Earlier this week, I posted “Top 10 Reasons to Foster A Homeless Animal.” It was a good enough post. But one of my animal rescue colleagues urged me to tell the story of how Rich and I fostered our cat Lexi. And I realized telling you about a real life example was probably a much more effective way to tell you why it’s so important to consider fostering.
If you’ve read my blog before, you probably know that I volunteer for the Michigan Animal Adoption Network (MAAN). Every day, I hear stories about cats and dogs being surrendered. “We just had a baby. We don’t want the dog anymore.” “We’re moving. We need to give up the cat.” Stories like this can wear on you.
About a year and a half ago, I told Chris Wisswell, the Adoption Manager at MAAN, that I’d never had a cat, but I was interested in at least fostering. I figured fostering was a perfect scenario. I would not have to commit to keeping the cat and if she was not a great fit, we could help her find the perfect home. And I could feel good about that. As you’ll find out, I was right!
Not only did I want to make sure I knew what I was doing to properly care for a cat, but I had to be absolutely certain we found a cat that had lived with dogs before. We knew our dog Pebbles adored cats, but she’s a big, goofy Golden Retriever that might scare a skittish cat.
The economy and many other factors have contributed to the massive cat overpopulation epidemic here in Michigan, so Chris had a foster cat for us almost immediately. Her name was “Lexus” (yes, like the car). Lexus’ mom was an elderly woman who had recently passed away. Her son had been taking care of her, but he could no longer care for her. I had been assured she had lived with dogs before. I’ve always been good with animals, but some reason I was really nervous about bringing in a cat. I guess it was simply the unknown. After taking several weekend vacations and basically stalling, I agreed to foster her. We had no more trips planned at the time and the timing finally felt right.
“Lexus” arrived at our home on a Sunday morning. She was a darling, pudgy brown tabby. She appeared to be in good shape, but she was shedding a lot. I carried her inside and as soon as I put her in her “safe room” (a room gated off so Pebbles could not get to her), she scurried under the bed. As I suspected, she was super nervous.
Lexus did not feel like the right name for her. So we re-named her “Lexi” and I knew almost immediately that if she and Pebbles ended up getting along, that we would formally adopt her.
Thanks to a bunch of good advice given to Rich and me from my friends at MAAN, Lexi settled in, slowly but surely. The best tip they gave me was to give her time to get her bearings and just be patient. Some cats took months to get comfy in a new home. So we did. It was hard, as I just wanted to cuddle and play with her, but we gave her some space.
Fast forward a couple of months. The folks at MAAN were right! Lexi was doing well. And though Lexi and Pebbles are not best friends who cuddle, they are definitely nice to each other! Pebbles is the big buffoon we expected her to be, but Lexi puts up with her big tail and has not even so much as hissed at her. As we had hoped, she was a great fit for our family!
Not every foster story has to be this way. If you truly don’t want to commit to adopting a dog or cat that you foster, you simply don’t have to. You could foster an animal for a week or a month and then happily give it to someone who wants to adopt it permanently. You should give it a try, like we did. Fostering allows an animal to get out of a scary shelter faster. It allows the animal to show it’s real personality so it ends up in the absolute perfect, PERMANENT home.
The key to fostering is education. Once I learned how easy cats are, I asked myself why I had not gotten one sooner. All they need is food, water, a clean litter box and a little love. They don’t need to be taken out in the middle of the night to pee, and they are generally pretty low maintenance. And while they may not be as “outgoing” as dogs, they give unconditional love just the same. Cats just need a little patience in their new home. Lexi’s veterinarian recently told me that on average, it takes an adopted cat 7 months to get comfortable in their adopted home! Can you imagine if more folks just exhibited a little more patience?
I really didn’t write this blog to get “deep” by any means, but maybe if we all had a little more patience, perhaps we’d see few homeless and displaced animals.
To talk to MAAN about fostering, call Chris at 248-545-5055.