Eli has been fostering for the branch for over 5 years. She lives in a shared house and the residents all pitch in with the care. Here, Eli reflects on her experiences of fostering furballs for the RSPCA.
How long have you been a foster carer?
I have been fostering for over 5 years.
What have you learnt?
That every cat has its own unique personality. I know that some people view all cats as stereotypically aloof or indifferent, but that cannot be further from the truth! Sure, a few might be more stand-offish, shy or skittish for a variety of reasons but there are so many other different and colourful personalities too – as varied as humans! From affectionate snuggle bugs to mischievous mayhem makers and everywhere in between. It’s always such a joy and ever so fascinating to see their personalities start to shine when they become more comfortable In your care.
I’ve also learned to appreciate more how much animals can bring to our lives and I think that with the past year that we’ve all had, that’s really something that can and should be appreciated. Whether you feel poorly, a bit down or just need a furry friend for company, they are there for non-judgemental support or silly antics to entertain and make you smile. Any of the hard work that can be involved in fostering I feel has been given back to me at least ten-fold because of their company and warmth.
Tell us about your funniest experience fostering:
There are so many things that the foster cats in my care do make me laugh and smile!
One of the funniest moments however came about with our first ever foster cat. Poirot was a Queen who gave birth to five bonnie babies in my care. When her kittens were a bit older and were not bothering her as much, Poirot’s favourite spot to curl up to sleep was on our television. However at the time we had one of those ancient, big-backed CRTs. One day we decided that we needed to catch up with the times. Poirot, ready for her cat nap jumped up onto our newly installed telly only to find herself teeter-tottering on the top of a thin, modern piece of tech! She clung onto the top of the telly, giving us the most hilarious look of sheer annoyance and confusion. This was followed swiftly by embarrassment as she mewled at us and fell off scrabbling down the back. I don’t think she ever forgave us!
Also kitten weaning is always funny to me. They basically fall face first into their food causing messy mouths and even messier floors! Completely adorable, gross and funny!
What has been your greatest heartbreak?
I fall in love with every foster cat or kitten I look after, and it is often sad when it’s time to go to their new homes. However I know that they are going to their (hopefully!) forever homes so that sadness is also mixed with happiness – it’s a very bittersweet feeling but one that is completely worth it. Due to the fact that I have fostered for so long, and looked after many cats and kittens, there have also been times where a rare few have needed to be put to sleep because of medical reasons. That is always heartbreaking.
I would say the greatest heartbreak came about when we were looking after a dear old lady named Charlotte, whom we nicknamed Eerie. She had come into our care having been mostly shaved because her long calico coat had been all matted. Plus she had just had an ear amputation due to a terrible tumour that needed to be removed. When we first got her she looked rather like a gremlin, the only parts of her coat that remained were a limp, straggly mohican down her spine and her very fuzzy little forepaws. Where her ear had been was still very much a post-op wound, full of stitches and dried cracked bits of blood or general ear gunk as she had an ear infection too.
For weeks my housemate and I gave her little washes, brushed her coat and tended to her wound. She was always very grateful and loving, an all round lovely puss. When she was taken to the vets for a check up the manager of the RSPCA commented how much better she was looking. Her gorgeous long coat was starting to grow back in, and whilst she was still an older, rather lopsided pussy cat, she was really starting to regain some of her true beauty. Then one day all of a sudden she changed. She started crying, walking into walls and generally being very unsteady on her feet, weak and distressed. She was already mostly deaf I believe and when I tried testing her sight with toys it seemed clear that she had suddenly gone blind. She was rushed back into the vets, and we were told that she likely had either an aneurysm or a tumour that was pressing down on her nerves. The decision was made, based on the fact that she was clearly distressed and had very little quality of life left, that she needed to be put to sleep. Whilst we knew it was a likely possibility, we had all hoped to have seen her gorgeous little face once again, back from the vets and into our loving care once more.
What is the best thing about fostering?
I love meeting each and every new feline face, coaxing their personalities out by providing them a safe and warm place of shelter, love and understanding.
Whether it be a few weeks or several months, having them in our home and providing that much needed care is always interesting and so greatly rewarding.
As is when they say goodbye, ready for their new lives. For whilst sad, that is also rewarding, cos I know just how much that little puss is going to bring to the lives of their new humans!
How many foster fails have you got?
2!! That’s my limit, unfortunately 🙂
One beautiful black cat that came to me as a tiny little sootball of fluff alongside two other young kittens. I named her Susuwatari after the little soot sprites in Studio Ghibli movies. However these days she mostly goes by her nickname, Pokky. Having lost the oldest of my previous two cats a couple of years earlier, I wasn’t exactly looking for a new cat to be part of my life. However, during the weeks she spent with us, I had already completely fallen in love with her and her daft wee face, all round and high cheek-boned. These days Pokky has lost the roundness to her face but she remains pretty as a picture. She is a silky gorgeous girl who likes to stand tall on her hind legs to give me the best head boops ever in the entire world!! She likes treats and being pet in her own terms. She is pretty independent but loves to curl up around the house and occasionally on laps, especially in sunbeams, and brings such a sense of quiet loveliness wherever she goes.
My second foster fail came from a litter of kittens that I had to hand rear as their momma stopped producing milk. It was a very stressful time and a lot of hard work but they all pulled through to gain the weight that was needed to make it. Most of the litter were extremely pretty. My boy, Cole, however was the definite runt of the litter – with his widows peak sitting oddly above a ghostly white face, bar a tiny black smudge upon his chin. As if near starvation wasn’t enough then his hips ended up dislocating. The RSPCA had to spend a lot of money and effort on him, and poor Cole was confined to a cage whilst most of his siblings were quickly snapped up by happy adopters. Thankfully he is all fine now but without the RSPCA’s dedication and support I would never been able to adopt him, for which I am eternally grateful. Because, despite having such a rocky start to life it is has became abundantly clear that Cole is basically the cat equivalent of the Ugly Duckling. These days he’s a big, mostly robust lad, with a face that melts the hearts of all (even those who initially called him ugly!). And that little black smudge? Turns out he has a little heart on his chin which just about sums up his super-loving and affectionate personality perfectly.