Blog the Change for Animals: My First Fostering Experience

Blog the Change Sunday was a bittersweet day for us, or maybe just for me. It was the day our spunky little foster kitten went to the shelter to find his forever home. The house doesn’t feel quieter without him around, but it does feel a bit empty. Aside from a few photos here and there, I haven’t discussed the little bugger much here. Knowing the date for Blog the Change was approaching I saved all my big foster-related stories for today in hopes I could convince someone else to give it a try.

I can’t say whether or not my fostering experience was at all typical as it was my first time. It’s something I wanted to do for a long time but I was afraid of being a failure. Not a “foster failure”, in the normal sense – I wasn’t worried I’d be tempted to keep the kitten. I was more afraid that I would screw the animal up or that something would go wrong and the animal would get hurt and it would be all my fault. The last thing the world needs is one more person with good intentions getting in over her head. However, I read so many positive accounts and I know what a difference providing an extra space for homeless cats makes, that I decided to just go for it. With all the resources at my disposal I figured if the worst thing happened, I would have lots of help. And if it turned out to be awful, I never had to do it again.

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The whole process was simpler than I expected. I didn’t have to sign away my life and apparently, they don’t require foster parents to have a degree in veterinary medicine! My mind was blown. The kitten we took in was healthy and had little trouble adapting to our home. It wasn’t long before caring for him became just another part of our daily routine. The organization we fostered for provided us with all the food and litter, as well as a bed and cage for him to hang out in when unsupervised. All we had to do was feed him, give him fresh water, play with him, and watch him grow. Even I can get that right.

My concerns for how my own pets would handle the addition were also set at ease. Our nutjob of a dog was a lot better with him than I ever expected. Over-excited, yes, but she kept her prey drive in check and was more interested in sniffing his butt than treating him like a toy. After a few days of clicking-and-treating her for good calm behaviour, Shiva learned how to handle his presence. Our cat was another matter. He didn’t appreciate the young feline in his territory and only grew to dislike him more the longer he stuck around. However, there was an easy solution to that problem: we kept them separated. The kitten and his set up remained in a spare room behind a closed door. This way all interactions between the animals were strictly supervised. If things looked like they might derail, the kitten could beat an easy retreat.

015Unfortunately, as much as I’d love to say fostering was all sunshine and rainbows, there was a moment early on in which I wondered if I was cut out for the task.

At this point the kitten had been with us for almost seven days and was about five weeks old. I had gone out that morning to purchase a new toy for him, something we could play with together. All excited, I opened the door to the kitten’s room, singing out to him: “Kiiittttennnn, look what I haaave!”

I waved the feathered toy over the top of the cage and moved to open the door. He was laying by his food bowl and didn’t stir, not even when the cage door clanged against the bars.

Not normal.

I reached my hand inside and stroked his head with a finger. He still didn’t move. I picked him up and noticed the towel beneath him was wet. He lifted his head when I cradled him in my arms but his eyes remained closed. I put him down on the carpet and he remained still.

I started to freak out.

Several frantic text messages and multiple phone calls later, we drove him as quickly as we could back to the rescue. My contact had suggested we try giving him some corn syrup in case he had just run himself into a coma. But after slathering it all over his mouth there was little change. He had turned from a fuzzball of hyperactivity into a withdrawn and lethargic baby. He wasn’t interested in any of his toys and seemed to have trouble moving. It was as if he had been drugged. Fortunately, we didn’t have to go far to get help. The woman in charge of the rescue reassured me there was nothing I could have done and took him back into her care.

A few more days passed and the wee lad had made a full recovery. No one knew what had caused his sudden downturn but all seemed well again. He was a singleton, his siblings having already not made it. When kittens are that young and have no known medical history, it’s a guessing game. I was asked if I wanted to take him back for the remainder of his foster care.

I was unsure. The biggest reason I didn’t want to foster was because I was scared something bad would happen. What if I took him back and he became ill again? What if I was at work or in bed at the time? What if I found him and it was too late? All of those questions and more crossed my mind. In the end, I decided to bring him home again. I had made a commitment and would see it through. I felt I owed him that.

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Luckily, the worst never happened. As far as I could tell he remained in perfect health the rest of his stay with us. That doesn’t mean he was easy, of course! He is a kitten, after all. Crazy one minute, then sweet and snuggly the next. When I opened the door to his room, I never knew which I was going to get. And I still have the scars to prove it!

Now that he is gone, off to a new life, I do miss him a little. No doubt he is cute enough to get himself adopted right away. I just hope the mischief make behaves himself well enough to stay there. I feel fortunate that I got to be a part of his beginning. Fostering is definitely one of the more rewarding things I have done in the last year. It was fun having a new animal around and I got a kick out of watching him learn. Every day brought something new into his world. Hanging out with him gave me a new appreciation for the little things.

