Berkeley Humane relies heavily on a network of foster providers to socialize and care for its animals before they are adopted. Our dogs and cats spend a significant portion of their time with devoted fosters who welcome them into their homes, where the animal can stretch their legs and learn what it's like to be in a home setting. This helps dogs and cats to avoid the stress of being in a shelter and allows their wonderful personalities to shine through.
This week, we are talking to Phoebe, a volunteer who has been fostering cats for two years. Here is what she has to say about her experiences:
How long have you been fostering and who was your first foster?
I started fostering in February 2013. My first foster was a 12 year old, overweight, Himalayan-looking cat named Queen Latifah. Because she was older, it took a while to find an adopter so I had her for about 6 or 8 weeks. She had obviously lived in a loving home at some point, but her fur and skin were in pretty bad shape; she likely lived with someone who was no longer able to properly care for her due to their own age or health. With regular brushing and a good diet her coat improved immensely in just that short time I had her (she still had a ways to go on the weight control issue, though, so hopefully her adopter has been able to help her slim down a bit!). She was a great first foster for me because she was very mellow, quiet, and low maintenance, which made it easy since I really didn’t know what fostering would be like.
How did you learn to say goodbye to each foster animal?
It’s hard. I’ve been lucky that I’ve had friends or family adopt a number of my fosters which makes it much, much easier. But when I don’t know where they’ll end up it’s always difficult. Dropping them off for adoptions, knowing I may not see them again, is emotional. Just a week ago, Creedence, a mama cat who was with me for almost 3 months, went up for adoption (and she was adopted right away!); it was tough to say goodbye and strange not having her around for the first few days. The key is remembering that it will so much better for them to start their new lives in new households where they can be the ‘primary’ cats. They have great temporary homes with me, but their space is limited, and I’m sure going back and forth to the adoption center is confusing and stressful for them. They deserve permanent homes and the sooner they can find them the better.
Who was your favorite foster animal?
Honestly I don’t know if it’s possible to have a favorite – they are all so special and so different. It would be like choosing a favorite child. I often foster litters of kittens, and my favorite kitten within the litter changes almost daily (…often the one I’m holding at any given time is my favorite).
Having said that, I would probably have to say that Willie is my favorite… because he’s the one I adopted . His Berkeley Humane name was Avos and he was part of a mama-and-babies litter I had right after Latifah. He had a very bad, very persistent eye infection while I was fostering him. For a while I thought he would lose the eye, but the vet at Berkeley Humane kept trying different antiviral and antibiotic combinations and it finally got better, without permanent damage. But I think I developed a special bond with him during that time (and nicknamed him “One-eyed Willie”), and I just couldn’t give him up.
Who was your most challenging foster animal?
I had a “litter” of kittens once, about 8 weeks old, but it became quickly apparent that at least one of them was not related to the others. It’s a rare situation, but I’ve heard it does sometimes happen that the originating shelter (where Berkeley Humane gets them) will put unrelated kittens together and call them a litter. I think they were probably docile during their short stay at Berkeley Humane before going out to foster because they were understandably confused and scared. But when they got to my house they started to hiss at each other and fight, and it was clearly not play-fighting. Three of them seemed to be okay with each other, but the fourth little girl was aggressive and antisocial. The Berkeley Humane foster coordinator offered to find another foster home for her but by then they’d been with me for the first night and I decided to try to make it work. After a few days they settled down and accepted each other. But it was clear to me that the one little girl did not know how to interact with other kittens. We don’t know what her background was, of course, but it seems likely to me that she had little or no socialization with either other kittens or humans. I only had her a few weeks and I hope that in those few weeks she improved a bit through interaction with me and her adoptive siblings. On top of her behavioral issues she had persistent diarrhea (which may have contributed to the behavior, if she didn’t feel well). I nick-named her Lizard because she was small and wiry with a tiny head and beady eyes, and looked a bit like a reptile. I definitely grew to love the little devil, but she was a challenge.
Thank you to Phoebe for all of her valuable work and her willingness to answer our questions on top of it! Stay tuned for part 2 of her interview and more foster care provider interviews!
At Berkeley Humane, we are always looking for foster providers. Berkeley Humane provides all of the necessary food and supplies and is available for support for all of its fosters-- you just add the care, love, and time! Read about becoming a foster carer on our website and fill out an application form!