I have news! Mau is no longer our foster cat. After three months of fostering, we found him a loving home!
Drum roll please!
After seriously considering the commitment of another cat, Mau’s needs and happiness (he really loves Aaron), how he fit our home, and that he ultimately got along with Garrus and Charlie after an adjustment period, we decided to adopt him! We are officially a three cat household with an established clowder – and three foster fails (or would that be wins?)!
After Mau had his surgery, we noticed he had loose stool. At first we thought it might have simply been from all the medications he was given from his surgery and/or as a side effect from the two rounds of antibiotics he had been on prior to his surgery. But it didn’t go away and progressed to diarrhea. It’s no fun for anyone to wake up at 5am every day to a cat having loud-squirting diarrhea. Then one or both of us would have to get up to make sure there wasn’t a mess to clean up. Losing sleep due to cat-related reasons is par for the course but still. Sometimes he vomited as well.
We suspected that the diarrhea was due to the antibiotics and perhaps compounded by Mau essentially transitioning himself from wet to dry food. We added Fortiflora probiotics into his food. That helped a wee bit but he continued to leave sad stools in the Cat Genie. Fortunately his appetite was undiminished and he acted normally, so there were no changes in his behavior or apparent weight loss. But we were concerned and notified APA. Last Friday, Aaron took him to the vet while I stayed at home and worked on homework. Apparently the techs were amazed that Mau hadn’t been adopted yet and fawned over our handsome boy.
Results: Mau gained 1 lb (yay!) and the vet suspected that he might have inflammatory bowel disease, the same thing Boudicca had. We’re treating him with steroids, to which he is responding. We’ll see if his diarrhea stops. If he really has IBD, his owner will need to know and formulate a plan of treatment with a vet so Mau’s quality of life remains consistent. I’m happy to learn that he gained a little weight – he know weighs slightly over 10 lbs. His hips are still bony so he needs to fill out more. When at a healthy weight and filled out, Mau will be a big boy! He’s taller than Garrus and has a generally bigger frame than either of our tabbies do, so with that splendid tail, he’ll be a sight to behold.
We’ve had Mau for almost three months now. About a dozen people have reached out to Austin Pets Alive expressing an interest in him, though several have not responded after an initial email. I’ve exchanged emails with a few and it was by mutual agreement that Mau was probably not a good fit for that particular person and home. (That’s OK. Not every pet fits every person.) Two people have met Mau in person but the main issue there is that he becomes Mr. Shy and hides under the bed whenever new people come to the house! It’s hard to convince someone that he is a lap cat when he’s nowhere to be seen and requires a lot of coaxing to come out.
After having Mau in our house for some time, we’ve been able to assess a few of his needs. If we were to draw up an ideal home for him, this is what we would want:
- Only cat home. While Mau is not overtly aggressive and seems to like other cats, he doesn’t grasp the concept of territoriality and gets in other cats’ faces when trying to play. He also steals food and butts in when another cat is receiving affection because he wants to be the center of attention. Garrus, being passive, is rather tolerant of these faux pas while Charlie does not like another cat being more intense than he is. Other cats could construe Mau’s behavior as being dominant, which, coupled with his size and clumsy manners, could lead to conflict. Furthermore, we have no idea how Mau would react to a dog or how a dog would react to him.
- Homebody. Mau would definitely do best with an owner that is home a good deal of the time. He craves human companionship and demands regular lap sessions and snuggles. Mau is the type of cat who will happily chill on the bed while you fold laundry just to be near you. He also enjoys toys and playing with the red dot, something that involves his human’s participation. Other cats are more independent and self-sufficient. Mau is not one of those cats; he’s a cuddle bug. While he is a color-point, he doesn’t demonstrate a lot of the traditional Siamese-y traits like being exceptionally vocal, extroverted, busy, precocious, and social. Instead Mau is low-key and selective but definitely a lap cat.
