Fostering a cat family of six has been both a learning experience and a joy.
Andy and I have fostered only two cats previously, but only one at a time. We weren’t prepared for how busy a family of six cats would keep us. For example, there’s the daily job of caring for them. At mealtimes, the eager cats climb over my feet the moment I walk into the room, making it a challenge not to trip over them. Before I can feed them, I need to retrieve their dirty dishes and fetch food from the closet without shutting the door on them. Doing this in another room wouldn’t be any easier, because then I’d have to wrangle with my own cats, who are just as insatiable.
Then there’s the daily task of cleaning up after six cats. Initially, we put out one litter box per cat for a total of six and used non-clumping litter for the safety of the kittens. Initially, I scooped dirty litter from the litter boxes twice a day and only emptied, cleaned, and refilled the litter boxes on weekends. Unfortunately, non-clumping litter isn’t easy to scoop and so it became difficult to keep the litter boxes clean, and eventually gnats became attracted to the litter. In an attempt to stay ahead of the gnats, I cut the number of litter boxes from six to two and began completely emptying and refilling them every day. The ongoing task of cleaning up after six cats gave me an inkling of how much dedication must be required by shelter and rescue workers who care for far more animals.
The only interruptions to these regular chores was when a cat needed veterinarian attention. For a nursing mother and her growing kittens, there were vaccinations, de-wormers, and antibiotics. And then, once the kittens were old enough, they and their mother needed to be spayed or neutered. The night before their procedures, we had to remove food. The cats also had to remain separated for a few hours when we got them back, so they wouldn’t be tempted to run and climb and jump before the fog of anesthesia had lifted. While the cats could have food immediately, water was withheld until they were full recovered so that they wouldn’t pass out, fall into the water, and drown.
Although our previous fostering experiences didn’t prepare us for everything involved in caring for six cats, we had some idea of the benefits. For example, having kittens gave us a reason to regularly invite over friends. While Andy and I do like to socialize, we’re also introverts, which means it’s easy for us to let weeks pass between social visits. Throw in other factors, such as yard work and studies, and that time can stretch to months. Except kittens do better when socialized from an early age, and so we were eager to introduce them to people of all ages. In turn, our pet-loving friends are always open to a fix of kitten sweetness. It’s been fun these past few weeks having visitor after visitor at our house.
Ironically, in light of how much tighter our schedule is when we foster, caring for six cats also encouraged Andy and me to relax more often. He’d come home from a full day at work, collapse on the spare room bed, and enjoy being surrounded by curious kittens. In the middle of cranking out an article, I appreciated closing my eyes and listening to the patter of feet. Okay, it sounded more like the patter of elephant feet, but it was still fun! Even just trying to hold squirming kittens so I could their fur or clip their nails provided me with a mind break. Over Memorial Day weekend, I slept in the spare room with the six cats to keep them company, and that took me back to sleepover days from childhood. Another special moment is how, after Shiboo (Mama Cat) had finished nursing her kittens, she’d stretch out and let Andy stroke her head. Her purrs of contentment sounded so relaxing, it’s easy to curl up and fall asleep too.
At the end of May, Andy and I were both happy and sad to say goodbye to our foster cat family of six. Happy, because it felt good to have played a small part in their journeys to their forever homes. There are millions of homeless cats who will never know the joy of human companionship; Shiboo and her babies are among the fortunate who were saved. But, of course, we were sad to no longer have them in our lives. Shiboo is a sweet and caring mother, and we enjoyed discovering the personalities of her kittens as they romped and befriended us. Overall, it was a great experience, and we look forward to future opportunities to foster through The Cat House.