There’s no shortage of things going on in the world to feel hopeless about. “Doom scrolling” (browsing Internet news headlines) can overwhelm us and cause both paralyzing anxiety over what comes next, and guilt over how fortunate we ourselves are. I find that committing to action, in lieu of just talk, and being of service to others can help shift all that energy to a positive mode. You know what I’m going to suggest right? Volunteering! When you donate your time, skills, and physical labors to help out others you can go to bed at night knowing that you made the world a little lighter and brighter.
The one volunteer job I repeatedly hear first timers claim to be the most fun/amazing/ challenging is fostering cats and kittens. Nurturing a cat who has suffered physical and emotional trauma, or kittens who need extra care just to survive is an investment of your time and love. Fostering is an important part of many rescue groups and shelters for multiple reasons: foster homes mean a greater number of cats can be saved, foster parents can provide a cozy home environment that is much less stressful than a kennel at a conventional shelter and therefor more conducive to healing, and on a macro level, inviting the “village”/ involving more people to care creates momentum for the cause.
I’ve heard people say they can’t foster because they have already have a dog or cat at home. Foster kitties don’t require your whole house and will actually feel more secure in a small room, such as a bathroom. You can reduce health risks to your own animals by hand washing between visits with the foster cats and even putting on a smock or robe and leaving your shoes outside the door when interacting with them. Incoming cats should be treated for fleas before arriving in foster. Most health issues foster cats are dealing with will not be life threatening to healthy adult cats in your home. Ringworm is a fungus (not a worm!) that can actually transmit to humans but is generally only a minor annoyance and completely treatable. If buying supplies and food for foster cats isn’t in your budget, most rescues will happily provide these.
Socializing (“taming”) feral kittens so that they can adopted into loving homes and do not have to be returned to their site makes a huge difference in the quality of lives these cats will have. Kittens learn that humans are either friend or foe around 4-6 weeks of age. Missing this window and getting kittens older than this means that you have to work harder to get them to accept attention from people. Having a wide variety of people coming into the home to interact with them is crucial to their socialization. Sitting with them while they eat, hand feeding, and never free feeding in your absence teaches them to equate yummy food with humans and being touched. There are lots of YouTube videos for more tips on socializing cats who have not had adequate or positive human interactions.
Letting foster kitties go to be adopted leaves both a feeling of satisfaction, and breaks your heart a little. You may have heard the term “foster failure?” This occurs when folks decide the kitty has already found their forever homes - the foster home. This certainly isn’t a failure if the kitty lands in a wonderful home. Some people foster to see if they are comfortable with having a cat in their lives full-time, or to find out if cat allergies are an issue for them. You may realize you prefer fostering senior kitties instead of kittens. I bottle fed my first litter ever this past summer and came away with incredible respect for the coveted bottle feeders who do it every spring and summer. It’s exhausting and losing neonatal kittens to “fading kitten syndrome” makes it even harder. The rewards though, of seeing kitties blossom as they regain their health and confidence, are what drives people to foster over and over.
Saving one cat, or one litter of kittens, at a time gives a face (and often a name) to the no kill movement. Each one has a chance because someone cared. And each one has the ability to change your life as well.
Lyle and his sister Portia as neonates