Our 100 Foster Cats Milestone
09 May 2020
One of our fosterers, Liz Berry, and her family, have recently looked after and successfully rehomed 100 cats since they started fostering in 2015! This is a magnificent acheivement, and one that we wanted to learn more about. Perhaps you are thinking of fostering yourself? Read on to find out more about fostering for Cats Protection, and how Liz and her family find volunteering!
How did you find out about the Cats Protection fostering scheme?
I’d known about the fostering scheme for a long time before we finally approached one of the volunteers at a Cats Protection show on my birthday in September 2015. You don’t get to be a crazy cat lady without knowing that sort of detail! We already had 3 cats and would love to have more but we don’t think it would be fair on our three, so fostering was the next best thing.
What were the first steps for you to join, and have your pen built?
We half thought that putting our names down that September Sunday would mean we’d have cats within a few short weeks, but in fact it was a lot longer than that. We visited another outdoor fosterer nearby to see the set up in their garden and chat about the commitment it would be. An unused pen was ear-marked for us, but unfortunately this was subsequently condemned so a brand new pen was commissioned. We were very happy about this as we had just re-landscaped our garden and had a brand new shed so a new pen would blend in well. Measurements were made and the pen ordered. The company called to finalise details, eg which side the door should be on and finally, in May 2016 building commenced. Unfortunately, it was about 6 inches bigger than our space which was frustrating but couldn’t be helped. We have a hot-tub and couldn’t open the lid for several weeks until we drained it and had to borrow several strong people to help us move it far enough away from the pen to allow the lid to have the space to open! Then it was just a matter of waiting for our first guests.
The pen has two pens within it; each of them has its own bedroom with a radiator and comfortable bedding so the cats are very cosy even if they are effectively living outside. In fact, sometimes it’s warmer in their bedrooms than it is in our own house! There is plenty of space for them to move around and we can have several cats in a pen at a time - if they have come in together, they will remain together where possible. There is also a corridor area where we store litter, food, and bedding, etc.
Do you have any animals of your own and how do they get on with the cats in your pen?
As mentioned above we have three cats (all rescues; two from Cats Protection Chelwood Gate) and we also have a dog, Amber. The cats simply ignore our guests and Amber comes in very handy when we need to find out if our foster cats will get on with a dog. Some have been a definite no!
Do you remember who your first foster cats were?
I do. Our first cat was a beautiful tabby called Tiggy. She was memorable because she was the first cat I knew who liked to paddle in her water bowl! In the other pen we had James, a black and white older gentleman with a cute moustache.
Have you ever been tempted to adopt a cat?
YES!! We’ve loved all our guests of course, but there have been a few who have really grabbed our hearts with all four paws.
The first was Buck - he was our 6th cat and a sleek young black gentleman. Our girls wanted to keep him so much and even tried to persuade their dad and step-mum to adopt him! He was very friendly and playful too.
Letzgo was our first kitten and so he holds a special place in our hearts. He was also black and so lively! (He has a weepy eye in this picture which soon cleared up with a little TLC.)
Barnaby was with us for 6 months which was a surprise as he was a stunningly beautiful pedigree Birman and we thought he’d fly out the door. Sadly, he was quite poorly and it took a long time to find out what was wrong with him. Keeping a vomit log became the norm for us. Thankfully we were able to stabilise his condition and he was adopted by a friend of ours which we were so pleased about.
For a while we had two mums with four kittens between them in the one pen. It was very interesting when I had to take all seven (including Barnaby who was next door) to the vets at the same time! They were split between 5 baskets and I had to stack them on a trolley to get them all upstairs at the vets. Multi-storey cats!! Our daughter Kira went on to adopt one of the kittens (a white fluff ball with odd eyes called Jon Snow, now re-named Meeko), so we kept him in the family.
Any memorable moments?
Quite a few of our guests have found new homes with friends of ours and it’s lovely to hear updates and see pictures on Facebook. To prove how small the world is, it was a surprise to find out that one of my colleagues at my new job had adopted Wayne from us just over a year before I started work with her, and in a previous job I was chatting with another colleague about our CP work and he mentioned his daughter had just adopted a cat from CP - from us of course!
I’ve mentioned taking 7 cats to the vets at the same time, that was certainly memorable. Another time we had 3 jet black kittens, all identical, and all extremely lively. They would climb up the wire on the inside of their pen and then jump from the top of the door to the ground - which is a long way when you’re a tiny kitten! All three were adopted by another friend which is lovely because she is one who loves to post lots of cat photos on Facebook so we have seen them grow up.
Do you get sad when cats are adopted?
It’s always a mixed feeling when the cats are rehomed. Of course we are very happy that they have found a new “furever” home, but we do miss them as well. So it’s a kind of happy/sad feeling.
Have you ever had any tricky cats that you've enjoyed working with?
It’s always lovely when a shy cat starts to come out of their shell and relax round you. We’ve had several like that, and in fact two of our current residents are very shy and usually found hiding together under the cushion in their bed! But they have started to relax a little more now and it won’t be long before they are mewing for their food or treats when we enter the pen I’m sure.
One memorable, potentially tricky one is Stanley. When we first got him, we were told he was a biter and would scratch people. We did not have this experience with him at all, he was very lively for sure, jumping up at the window in an attempt to get out when he first arrived, but he was very friendly from the get go. He would meow very loudly when we came into the pen, and purred like a little engine any time he was stroked. He loved to give wonderful hugs and we were very fond of him by the end. He even starred as my Facebook profile page at one point!
Bess and Poppy are also memorable because sadly they were quite poorly. Bess had had an extreme allergic reaction to flea bites and Poppy had had to have her ear tips removed because she had cancer. Poppy was a short-term foster cat for us while her usual fosterer was on holiday and we had her indoors in our spare room. She was such a sweetie and loved any attention. Bess had to have regular baths in a special solution and wear a baby grow! She was so patient and seemed grateful that we were helping her feel better. When an indoor place became free, Bess moved to another fosterer and she has since found a lovely “furever” home.