Teen volunteer Tristan cares for cats for his Duke of Edinburgh award – part 1.
This post has been written by Tristan Goodway-Sims who is undertaking a volunteer placement for a Duke of Edinburgh award
Hi, I’m Tristan, aged 16 and I have just started fostering kittens with my mum for Cats Protection’s Bridgend Adoption Centre as the six month volunteer element of my Silver Duke of Edinburgh award.
Tristan with CP cat Chewy
A lot of people have asked me why I have chosen to volunteer with CP as it’s not something you might associate with a teenage boy. But believe me, I am a typical teenage boy. You can’t see the floor of my bedroom for mess, I love listening to music, eating junk food and playing on my Xbox. But I suppose I am a bit unusual in that even as a toddler I loved watching animal documentaries, particularly anything to do with big cats, monkeys and apes. I shocked my teacher in infant school when she asked everyone what they wanted to be when they grew up and I said a Primatologist! I am now researching animal-based degrees including Zoology as I go into sixth form in September.
In addition to our rescue cat Lucky, who is now 18 (two years older than me!), Toby (a CP cat who died from a heart condition) rabbits and gerbils, when I was eight I went along to a fun day at Bridgend Adoption Centre. I was shocked to see all the pens full of cats and kittens needing homes and to learn about the long waiting list for cats needing to come in and occupy a pen. Mum allowed us to adopt two little kittens and I chose to name one Chewy after my favourite jaguar on Big Cat Diary on TV. When my sister went away on holiday I had the responsibility (under mum’s supervision) for both kittens and the rest is history.
Last year my mum responded to an appeal to help foster mother cats with litters. It was a scheme to that moves newborn kittens and their mums into family homes where they could be fully socialised into a family environment before being returned to CP centres at eight weeks old when they’re ready for adoption. As the first eight weeks of a kitten’s life is crucial to its development, CP explained that in a family home the kittens (and mums) would need lots of positive experiences including handling and attention from people of different ages and genders and to be familiar with home noises including the hoover, TV etc. Fostering these labour intensive mums and kittens also frees up pens and volunteers and staff in the CP centres so they can help other cats.
Fostered cat and kittens
We had to have a new fosterer visit from Cats Protection first and we prepared a room for the mum and kittens so they would be separate from other household pets. We also had to show proof that our own pets were fully vaccinated.
After being accepted as a ‘mum with kittens’ fosterer, last summer our house welcomed three separate sets of mums and kittens: Fluffy and her four kittens; Queenie and her four kittens and Lucky with her six kittens.
Socialising a foster kitten
I really enjoyed helping out last year so approached the Bridgend Adoption Centre to see if I could take a greater role this year for my Duke of Edinburgh award. As I am under 18, my mum still has ultimate responsibility, but under her watchful eye I am about to begin six months of fostering and we are off to pick up a young cat called Honey and her four kittens.
Keep an eye on this blog for updates about how I get on.