Aaron and I continued to discuss the idea of fostering a cat, or possibly a kitten, when Aaron suggested that we visit the animal shelter and determine if we could foster one of the available cats. Incidentally, we visited during the Clear the Shelter event. When I introduced him to the various cats in the room but he was quickly drawn to the two tabby boys. No one who visited the shelter recently or during the Clear the Shelter event had wanted these guys. In fact, people rarely saw Tink since he spent most of the day hiding. Whenever I caught a glimpse of him, I saw two enormous eyes staring back at me–all pupil, almost no iris visible–and a bundle of scared cat huddled in a corner. He had definitely regressed since he had returned to the shelter.
Although Aristotle was occasionally visible, he looked pitiful and haggard. After spending three months at the shelter, he was now gaunt, and his ribs, spine, and hips jutted out. Due to high stress, he had licked off large swaths of fur around his abdomen, sides, and haunches. (This behavior is called overgrooming or fur mowing.) He crouched uneasily, always on guard. Moreover, he had a habit of staring off blankly with these huge, intensely sorrowful yellow eyes and a truly mournful expression. Both Aristotle and Tink were disconsolate.
Aaron discreetly took the boys out, one at a time, into the little rooms we have available for potential adopters to spend quiet time with cats. He spoke soothingly to each of them and let them explore the cat tree and toys available in there. During a lull between visitors, he came up to me with his expression and tone serious. “We have to help these cats.”
Suddenly quite verklempt, I asked, “How?”
“They are obviously not doing well here and look pitiful too, especially this scraggly one.” He gestured to Aristotle, who looked rather sickly with his knobbly back and patchy fur.
“I agree, both of them look absolutely miserable.” Those big eyes pulled at my heartstrings. “I know Tink from his time as a foster in the library. He needs a buddy cat. I don’t think it would be a good idea to separate them. Tink is very shy; having a buddy cat makes him feel more confident. He lost his previous buddy recently too, so there’s been a lot of upheaval in his life. It’s been fortunate that the shelter was able to match him with Aristotle so quickly.”
I took the boys individually out of the condo and into the solo room to spend one-on-one time with them. I had worked with shy shelter cats before so the experience was not entirely new. Tink was jumpy from overstimulation but, if given a chance to settle, did seem amenable to quick, gentle pets. I knew that he could be affectionate if given time, space, and quiet. Aristotle was more interested in exploring the cat tree than hanging out with me but he did stop and seemed to enjoy me petting his back. He might have sneaked in a fleeting tail hug or two as well. When I put Aristotle back into his pen, he resisted (not that I blame him) and gave me such a crestfallen look when I closed the door.
Aaron and I discussed how we could help these cats while being cognizant and respectful of a senior resident cat’s needs. Adopting a cat, let alone two, is a serious commitment and we did not take it lightly. Aaron was definitely interested in Aristotle but slightly reluctant to take on the idea of becoming a three-cat household. I, too, had think seriously about this prospect since I had never had boy cats, shy cats, or more than two cats at a time. While I am tenderhearted, I am also practical and know that I simply cannot provide a home for every cat or dog that needs it. I wanted to be sure that these cats were placed in the right home with the right owner, even if that meant it was not my own. That was one of the reasons why I volunteered at the shelter in the first place.
Aaron and I broached the idea of fostering instead of immediately adopting. We had discussed possibly fostering as an extension of my volunteer work before but had never done it. I knew that several of the volunteers and shelter employees regularly fostered cats, kittens, and dogs. I was familiar with how the library fostered cats and the occasional guinea pig and rabbit. I had bottle-raised Nala and was interested in expanding my knowledge of pet care. One of my good friends, Christine, is a foster mom extraordinaire, devotedly taking care of countless shelter kittens. I regularly ask her for advice. I also talk to Tracey about her five cats. I have several other friends with whom we frequently discuss our journeys as pet owners (or as some of us call it, pet parents).
After some discussion, Aaron and I decided that we could foster these cats to (1) get them into a quieter, less stressful environment, (2) have an opportunity to socialize them in said quiet environment, and (3) determine if we were a good fit for these cats and vice versa and, if not, find them a proper home together.
We approached the receptionist and said that we were interested in fostering Aristotle and Tink. Her eyes positively lit up. “Fantastic! They so need a home. I’ll get them ready right now!” While she did that, we filled out placeholder adoption applications. Foster parents get first dibs on the animals in their care. Word spread fast in the shelter; two employees came over and thanked me for fostering the cats.
When the bewildered and nervous cats were brought out to us in their carriers, Aaron turned to me. “Will helping these cats make you happy?”
I could not help but to smile wide. “YES.”
Garrus (Aristotle) would hide but would also remain visible but aloof and wary.
Charlie (Tink) was quite the scaredy cat when we brought him home. He hid under the bookshelf behind a box or under Aaron’s desk.
Stay tuned for Part Four! (If you haven’t already read them, be sure to check out Parts One and Two.)