I wanted to dedicate a whole post to our foster kitten Jake because he has truly become part of our little family. Our time with him is nearing its end and it will be just about impossible to give him up even though we’ll have to. But let’s start at the beginning.
WHY I FOSTER KITTENS
I started fostering kittens in 2009 back in Colorado. I did it through the local Humane Society for about five years, fostering over 60 kittens and 2 puppies during that time. When I first started, I already had two cats, Bagheera and Hurley (who live with my mom in Colorado), but I wanted another kitten around. Fostering was a great alternative to adopting another cat. We got to help kittens in need, socialise them, play with them, and send them off to a loving home. Of course it’s difficult to say goodbye to them, but often I would drop off one litter and go home with another. We got them when they were quite young (usually between 6 and 12 weeks) and had them for a month or two, in which case they would often outgrow us, which made it slightly easier to say goodbye. There are quite a few that I had over the years that I still wish I had been able to keep and all I can do is hope they’re somewhere across the ocean living their best lives.
Fostering animals is an underrated way to volunteer. Often shelters don’t have enough space or a big enough staff to take care of all the animals they receive. It gives the animals an opportunity to spend time in a home rather than a “cage”. It gives the animals time to get used to people and home life. It’s such a benefit to everyone: the shelter, the animals, and the volunteers. From my experience, you’re able to take animals when you’re able, but you can also go long stretches without any animals if you have too much on your plate. The process is quite simple. At the Humane Society, I applied, did a two hour training one evening, and passed a home inspection. For the charity we work with in the UK, Furbabies Cat Rescue, I applied and passed a home inspection.
WORKING WITH FURBABIES CAT RESCUE
A friend told us about the charity in Birmingham back in October. He was just about to start fostering kittens for them and I had been searching for an organisation to work with ever since I moved in the summer of 2017. (That friend has since adopted one of his foster kittens!) I applied in the fall and passed a home inspection at the end of November. We decided to wait until 2019 to take any fosters since we were headed back to Colorado over the holidays. Earlier this year, we were contacted about a potential foster, which we were able and happy to take, but they ended up not needed placement for that cat after all.
In February, we were contacted again about Jake. They said they had an older kitten (about 7 months) who had been living with his sister, but now needed foster placement before adoption. They said he was quite shy and scared, but trusted my past experience with fosters to be able to take him as our first placement with them.
We picked up Jake in the evening of 16 February. He was clearly scared and confused and I don’t blame him! We brought him home and set him up in our living room. Luke had blocked off the spaces behind and under the furniture and we’re able to close both doors in the living room, so it was a good space for him to start in. We let him explore his new space on his own time and get comfortable with his new surroundings. But despite their cautions, Jake was really happy to be with us within a few hours. It was astonishing how quickly he warmed up to us and became comfortable with us.
He’s been with us for over a month now and I’ve loved seeing him grow into his personality. It took a long time for him to not default to hiding if given the opportunity (He would spend huge chunks of the day under the bed or behind the couch if he was able to figure out a way in there.), and now he practically runs the house.
He’s been a lap cat since the night we brought him home, he just needed some time to learn that was a more enjoyable way to live than hiding and being stressed out behind the couch. He’s gone from jumping at our every movement to bravely exploring on his own and watching us from his favourite spots in the house. He cuddles with us on the couch and he sleeps between us at night. He watches us in the kitchen from the warmth of the carpet across the threshold. He eats dinner with us every evening (meaning we feed him at the same time and then he comes up and waits for us to be done) and wakes us up around 6:00 every morning for his breakfast.
He has become almost exactly what we both want out of a cat. I love that he wants to be around us because as much as I love Bagheera, she’s an independent woman 95% of the time. Luke loves that he often sits in the front window waiting for us and always greets us at the door when we come home. He has great manners and the sweetest personality. I’ve especially grown to love our slow mornings on my days at home. On Thursdays and Fridays, I open the curtains and make a cup of tea before climbing back in bed to read for a while. Jake always curls up right next to me and naps in the sunshine pouring in. He’s truly one of the best cats I’ve ever been around and it’s a shame that his personality wasn’t able to shine through in his previous life.
(Isn’t it crazy how much he looks like a full grown adult cat when he’s sat up and attentive, but he looks like a little kitten when he’s all curdled up and getting cozy?!)