- Quiet home. Our home is a pretty chill environment. The most exciting thing that may happen is when we get all three cats to chase the red dot in laps across the house for a sustained period of time. We are definitely not the life of the party and our cats like it that way. Mau falls in that camp as well. Mau is not a fan of new people streaming in and out and would not like being in a loud, high-traffic, bustling house. With that in mind, Mau would probably not like being around small children. While he might do better with teenagers if they are respectful, Mau still might not do well with lots of noise and activity that often accompanies a house full of people. Because he can be timid and skittish, I suspect he would spend a lot of time hiding and being unhappy.
- Routine. This goes with #3. We have a predictable routine, something that works well for all three cats. They are most insistent about getting their meals at the same time every day and don’t care about weekends. I’m not kidding about Mau wanting regularly scheduled lap time and it is a common occurrence for Aaron to wake up with Mau sprawled on him. Mau is most persuasive with those huge Frank Sinatra blue eyes. You can’t say no to him. Then you can’t get up from the couch for a while because you have a sweet furball sprawled on your lap.
- Experienced cat owner. This would be a definite plus. Mau, now toothless, has had a rough life and may develop health issues as he gets older. While Mau is certainly cuddly with certain people, he can be very shy at first, so those expecting instant gratification might be disappointed. While he is a genuinely sweet cat, he doesn’t fit every household.
- Crazy cat man: extra brownie points. We’re not sure if Mau truly prefers men or if he’s simply enamored with Aaron. (He does look up at Aaron adoringly and wants to bro down with him early in the morning.) If the former is the case, Mau will be one happy kitty. In the same vein, Mau may be a one-person cat. He appears to be most selective.
LOOK AT HIM. He’s adorable, isn’t he?
It’s hard to believe that Mau has been with us for two months now. When we brought him home in late June, he was timid and certainly not feeling his best given the advanced state of her periodontal disease. In the Pflugerville Animal Shelter, prior to his transfer to Austin Pets Alive! and foster care, he was withdrawn, gaunt, not eating much, and spending most of his time in a plastic bin in his cat condo.
He just looked so sad, stressed out, and in need of serious TLC. Although volunteers regularly loved on him and brushed him, his coat was in a sorry state because he did not groom himself very well.
We breathed a huge sigh of relief when Mau started eating wet food and ate with relish! Because he was underweight, we gave him additional small meals. What does it say about our house that two out of three cats need to eat like Hobbits in order to get to a healthy weight?
When Aaron and I spent time with him, we were nevertheless struck by how sweet he was. With photos like this, it was quite apparent that we had a most handsome boy on our hands too.
One month later, he showed us how much he loved human company and that he was thoroughly down with snuggles. Lap time is an imperative!
After he had his long-awaited and much-needed dental surgery, he started to blossom. While sick, he demonstrated little interest in playing (understandable) but once he started feeling better, we caught him batting crinkle balls and springs around the house. He hopped into boxes and raced up the cat tree, unceremoniously unseating Charlie from his favorite platform.
Our evenings are MC’d by this lovey boy. Isn’t he cute? He greets us with an enthusiastic and demanding “MEH!” and purrs when he receives the attention he wants. And he’s charmingly fluffy too!
At last year’s Clear the Shelter event (held on Saturday, August 19th), our lives changed when we decided to foster two tabbies. We had not fostered before but Aaron and I decided jointly that these boys really needed us.
Aristotle was gaunt, pitiful-looking, and had patchy fur due to overgrooming. Because of his severe stomatitis, he had (understandably) a poor appetite.
Tink, then two years old, had spent cumulatively 18 months at the shelter (partly in foster care). He had been adopted and returned three times, and had recently lost his buddy cat Pan. While he had been successfully paired with a new buddy, Tink was decidedly not doing well in the shelter and spent 95% of the time hiding.
