedigree and an official name too long to get my tongue around… but we can always resort to calling them “pussycat” to err on the safe side.
Fast forward several years and I have literally lost count of all the adorable moggies that have passed though our place. Most like to play, some like cuddles, others like laps, they pretty much all like to eat! Some prefer to sleep up high, others prefer to sleep down low. We’ve had cats that have loved being in a basket, found their niche above our fridge, behind the sofa or under a cupboard and even in between two mattresses on a spare bed – took a while to find that one, it was quite a challenge…
So many of our fosters have come from homes where an elderly person has died or moved into a nursing home where the cats have obviously been well-loved so it must be a bit of shock for them to suddenly change their human. However most of them still adapt to their new environment within minutes, if not hours and it is quite rare that they are not fully settled with us after one week.
We usually start them off in one room and let them progressively discover the house as fast as they seem comfortable to do so. This may range from minutes to weeks. Some have ingrained habits so we may have to train them NOT to jump on the table or try to beg for our food – most get it, a few don’t.
The garden (and beyond) is usually kept as a treat once we know they are settled and likely to come back- mostly we let them out first when they are hungry so will come back for food at least. Some will patrol the garden fence, others will just pop out for five minutes and be back in and some disappear for so many hours we get a bit scared they might not come back at all… We do normally make sure they are in before dark to keep them safe from any foxes.
The several other resident cats in the neighbourhood seem very curious how many cats come out to play from our house and have learned that our shed roof is most definitely no longer their domain!
Equipment & Food
Lots of toys are needed!!! Each cat will find their own favourite in our toy box, or even just climb in the box… Often toys get so over “loved” that they are in shreds and we have to go buy more.
“Nail parlour facilities” are also essential…beware of the vertical vs horizontal divide – your cat will be one or the other, but rarely both. We have a selection of scratching posts and coconut matting squares startegically scattered around the house as, unlike the litter tray, the pusscats don’t seem to want to go to a special place when they feel like a scratch. #just saying
We do have a few cat beds, but you know, cats will just do their own thing and if they decide they prefer to sleep on a pile of CD cases or on your own bed, they just will…
Foodwise then some cats have obviously previously only been fed the feline version of “junk food” and as ARC recommends to feed them Royal Canin we love to see their coats become glossier as they eat the better food. Notwithstanding we do appreciate all of the donations that are made to Arc so none of the food goes to waste. We tend to mix it up a little to get the best of both worlds.
Drinking water is also sometimes a challenge – a couple of early fosters jumped up onto the bathroom sink and demanded we turn the tap on for them! (#atyourservice!!) Thankfully most are just happy with a fresh bowl of water in the kitchen. Current cat is hilarious – even if the water is absolutely fresh he will still stick his paw in and give it a good swirl before drinking!!! Cue dust in the water and paw marks across the kitchen floor every time :)
Other bits and pieces include brushes especially for those longer haired cats, also anti-hairball treats or dental treats.
As we have a home with a small, safe garden and no other pets, we often have pairs of adult cats.
Some of these do enjoy each other’s company (the current duo adore each other!) – but equally some cannot wait to be separated. Indeed one mother and daughter pair seemed positively relieved to be headed in separate directions and both have blossomed since having their own space. It is usually obvious to us within a couple of days whether a home together or a home alone is the most appropriate.
Potential adopters come to meet their cats once they have been homechecked. Most are unsure of a new person around and highly suspicious that something is up! So far only one cat has deselected her new human by a swift swipe in his direction however #ouch
One of my favourite adoption situations was a mother and three kittens: mum and littlest daughter went to one couple whilst their next-door neighbours took the other brother and sister. Sweet.
I get to meet a lot of feline-loving adopters. Some of these keep me updated on progress, especially when the cats have not been with us very long: I think 2 days was the shortest and as they had spent all that time cowered behind our sofa it was nice to get progress updates as they settled over time. So far the longest stay with us has been nine months: the lovely Pip (left) who was 12 years old, but still played like a kitten. She was adopted just before one Christmas so that was a fab present for her!
We miss them all when they leave us of course, but there is always another waiting to come in and be loved for a while before they find their forever home so we almost feel bad about how quickly we adapt. It is such a rewarding experience & I would highly recommend it to others…