So with all that gushing about him, you’re probably wondering why we’re even considering parting with him at all. Because he’s an older kitten, he already has his vaccinations and he’s already been fixed. All he needs now is a microchip. At this point, we’ve given Furbabies a write up about him and sent over lots of photos. We’re kind of just waiting for the day they tell us he’s been adopted so we can bring him in. It’s hard not knowing how much time we have left with him, but we’re soaking up every minute while we can.
We’ve had lots of discussions about whether or not to adopt Jake and many times one of us has just proclaimed we’re keeping him forever. He’s made a lot of progress in the six weeks we’ve had him, but it would be a gamble for us to assume he would make enough progress to be able to adapt to where we want our lives to go. We feel Jake would be best served in a quiet home without children or any other pets and we simply can’t commit to not having children or getting a dog within Jake’s lifetime. It would be my worst nightmare to introduce a puppy or a baby into his space and stress him out. He might come around and get comfortable again, but he might also revert to his old ways and spend his days hiding and clearly tense and stressed.
We’re of course going to continue to foster kittens after Jake and hopefully after we get our own pets, but Jake is simply a lone wolf when it comes to other animals. Right now, since we live like to 80 year olds, padding around our house in slippers and house cardigans holding a cup of tea, he fits in perfectly in our lives and home. We both feel like that’s the kind of life Jake deserves to live if that’s what he likes and what he wants.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
I’m always happy to shout out both organisations, the Humane Society and Furbabies Cat Rescue because both organisations need donations and volunteers. You can donate money of course, but they also accept food, litter, toys, blankets, etc. They provide everything for their foster families on top of caring for the animals that are physically in the shelter. There are also plenty of ways to volunteer. When I first started fostering for the Humane Society, I also volunteered in the shelter on Saturday mornings, cleaning the enclosures and playing with the kittens that were waiting to be placed in foster homes. I loved doing that! The Humane Society also had volunteers on the adoption floor for cats, dogs, and other small animals. Not to mention the dog walkers! And Furbabies definitely needs more foster families.
Even if you’re not in Longmont, Colorado or Birmingham, England, there are likely organisation near you that need your help. Do some research about what’s nearby and how you can get involved. It’s seriously the best volunteer work I’ve ever done!
UPDATE ON JAKE AS OF 2 APRIL
Well, you guys. The day has come. We took Jake back to the cattery this evening because he’s officially been adopted! I was hoping we would get to meet with his new family, but he’s spending the night at the cattery and will be picked up tomorrow. They assured us that they are a lovely couple. She has experience with shy cats in the past, don’t have children or other pets, will keep him as an indoor cat, and plan to build a cat sanctuary for him. It sounds like it will be a really great situation for him, which helped ease the pain of saying goodbye.
We really enjoyed our last few days with him and are so glad we got to be a part of his life. We helped him get acclimated to home life and find out what kind of forever home would best suit his needs. A few days before he left, I was talking to our neighbours and they mentioned that their own cat had passed away in February. She said, “The soul of the house is gone.” (I would have tried to convince them to adopt Jake, but they said they feel they’re too old to get another cat.) What she said has really resonated with me in the last 24 hours since he’s been gone.
I can’t figure out if it’s because he’s the only single cat I’ve fostered or maybe because he’s the oldest cat I’ve fostered, but it often didn’t feel like a fostering situation. When I had four or five kittens living in my bathroom, it felt more like a temporary situation for everyone involved. But when Jake was taking part in our family dinners (both in eating his food at the same time as us and in licking our plates clean after we were done), he felt like family. When he would curl up between us in bed every night, he felt like family. I’ve found myself looking for him in the window when I’ve gone into the house the handful of times I have since he’s left. I’ve found myself looking over the edge of our bed for his little ears. I’ve caught myself almost calling his name.
This is probably the hardest goodbye with a foster kitten I’ve had, but I know he’s going to a fantastic home that will love him so well and give him the life he deserves. If we felt we could have give him that, we definitely would have kept him. I think it’s even harder than saying goodbye to my own cats in Colorado because at least I get updates about them from my mom and get to see them when I’m back.
We’re looking forward to fostering again soon, but for now, we’re just really grateful for our time with Jakey Jakerson.