Both cats were skittish, extremely shy, and wary. They needed a lot of TLC and a quiet respite from the shelter. In our care they made noticeable improvements, especially because we were patient and made an effort to gain their trust. Only two weeks later they moved in! Since we brought them home during the Clear the Shelter event, the adoption fees were waived.
A year later, they are very different, and much happier, cats. They are no longer so skittish and timid. Charlie (formerly known as Tink) blossomed into a perpetually sunny, friendly, and affectionate cat. He squeaks! He flops! He snuggles! Garrus (formerly known as Aristotle) underwent dental surgery to treat his stomatitis and is now a much healthier cat with bunny-soft fur. While still on the reserved side, he now asks for visits, bats at crinkle balls, and chases after the red dot with gusto.
As you can see, Charlie and Garrus are not concerned. They may, however, be only slightly overloved in our house.
Mau is doing well on his regimen of antibiotics and painkillers. His coat is getting healthier and he eats up to two cans of wet food a day despite his dental issues. We brush him frequently and there are far fewer mats as a result.
Much to our delight, he has started to show a more playful side by chasing after the red dot and batting the crinkle ball and spring around. Oddly though, he only plays with the latter toys when no one else is around! When he wants to explore, though, there’s no stopping him. He really wants to be friends with Charlie and especially Garrus. In a few ways, he does not act like a senior cat! Above all, Mau is a lovey-dovey lap cat who complains when he is left alone or denied access to said lap.
Aaron took two fantastic photos of Mau. Of course I immediately wanted to share them because they show how beautiful Mau really is.
“Hello. I am Mau and I am incredibly gorgeous. You should pet me.”
“Oooh! What’s over there? I wanna go on an adventure!” I love the expression on his face in this photo. Mau really is a darling cat and not just in terms of looks.
Say you’ve decided to open your home and foster a shelter cat for a while. This period can be a weekend, a week, a couple weeks, a month, or longer, depending on how long you are willing to foster, if and when the fostered animal is adopted, or, if space had been an issue, space becomes available. I have only listed a few of the many factors here.
Before bringing home a foster cat (or dog, if you choose to do so), ensure that everyone in the household is on the same page. Introductions may go slowly, and this goes for resident pets too. Discuss with children that this new fur person may be scared when he or she is first brought to your home and must be handled respectfully. If you have not already done so, pet-proof your home.
NB: Each shelter and rescue group have their own rules and policies regarding their fostering process. Be sure that you are acquainted with these and ask questions if you are unclear about any part of these protocols.
What do you do once you bring your foster cat home? What do you need? First and foremost, you will need several crucial intangibles: love, compassion, patience, and time. These cannot be overstated enough. As a foster parent, you need to provide a safe and clean environment, and you may need to make some additional considerations for your individual foster cat’s needs. Second, you will need a few supplies to provide the best foster environment:
- Essentials. Food, water, and a clean litter box. Ask the shelter beforehand if the cat has any special needs that you need to know about, such as dietary considerations or medical conditions. It is important to know (or find out) if the cat has house manners and knows how to use a litter box without issues.
- Comfort. Add a cozy cat bed, a box to hide in, toys, and a scratching pad or post for enrichment. A window is a great way for cats to engage with their environment (look outside if they wish) or sunbathe. Note that some cats feel safer if up high while others feel that sense of security down low in a carefully chosen hiding spot, such as under the bed. If you know or learn early that your foster cat is stressed out, try using Feliway diffusers or collars to help them feel more at ease.
- Space. Changing from a shelter to a new home can be a jostling, bewildering experience for a cat, and it’s perfectly normal for a cat to hide when introduced to a new environment. A large space with lots of stimulation (new people, sights, sounds, smells, etc.) can be overwhelming and cause a cat to shut down. Keeping a cat in a smaller space, such as a guest room with the door shut, is less intimidating and less overwhelmed by fewer stimuli. This enables the cat to feel contained and safe. It’s important to remember that physical space is most important to cats; to dogs it is social place.
