What does it mean to be a foster?
I am the bridge between death and paradise. That may sound like a wild exaggeration, but for many kitties around St Augustine, it is the absolute truth... especially when rescuing feral kittens.
On a recent muggy Florida afternoon, I was sweating my butt off. You know, the type of day where the air is so thick with moisture that you pray for the thunderstorm to let loose? I wanted nothing more than to be home in my air conditioning, but there I was climbing through bushes in a gully off of Baymeadows. There were kittens in those bushes, and this may be my last chance to grab them before the heavy rains of summer really set in. A few more weeks on their own and they would be feral forever, doomed to live out their days hunting and scrapping for their survival.
We’d tried to trap the momma many times before — she’s what we call ‘trap savvy' — she would rather starve herself to death than go into a trap. One of the residents of the condos had TNR’d just about every cat, but this one momma wouldn’t cooperate. That resident (yes, you Bryan) is a hero in my book, a comrade in arms, firmly entrenched on the front lines of our battle against the homeless cat population. The only way to solve this problem is to spay and neuter as many as possible.
But this one girl, she was really giving us a run for our money.
After shimmying under a shed, marching through a thicket (thank goodness there weren’t any snakes!), sitting perched over a storm drain pipe, and bribery with the stinkiest wet cat food we could find, we were finally able to catch the four kittens that feral momma had been tending for the last 6 weeks. This was the perfect age to catnap them-- old enough that they got all the good milk and antibodies from momma, and young enough to learn to be tame. Plus, six-week-old kittens are super cute!
While we are still trying to catch this feral momma cat, this is an ideal situation. These kittens had a pretty good start. Things are harder when the kittens are younger. When neonatal kittens are less than a week old they feed from momma almost constantly, she will not leave her babies for more than an hour to find food. Orphan kittens require round-the-clock care, during kitten season (March through October in our part of Florida) calls come in daily, sometimes hourly, of people finding litters of kittens — mom’s location unknown.
But this is where foster parents come in.
It takes a very special person to foster these types of orphan kittens; someone willing to forgo a good nights sleep, to tote around a carrier with a heating pad when going to the grocery store, the kids' football game or dance practice, with a bottle ready to feed the tiny, precious cargo. It’s a lot to ask, especially when a few weeks later, those kittens will be ready for vaccines, getting fixed and then finding their forever homes. Goodbye is the hardest part.
At the other end of the foster spectrum is "Fospice" care, foster-hospice. I’ve got an old man named Charlie. He’s a foster kitty, but I am also his forever home. He’s about as old as one of my daughters, who just graduated high school in May. Charlie was found in an apartment complex, long abandoned by his previous owners. Maybe he just got ‘too old,’ maybe his owners had to move and their new place wasn’t pet friendly, maybe they just didn’t care. But, I did.
One look into Charlie’s eyes and I was in love. His old man meow, the cataracts starting to form in his gorgeous green eyes, the way he stiffly follows me around the house while I go about my day. What’s not to love? (Did I mention he drools??) I know his time on earth is short, but he’s going to spend it in the air conditioning, on the couch, bed, cat tree, or that spot where the sun shines into the living room in the afternoon and warms up the tile. He’s earned this, like everyone that has lived way past their golden years.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “I could never…” I would have opened a cat sanctuary, fully staffed it, and brought in thousands kitties in need of help. I said earlier that goodbye was the hardest part, that’s only half true. While goodbye is hard, it is swallowed up by the joy of seeing YOUR kitten, that you saved and raised, find a family that is going to cherish every single moment of the rest of their lives. That kitten will grow into an adult that will be happy, silly, and snuggly. They will hang out with their new family through good times and comfort them when they are sad.
Fostering is a way to bridge the gap between feral cat and beloved family member.
Saying goodbye to one cat or kitten means that there is room to save another. The actual worst part of fostering is having to say no. We all have our limits, there is only so much time in a day and only so much we can do with that time. The worst part of fostering is when you get a call about a kitty in crisis and you can’t help, because you simply don’t have the space or available fosters to help.
We currently have over 150 cats and kittens in our rescue. We have to turn away at least half of the calls and surrender requests that we get on a daily basis. We simply don’t have enough fosters. The other options for these kitties? Animal control, “free kitten” posts on social media, being left out to fend for themselves and let nature take its course? We know how those stories end.
Please consider opening your home to a foster kitty. You will literally be saving a life, adding to the happiness of a home, and being a part of the solution to our pet overpopulation problem. Please reach out or fill out a foster application on our website, there are hundreds more kitties crying out for help every day.
Foster to many,
Mom to 2 (human) and 4 (furry)
By taking an animal in need temporarily into your home you're providing a safe haven until it can be adopted.
We provide initial shots, testing for feline leukemia and FIV, deworming, flea meds, neutering and medical treatment.
If you'd like to be a cat or kitten foster with our cat rescue in St. Augustine, FL, please fill out the application below.