I thought it would be easy to foster a cat. I mean, how hard could it be right?
I’ve always been exposed to animals and pets. Growing up in my home in Northern Ontario, I had three cats. All three of of my cats lived a very happy and comfortable life with no difficulties (two of them are still living at the time I’m writing this pushing 14 and 16 years old!). So it was no question when I moved to my new apartment in Toronto, that fostering a cat from a local agency would help fill this feeling of loneliness. I kept asking myself, “how hard could this be?! I mean, it’s just a cat!”.
The online application process to the agency was pretty easy and straight forward. I remember filling out the application on my phone while browsing the aisles of Winners while shopping with my brother. After answering the questionnaire’s expected questions such as “do you have allergies”, “have you had cats before”, “are you allowed to have animals at your residence”, I pressed the send button and waited for a response.
About one week later I received a follow up from a coordinator affiliated with the agency to complete a phone interview. The call was more of a conversation than a typical interview, asking about my previous experience with animals and confirming the information I filled out on my online application. After 10 minutes, I was considered eligible to foster. I was ready to take on this new chapter and to welcome a new bundle of fur to my home.
A month after being confirmed as an eligible foster, I was greeted with a new message in my inbox from the agency listing a few cats and kittens that needed a home. That’s when I saw Lily. She was a small, 9 month old female that was listed as a kitten that urgently needed a foster home. Within 24 hours, I was bringing Lily home in an Uber to my basement apartment.
This can’t be that hard. I thought. You’ve done this before.
Reflecting on my mistakes
One of my tragic flaws is that I set my expectations high. And when I don’t achieve these standards, I become extremely disappointed in myself.
My first mistake was not asking the coordinator more information on Lily and her socialization scale. As a new foster mom with no experience socializing animals, this was extremely challenging for me. On the first night, I could tell Lily was shaken and scared to be in a new environment. I thought that this would pass after a few days of settling in, but I realized it did not. Every sound, movement, and look would have Lily springing to the closest place to hide for hours on end. Even toys and food wouldn’t motivate Lily to interact with me. I realized that this wasn’t just a phase, this was a complicated situation for skilled socialization experts.
My second mistake was not realizing my busy schedule. As a young professional, I was working 9:00AM-5:00PM during the week days and usually leaving some nights to run errands, hang out with friends, or attend to personal matters. This schedule is not ideal for a cat learning basic socialization skills and manners as there is limited exposure to humans.
While the coordinators would suggest getting a second cat in the apartment to keep Lily company while I was away, I knew this was not a feasible option. As previously mentioned, I reside in a basement apartment in the city of Toronto meaning I have limited spaced and poor windows with non existed sunlight. While most basement apartments may not run into the same problems as I did, but I quickly realized how dark my space was. Lily would spend hours on end, alone, in a small dark apartment.
It took me a few weeks to realize that this situation was not ideal for Lily and her socialization process. It was a difficult decision, but I decided to find another foster home to take Lily in. This other foster home has another foster cat in her residence, with ample space and best of all – a big window to look out into! While I felt confident moving Lily to this residence, I couldn’t shake off this feeling of guilt and failure.
It was suppose to be easy. I’ve had cats before.
It’s been a few days since Lily moved and I’ve had an opportunity to reflect on this experience.
All cats are different
I was going into this thinking Lily would be a carbon copy of my childhood cats. Cats have different temperaments, past experiences, and personalities. Foster parents must be flexible in adjusting to the diverse needs of their cats.
It may have been an overlook from the agency, but I did not comprehend the socialization needs that Lily required. There are some great articles out there such as this one that highlights the 25 things to ask before bringing a foster cat home.
You have to do what’s best for the cat
This one was tough for me to put into perspective.
As a foster parent you have to make decisions that will be best for the cat. I knew at the end of the day having a foster parent that was present and an environment with room and windows would aide in Lily’s socialization efforts.
This experience was a good learning experience for me. Although I may not have been successful fostering at this attempt, I am open to reconsidering fostering once I am in a more suitable position.
Have you ever fostered an animal? What were your experiences like? I would love to know in the comments below.