- Routine. Cats are creatures of habit and like predictability. Routine = security to cats. Feed, refresh water, and clean the litter box at the same time each day. Spend time to visit too.
- Quality Time. Take time to hang out with your foster cat. If your cat initially hides under the bed and doesn’t want to come out, don’t force it. Speak gently and be patient. Sit on the floor. Let the cat choose to come to you. Some cats may want to interact with you first via toys before letting you pet them. Others may be snuggle bugs whenever you visit. Cat personalities and behavior will vary widely.
- Play. Bringing toys out and enticing treats are excellent ways to build a positive relationship with your foster cat. Again, cats vary widely in their preferences. One may live to catch the red dot while another likes to bat around a rattling ball. These kinds of interactions allow the cat’s personality to shine through, which can help them get adopted.
Want more information? Check out Petfinder’s How to Be the Best Cat Foster Parent (a true life goal) and 8 Things I’ve Learned Fostering Cats from The Humane Society from Reader’s Digest for tips. Austin Pets Alive and the Bestfriends.org Cat Foster Care Manual are excellent resources that offer comprehensive and detailed information.
Fostering an animal from a shelter is a great act of compassion and love. By bringing a homeless animal into your home, you agree to give that pet love, care, and attention. Usually when you foster an animal, it is for a predetermined period (which can be a few days, a week, a few weeks, or even a month or longer, times vary) or until the pet is ready to be adopted into a forever home.
Why is there a need for foster homes?
- Space issues. A shelter or adoption group may lack sufficient space to house all the animals brought to them. Fostering an animal frees up space in the facility, enabling the organization to take in another animal in need of care and a home.
- Special needs. There are many reasons why a foster home would be a safer place than a shelter: an animal recovering from surgery, illness, or injury; animals requiring subcutaneous fluids; animals requiring a course of medicine; motherless kittens or puppies that need to be bottle-fed; expectant mothers; stressed out or shelter-shocked animals.
- Too young. Kittens should be at least 2 lbs. and eight weeks of age before going up for adoption. If taken from their mothers too early, they should be socialized with other cats as well as humans. They need to learn what it is to be a cat.
- Socialization. Kittens born into feral or semi-feral cat families will need to slowly be introduced to humans. This should happen between four and eight weeks of age. Puppies also should be introduced to other dogs and children with supervision.
- Training. Puppies and dogs are more likely to be adopted if they have received some basic training. The better behaved and house trained, the more likely they are to find a home.
- Emergencies. For example, when Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit Texas, Louisiana, and Florida in 2017, thousands of pets were displaced. Animal shelters, the ASPCA, the Humane Society, and other groups remained in flooded areas rescuing animals trapped in very precarious areas, including horses, pigs, cattle, dogs, and a hawk. Many of these animals were temporarily housed in shelters (some across the country), rescue groups, numerous facilities, and foster homes. In the event of natural disasters, many rescue groups and shelters are in desperate need of fosters to free up much-needed space. This ensures that all animals, both shelter and displaced alike, can receive care until they are reunited with their owners (in the case of evacuated animals) or adopted.
Photo courtesy of Pexels
Reasons to foster
- Time. Shelter animals need time to be ready for adopted.
- Behavior. By fostering, you learn more about the animal’s needs and personality. Many shelter animals act differently in a shelter than they would in a home, and this is especially true for shy critters. This information is crucial in helping that animal find a truly suitable home.
- TLC. Placing an animal in a home environment presents opportunities for much-needed socialization, love, and individualized care. Animals need time to be exposed to and accustomed to new people and pets. It is worthwhile to know, for example, whether a dog or cat does well with children or other pets or would be better suited to a single-pet or child-free home.
Do you need additional reasons to convince you to foster? Check out Petfinder and Vetstreet for more questions to consider.
Photo courtesy of Pexels
Brownie points if you know where the following quote comes from: “…Dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria!” 😉