Why we do it

I want to tell you about Sid. Sid is the latest in the line of cat’s my wife and I have been fostering for the RSPCA, and she epitomises the entire reason we do it.

Fostering cats is something I was unaware of before my wife suggested it. We had always planned on having a cat once we were free of the ever changeable requirements of renting. Once we had our

own place we no longer had to worry about a landlord’s permission to have pets, but we also realised that at the time money was tight. Buying a house is expensive, and potentially so are pets. That’s where fostering came in.

The RSPCA and other animal charities have a lot of cats in their facilities waiting for new homes. The problem is, living in a small cage with other strange cats and with little human contact is not an environment that is particularly conducive to bringing out the best in an animals. Especially those who have been living wild or were abused by previous owners. Cats have different personalities, just as people do, and some just need time to adjust to a normal life.

For some cats the cattery environment is just not for them, and so what people see when they visit is not that animal at their best. It’s these animals that have issues being re-homed, as they are not used to a home environment. It’s these animals that fostering helps.

Rather than being stuck in a small enclosure, the cat gets to live with us for a time in a warm, loving home with a garden to explore. They get time to come out of their shell and learn to trust people, and you can see their personalities flourish. Then, when potential owners see them they see the cat they really are, not just a scared animal in a cage.

We have been fostering cats for over a year now and it has been an incredibly rewarding experience. The RSPCA pays for food, vets bills, litter, etc. and we just get the joy of having a pet. In that time we have had animals with vastly varied personalities. Some have turned up and been the friendliest cat straight off the bat, while some have spent days hidden behind the sofa before they were comfortable enough to start saying hello. Some have been lappy cats, while some just want to be left alone. One, Sally, was happy as she could be if we was allowed to curl up next to you on a chair, but would never actually get up onto your lap. Another, Sammy, saw it as his entire goal in life to ensure that he got between you and anything you were doing the moment you sat down.

It is a bittersweet experience. A lot of our friends have asked us how we can cope giving the cats away when they get adopted, and I have to admit that sometimes it’s been hard. It’s impossible not to get attached to them, and seeing them get carried away for the last time really does pull at the heartstrings. You never know how long one will stay with you. So far its varied between one to six months but it’s amazing how quickly they can become part of your home. But you have to remind yourself that they are going to a new, loving family, what the RSPCA call their ‘forever home’, and there will always be another little creature that can now be given the chance to come out of their cage into into our house.

And it’s that feeling that is so rewarding; that knowledge that you are helping these animals move on to a better life. When you see an animal leave for a new home after someone has chosen that little friendly ball of fuzz from all the others, and you know that a little while ago that little ball of fuzz was hiding terrified behind your sofa unable to be near people, it’s just one of the best feelings in the world.

And Sid epitomises this. She is quite a old cat. They can’t know for sure but we think around twelve or thirteen. When she was found as a stray she had a growth on her neck and terribly matted fur. The growth was removed, but most of her hair have to be shaved off. That’s how we got her; a little lopsided thing with patches of fur all over. We’ve no idea how long she had been out and alone, but all this little girl wanted was a cuddle. Literally.

On the first day we had her, I was lying on the sofa and she came up and snuggled onto my chest, placed one paw on each side of your neck and then nuzzled her face into my neck. Then, after a moment, she started to lick my face, all the time purring so her whole body vibrated. It was almost pathetically adorable to see. We have never had a cat that has so plaintively told us “Thank you for giving me a home again. Please let me stay.” We fell in love with her immediately.

ImageWhen the time comes, I can tell this one is going to be very hard to say goodbye to. But knowing that we have improved her life and her chances of finding a new home more rewarding that I can say. After just a couple of weeks of petting and brushing her hair is sleek again and quickly growing back. She’s putting on weight and looking far more healthy. The only time she looks unhappy now is when we stand up and she’s happily settled on our lap.

If you are interested in fostering animals, please contact the RSPCA in your local area.