Who knew beer boxes made such good forts?

Who knew beer boxes made such good forts?

So have I convinced you yet? I hope I’ve at least inspired you to consider it. In my opinion, whatever stress is involved is well-worth the benefit you get from helping a little fluffy animal get his first start in life. And this is coming from me, a professional worrier. If I can do it, anyone can.

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34 Comments on Blog the Change for Animals: My First Fostering Experience

  1. Jan Keefe
    January 15, 2013 at 6:23 pm (1 year ago)

    That was great! You definitely inspired me. Our house is too full to do it right now, but it will definitely be one of my goals for the future. You did great sticking it out, and finishing your committment after that scary episode! I know I am a wreck whenever my own pets don’t feel well, and I’m sure you feel just as responsible when fostering. I would be afraid of getting too attached, so it is good to know that you can let go when the time comes that you have to, and it is not devastating. SO, do you think you are going to do it again someday? :)
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  2. Julie
    January 15, 2013 at 7:11 pm (1 year ago)

    Our three adult cats never warmed up to the kittens either, and they were here for two months! Keeping them separated is always an excellent solution :) I’m glad you enjoyed your experience – the hubby and I are big babies and get too attached. We are still trying to get over the five little babies going to their new homes! Nice post Kristine!!
    Julie recently posted..Be the Change 4 Animals by Being NiceMy Profile

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  3. KimT
    January 15, 2013 at 7:32 pm (1 year ago)

    You did great! You know, I honestly think fosters benefit from “worriers”…who are less apt to just write something off, more likely to make sure all is okay or get the help needed if not. He was in great hands in your home.

    And now we’re kindred spirits – I’m actually on a hiatus from fostering after several years, and I can honestly say I miss it so much! Yes, they can wreak havoc on your home, but you can always control that, too. It’s the part where they leave their pawprints on your heart – forever – that you haven’t any control over.

    I am sure there will be some new foster homes thanks to your sharing of your experience! There are plenty of furry friends who need a place to stay. Fostering really is a great experience, one that everyone should try at least once!

    Thank you so much for blogging – and being – the change for animals, as well as a terrific team member of Be the Change for Animals!
    Kim Thomas
    btc4animals.com
    cindylusmuse.blogspot.com
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  4. Brenda
    January 15, 2013 at 7:41 pm (1 year ago)

    What a beautiful story! I read about some many foster furparents and although I love animals, if I was able, I’m not sure I could. :( I would get so attached and good byes stink! I admire you for doing it though. It definitely takes a special person to foster and you’re one of them! Thank you for all you do!
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  5. Jackie Bouchard
    January 15, 2013 at 7:43 pm (1 year ago)

    Great post! I’m allergic to cats, although I do get over it after being around them a while. I’ve been trying to decide if we should try having a cat. Maybe fostering one is the way to go… Not sure if it’s realistic for us to do this soon, but it’s definitely a good idea and I’m going to keep this in the back of my mind. Thanks for the great post!
    (Funny, but my BtC4A post also touches on how I almost didn’t start volunteering at the dog shelter because i was afraid.)
    Jackie Bouchard recently posted..Blog the Change for Animals: Shelters Aren’t Sad!My Profile

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  6. Gizmo (@GizmoGeodog)
    January 15, 2013 at 7:48 pm (1 year ago)

    I’ve fostered dogs on and off for years, and right now just don’t have the space for it but i’ve never thought of fostering a kitten before…That is something I could do…Gizmo seems like cats well enough that we could make it work…You have inspired me to check into it and see what’s involved so Thank you
    Gizmo (@GizmoGeodog) recently posted..SAVE OUR HOMELESS PETS–Blog the Change 1/15/2013My Profile

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  7. Vicki Cook
    January 15, 2013 at 8:48 pm (1 year ago)

    Congratulations on your first foster experience! Although I ‘ve never officially fostered for a shelter or rescue, I do have kitten experience from when I brought in Sugar (who was very, very pregnant). I ended up adopting out two of the kittens to people I know and working with a rescue to find homes for the other two. Kittens are sweet little bundles of energy, and I do miss them – although my house is a lot saner now that we’re back to having just adult cats. Thanks for participating in Blog the Change Day and for being part of Team BTC!
    Vicki Cook recently posted..January 15: Blog the Change DayMy Profile

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  8. Jobi and Fisher
    January 15, 2013 at 9:43 pm (1 year ago)

    I am so happy for you taking the chance and enjoying fostering (well, except for a few parts). We are renters so always have a limit of cats – 2 of our own. I have met several people who have been fosters for years and still love! I you hope you continue to love it, too.

