Burton The Cat Answers Your Questions: On Fostering!
Everyone wave a big "Howdy!" to Christine, Burton & Diego's meowmy - she answered a bunch of questions for us in the past about: leash training, traveling with cats, and helping your fur children make new friends! She's back today to give us some pointers and lessons on fostering with other cats in the house! Read on for her advice.
Where do we begin? Fostering has been a huge blessing! When you foster a shelter rescue you save him, AND the baby who takes his place - in the foster home or shelter. How rewarding! This is about saving lives. Cats of all ages need a place to stay temporarily while they look for their forever homes. Being in a home environment helps them blossom and shine for their prospective parents; it also lets all of us get to know them their personalities and what they need to be your BFF for years to come.
Personally, I've enjoyed all the different personalities - no two cats are alike. When you let them shine, you're rewarded by interesting behaviors, hilarious material, and tender endearing moments that steal your breath (and heart!)
As for Burton, he loves having access to five dinners, and extra toilets everywhere! Diego loves having playmates, large and small. He wins everyone over! He particularly likes having someone smaller to blame everything on!
First, some common objections:
1. My cats might not get along with other cats
2. I don't have the space
3. I will be too attached and sad and keep them
I'll try to address these, but the biggest is the emotional connection. I overcome these emotions by telling myself I can't keep them. They're not mine - they're in my love and care for their future mommy and daddy. And that if I keep them it reduces my ability to help more. If I pass them onto their forever home, it frees up space for a new baby! Also, Diego really really needs/loves the company ... So we get to always have new playmates for him! When the time comes, you can do it. And if you want to email Burton for support, he will help!
We started fostering about 2 months ago. We knew we had the space, and time and love to give... And hoped the boys had the personalities to handle having other cats in the house. Boy are we blessed!
As a result they create an extremely positive and healthy environment for fosters to be in. They have love and support and play and learn how to act and behave in a home environment and not in a cage or in a shelter. I think Burton's positive/protective energy puts everyone at ease, and Diego's interest in winning everyone over makes him charm them to death. Even when there are "misbahavin'" moments, with love and patience, the fosters come around and learn the ropes. And I swear... they look at you and they have gratitude in their eyes! Whether dumped in a shelter and missing their hooman, discarded in a dumpster like trash and left to die, or sick and going to be put down and saved in the nick of time (like Burton himself by the way!!!!) they KNOW you've helped give them a second chance at life - and they show it.
The downsides for us are:
1. The babies (when still being potty trained!) decided to use Burton and Diego's toy box as a potty. That was awful and the poor boys were so sad to loose all their toys. #thebabiespoopedonourstuff
2. There is an emotional connection with the foster babies, and I have shed tears when they leave. Happy tears because they're going home, and sad tears because I will miss them. I'm convinced one day I will actually keep one of them ... but not today!
So babies poop a lot. We bathe them almost every day. #poophappens
So far, we've had a 2 year old named Melly @mellytux:
A baby fluffy female named Ballerina:
The little "dumpster babies," Harambe and Randy:
And little tortie Nicki:
Currently Nicki and Randy & Harambe are still looking for their forever homes!
Melly went to live with good friends of ours and is now the Queen of Sheba in the home. Ballerina is in Anaheim and has two kitty friends living with her, and the babies went to a friend in LA who unfortunately had to return them because she didn't realize how severe her cat allergies were.
The amount of time you have the fosters ranges from a couple days to a couple months - it all depends on the foster/rescue group you work with and how quickly they get adopted. Your ability to help with that is obviously beneficial to everyone. Thankfully Burton has such a great following on Instagram, the fosters get a lot of coverage (and now have their own Instagram account, @burtonspride) and opportunities to find their new families! The rescue you work with will probably ask you to take pictures and help tell them about the cats' personalities, and offer your other observations about what kind of home would be best.
Every cat is different, but my boys didn't mind the little babies at all. The older female cats required a little more "adjustment," mostly because Burton intimidates them. Diego on the other hand is so charming he wins anyone over. You can foster in any small space. An extra bathroom or bedroom ... it doesn't take much to save a life. We had the babies in our shower for a few days until they were ready to come out and socialize.
People need to understand how the rescues work. It's a big network of amazing people all working together.
- "Pullers" go to the shelters and pull as many as they can (even "no kill" shelters euthanize animals), and many don't stand a chance at getting adopted because they don't "show" well. They're scared or stressed or out of their element. It's hard on everyone (God bless the hoomans who work on this end!)
- "Transporters" drive them to temporary dwellings or to get immediate vet care, and to their foster homes near and far. There are opportunities to take in someone for even a night! In emergency situations (like with he dumpster babies - literally abandoned in a dumpster!) they needed an ASAP home and some vet cared to make sure they were healthy enough to be adopted. They also needed a little time to get bigger!
In general, it is also wise to seclude shelter cats for a few days in case they've brought some some germs with them from the shelter environment. Upper respiratory infections (like a cold) are most common and generally easy to treat, but very contagious. Other disease and contagious things you don't want are usually spread through bites, scratches, or poo - so until everyone in the house is given a clean bill of health, supervised visits and play time are ok but cats shouldn't be allowed to use each others litter, or get too intimate, or play too rough.
If you see any signs of aggression (hissing growling or fighting) they must be separated. When your vet (or the vet the rescue sets you up with) has tested them for everything and they're all negative - game on! This adjustment period also helps frightened cats to acclimate and catch their breath for a few days. Make sure during this time you are giving them some of your time and affections. Playtime is a great way to see their personalities too. Rescues will work with you too, if you don't have the space to seclude fosters, you can request only healthy, up-to-date on shots kitties. You certainly don't want the foster experience to be negative for anyone - or jeopardize the health of your resident cats. Just communicate openly with the rescue.
We've been really lucky that everyone gets along!
They aren't supposed to share litter boxes (see above) until everyone is given a clean bill of health so as a rule you need to have many litter boxes in your home for them. At this point - all the babies use all the boxes, and like I mentioned before, Burton views this as a major convenience in life. Multiple toilets saves him time! Mealtime is entertaining and noisy, but everyone gets along great. We supervise mealtime as much as possible to ensure everyone gets enough to eat before Burton cleans the plates!
And to close, fostering is short term. And rescue networks need your help. They're mostly easy to deal with and don't want to put you out. If you find yourself in over your head or with massively clashing cat personalities, you can have them rehomed. It should be a rewarding experience for all. I think you'll be surprised at how well adult cats can manage with infants in particular!
Follow @burtonspride to keep up with Burton & Diego's foster friends - and let us know if you have any of your own fostering stories - we'd love to hear!