Thursday, July 25, 2013

Why I Chose To Be A Foster Volunteer

I don’t know how you do it. I would get attached and it would break my heart to have to return them.” This is usually what I hear when I tell people I foster cats for the Ottawa Humane Society. The truth is I do get attached and yes, it usually breaks my heart to have to return them but I continue nonetheless. The pain that is felt at the drop off is lessened by the scared, pitiful meow of the next orphaned kitten or heavily pregnant mama cat I pick up, usually the following day. I began fostering for the OHS in December of 2004 and I'm sad to say there has never been a time when there were no cats needing a temporary home to recover from injury or to deliver a litter of kittens. Fostering has been both incredibly rewarding and unbearably painful.

Even with the best TLC and veterinary care, fosters don’t always make it. The good news is that the vast majority do make it and they go on to find loving homes with the help of the OHS staff.

The ultimate goal is to see your foster win the heart of a new owner soon after being placed for adoption. I feared this happy ending may be out of reach for the two mature cats I brought home one day. They had been rescued from a probable situation of abuse. Their previous owner had threatened to shoot them if the OHS would not come to pick them up. They certainly weren't the most beautiful cats I had ever seen. Overweight, with thinning, dull-looking fur with the odd bald patches, I feared they would be overlooked by potential adopters. This incredibly sweet and gentle bonded pair spent several weeks with me getting used to regular brushing and proper nutrition. The time came for them to be put up for adoption together. A lengthy letter describing the little I knew about their past, and most importantly their exceptionally gentle and loving nature, must have helped. They were adopted together a few days later.

My cats help me a great deal with the new fosters. They are incredibly tolerant of new arrivals and often act as surrogate mothers to orphaned kittens. They will allow them the comfort of nursing, albeit for short periods of time, and will gladly lick them clean until the little ones fall asleep, purring with contentment all snuggled together.

Big Mac was in foster care while
recovering from some dental work,
and is now up for adoption!
One of my own cats, Sunset, began drinking from the bathtub when my tap started slowly dripping. It took me a little longer than it should have to fix the problem but eventually I did. For Sunset, the bathtub is still her preferred source of water so I oblige her by leaving a Tupperware container filled with fresh water daily. This is a habit that every single kitten and many adult cats I've
fostered have picked up. So, if your newly adopted feline heads straight for the bathtub for a drink, he or she may well have spent some time in my home.

I know I can’t keep all my fosters but I sometimes wish I could maintain visitation rights.

Julie, Puzzles, Tippie, Sunset and Celeste (all former OHS cats)

Editor's note: If you are interested in being part of our Kitten Brigade, please visit our website :

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