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  9. 2 brown dawgs
    January 15, 2013 at 10:22 pm (1 year ago)

    That is a wonderful story. The good and the bad. I don’t think I would be able to give up a foster animal. I admire people who can do it. You did a fabulous job. :)
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  10. Cathy Keisha
    January 15, 2013 at 10:41 pm (1 year ago)

    Great article. TW’s cousin has been fostering for many years. Our condo is way too small to take in a kitten and keep it separate from me.
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  11. Leslie
    January 15, 2013 at 10:46 pm (1 year ago)

    Oh wow, Kristine, I had no idea you were going through that medical mishap with this little one. How scary. I would have fallen apart.

    But kittens are unbelievably cute and fragile and how can you not fall in love with them?

    I so admire people who foster. I wish we could do it and hope maybe someday we can. Although I know it would be difficult to say goodbye, it is an absolutely vital part of animal rescue these days.

    Thank you for taking it on.
    Leslie recently posted..Saving the Satos – BtC4AMy Profile

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  12. Tucker's Mom
    January 15, 2013 at 11:11 pm (1 year ago)

    Awesome post, Kristine! So … after all this said and done … will you foster again?

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  13. one person's view
    January 16, 2013 at 12:54 am (1 year ago)

    We are dying to foster kitties, but I’m so scared Our Best Friend will eat them. He’s not so good with cats,and unlike Shiva, not so used to them.

    But kudos to you for doing it. There are SO MANY cats out there to be rescued, and trust Kristine to do it one kitty at a time.
    one person’s view recently posted..Happy New YearMy Profile

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  14. melF
    January 16, 2013 at 1:07 am (1 year ago)

    I am so glad you shared your experience Kristine, although I must say that little scare you had would have scared me too. I have fostered many times, but I have never had something like that happen. Yikes!

    You also proved that 1) fostering can be challenging but is not impossible and 2) that it can be very rewarding. I wish more people would give it a try. I may have failed with a few of my fosters, but I also gave a few a good chance at a new life. I am proud of that fact.

    Thanks for writing on a great issue. I hope more people are motivated to try it too!
    Mel Freer
    Team BTC
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  15. jet
    January 16, 2013 at 1:49 am (1 year ago)

    what a scary experience when he wouldn’t move!!! I guess though if I am able to deal with that kind of thing with my own animals, I would treat it no differently if it was a foster… the only difference is taking them to the rescue-preferred vet instead of my own regular vet…

    I too recently had a temporary foster arrangement, for a puppy! A bit more work than a kitten and the house sure was empty when he was gone, but my own dogs seemed quite happy that he has moved on to a more permanent foster home.
    jet recently posted..Rodney the Foster DogMy Profile

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  16. Ann Paws
    January 16, 2013 at 2:14 am (1 year ago)

    Great story, except for the bad part of course. That does sound pretty scary, but you were able to help him quickly it seems. I hope to foster some day in the future, but for now my household set up isn’t right for it. But, can’t wait til I do!
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  17. Long Life Cats and Dogs
    January 16, 2013 at 5:06 am (1 year ago)

    Well done on that first foster experience. My first fosters were a bunch of kittens, still needing to be bottle fed. I so understand your initial fears and especially after having had the little guy being sick – so worrying. It is sad when they go off to be adopted but it is so worth it, when you know that you have made a difference in one of these great creatures lives. I hope many people read this and decide to help out with fostering. Great post.
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  18. Sue
    January 16, 2013 at 6:54 am (1 year ago)

    I hope you are very proud of yourself. It was a wonderful thing you did for the kitten. Not surprised you freaked out when it was so ill. So glad it recovered and was back with you.

    Reply
  19. Basil
    January 16, 2013 at 7:43 am (1 year ago)

    What a brilliant post, thank you show much for sharing! You have typists utmost respect, as do all fosters. She just doesn’t know how you can do it, love something, watch it grown, and then send it to a new forever home. You are stronger than she is! Thank you, for animals everywhere!

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  20. acd6pack
    January 16, 2013 at 11:52 am (1 year ago)

    As I was reading how concerned you were undertaking the fostering, I was nodding along, understanding exactly how you were feeling. The first one was the hardest, all those “what if” questions. We were lucky in that we didn’t have a scare like you did. Glad the little guy is okay! Hopefully you’ll be able and willing to foster again. It’s something we have really enjoyed over the years.
    acd6pack recently posted..Wordless Wednesday – BillMy Profile

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  21. Heather
    January 16, 2013 at 12:39 pm (1 year ago)

    We love cats & wish that our area had a cat rescue that we could work with. Fingers crossed that your little cutie finds his forever home soon & thank you for making sure he gets the opportunity :)
    Heather recently posted..Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

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  22. Pamela | Something Wagging This Way Comes
    January 16, 2013 at 1:06 pm (1 year ago)

    You worried about what you’d do if something bad happened and you got through it. I’m trying to learn that a good experience is not one where nothing goes wrong. But it’s one where I’m able to keep what went wrong from being a disaster.

    You certainly did that for your foster kitten since he wasn’t eaten by Shiva or your cat and he recovered his illness with help from a fast reaction.

    And you gave him some great early socialization with Shiva that may make him more easily adopted. Yay!

    I look forward hearing about more fosters in your home.
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  23. Jodi
    January 16, 2013 at 2:31 pm (1 year ago)

    Great post Kristine. I do plan on fostering at some point but truthfully I think it’s not in my immediate future due to the snarkiness of the dogs in my household and my feeling of incompetence when it comes to handling it. :-) Sooner or later I’ll get there.

    I totally commend you for doing this, without people like you, those willing to step up and help this little guy might have had a totally different future!

    I imagine the parting is bittersweet.
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  24. Poochie Project
    January 16, 2013 at 4:48 pm (1 year ago)

    As I read your post I was thinking how I felt the same way the first time I had to foster a little kitten. When they are that tiny, sometimes they just ‘fail to thrive’ and that was an expression that terrified the life out of me. At least with our dog fosters they older and any problems can normally be diagnosed quickly. With babies… well, it’s a very cute guessing game. I’m glad you stuck it out, and will be sure to share your post on our blog, poochieproject.com.
    Poochie Project recently posted..A rescue story that makes me cry every timeMy Profile

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  25. Connie
    January 16, 2013 at 11:30 pm (1 year ago)

    Congratulations on your first foster! I’ve been doing it for 11 years and I couldn’t help but smile pretty much through out your post.

    I am sorry to hear what happened with your kitten, but so glad he pulled through. It stinks that kittens can go from happy and healthy seemingly from one breath to down and out in another. I’ve had a few that took turns that scared me silly and they pulled through, and a few that didn’t.

    Keeping your kitten separated from your own cat was a wonderful idea for more than the reason you chose. Kittens can harbor illnesses for up to 6 weeks before they show, and many do not show up on tests.. Lots of people do not isolate, and they never run into issues, some of us do..

    I think it is wonderful that you took a chance. I hope you take another ;)
    Connie recently posted..Blog the ChangeMy Profile

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  26. rachel
    January 17, 2013 at 4:27 pm (1 year ago)

    Aww…I bet it was sad to see the little munchkin go. I would love to foster some kittens. I know the dogs would be fine, but Gina hasn’t shared her space with another kitty since she was a baby. I’ll try it when I move to a bigger space!
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  27. Donna
    January 19, 2013 at 11:50 am (1 year ago)

    How scary when he was sick. What a weird incident, glad there were no recurrences and you found it in yourself to give him a second shot. I love the shot of him in the bag, what a little cutie! :-)

    I SO want to foster. But our house in small, and my animals are not as hospitable as yours. Especially the girls. Maybe one day in the future though. I know it would be really rewarding.
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  28. Amy@GoPetFriendly
    January 22, 2013 at 4:59 pm (1 year ago)

    Great post, Kristine! I so admire you for taking the leap into fostering. Living in the RV, it’s not something we’re able to do, but it’s one of the best ways to help homeless pets. Your kitten was adorable and I hope he’s off to his new life in no time. Orange stripy kittens have always been my favorite.
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  29. Pup Fan
    January 24, 2013 at 12:17 am (1 year ago)

    I love this inspirational post, Kristine! You make fostering sound manageable and far less scary. People who foster are definitely on my list of heroes… congrats on a successful first experience. :)

    A.J.
    Team BtC4A
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  30. Laura MacDougall
    June 22, 2013 at 3:10 am (10 months ago)

    Thanks for this. I just started fostering three kittens last week, and am having a lot of the same worries. My cat has been pretty mad, and I’m looking into some calming natural remedies that might help. I know this is the right thing to do, and I know they will be hard to give up. Its nice to know I”m not the only one feeling this way!

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2Pingbacks & Trackbacks on Blog the Change for Animals: My First Fostering Experience

  1. [...] Blog the Change post, but I thought it fit better here. At Rescued Insanity she writes about her first fostering experience. Howie is our first foster, and is likely to be with us the rest of his life. Kristine fostered a [...]

  2. [...] Blog the Change for Animals: My First Fostering Experience from Rescued Insanity. [...]

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