A self-confessed crazy cat lady, Cheryl Robinson from Brisbane, Australia started fostering kittens last February 2019. The 38-year-old stay-at-home mum already has three fur kids under her care, but she felt the need to do more for the abandoned animals at her local shelter, Bracken Ridge’s Warra Animal Shelter. Currently caring for her eighth foster kitten, Cheryl shares her inspiring fostering story.
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Waldo’s Friends (WF): How did you get into fostering?
Cheryl Robinson (CR): After our darling senior cat passed away in 2018 at the age of 17, we knew the time was right to start fostering. We already had two other cats and a dog, so weren’t ready to adopt, but wanted to help out animals in another way. I looked at volunteering with our local animal shelter, but couldn’t make the hours work with our schedule, so fostering was the next best thing.
We foster through Animal Welfare League Queensland, which is a network of shelters run by the Coty Council. We chose to foster through them as they provide good support for foster carers. Also, it’s the shelter from which we adopted one of our cats and our dog, so we were already familiar with their work.
WF: How did you decide on what kind of animal to foster?
CR: Our family decided that we wanted to foster kittens, mainly because the shelter we foster from usually only sends kittens for foster in pairs or multiples. That was our failsafe, to prevent us from adopting the first animal that came into our care!
And because we own our own home (or at least our own mortgage), it was easier for us to decide to foster. We had a spare bedroom that we use as an office, and it was the perfect space for foster kittens. So far, the kittens we have fostered have stayed with us on average from three weeks to a month. Our first two foster kittens, Annie and Ernie, were gorgeous little gingers. It was like our old cat had sent us a gift because he too was a beautiful ginger boy.
WF: What was the most number of fosters you’ve taken in at one time and how was that experience for you?
CR: So far, the most we have fostered at once was three kittens—two from one litter and a single. This meant that we had five cats in the house! It was a busy but rewarding time, watching the kittens play and grow together.
I would be cautious about having more than three at a time though, and normally we only have two—it’s important to know your limits.
WF: What do you love most about fostering kittens?
CR: I really enjoy watching the kittens’ individual personalities develop over the time they spend with us. They also bring a lot of energy and fun to the household.
One of the fun bits of fostering is when you get to name the kittens. Our favourite so far was Professor Meow-Gonagal, so named because he looked just like the Harry Potter character in her cat form.
WF: What are some of the fostering problems that you’ve encountered so far?
CR: The financial costs that can arise can sometimes be challenging. Although the shelter that we foster through technically provides all that we need, there are times when you are caught short or can’t get to the shelter to replenish supplies and end up covering the cost yourself.
Also, unexpected illness in the foster kittens can mean that you’ll find yourself required to spend more time administering medications for a particular time period. For instance, the kitten we are currently fostering requires syringe feeding due to mouth ulcers. While it’s super cute, it does take an extra chunk out of the day making sure he’s fed and watered throughout the day, gaining weight, and more.
WF: When it’s time to give away the foster, how easy or difficult is it for you?
CR: The first time we had to return our fosters to the shelter was really difficult and there were a few tears all around. To be honest, I always check the shelter’s adoption website to see when they go up for adoption and have seriously considered dashing back to adopt some of our babies! Luckily though, all the kittens we have fostered have been adopted very quickly, so we know that they are in their forever homes, even though we do miss them. Also, we foster quite regularly, so it eases the blow a bit when you’ve got a new set of babies to care for.
WF: Aside from fostering animals, you mentioned that you have your own pets. Could you talk more about them? How do they feel about you bringing in other foster animals?
CR: We have two adult cats and an adult dog. Our first cat is 10 years old. We found her when she was just a kitten, abandoned by the side of the road and riddled with fleas and ringworm.
Our second cat was adopted from the shelter we foster from in 2017. She is an ex-mama cat who had six of her own kittens and fostered three others while in the shelter. She loves having the kittens around and often gets involved in wrestling and chasing games with them, as well as teaching them bite inhibition.
Meanwhile, our dog—a lab/mastiff cross—ADORES the kittens and wants nothing more than to sniff and snuggle them. The kittens have had varying responses to this giant animal pushing her nose into their faces, but they have all come to an agreement of civility so far.
WF: How has your life changed after fostering animals?
CR: Our lives feel a lot happier since we’ve started fostering. It’s a nice feeling to have kittens around the house, playing and generally being cute.
WF: What’s the best tip you can give for first-time foster parents?
CR: I’d say prepare yourself for the goodbye, knowing that your time fostering has made this animal infinitely more adoptable and will in turn allow for other animals to have a shot at adoption. Aside from that, I would say to be aware of your limitations, be they emotional, physical, or financial. While it may seem like the right thing to say yes every time you are offered an animal for foster care, consider how that specific foster situation will impact your life and say no if you don’t think you’re the best person for that particular job.
WF: Why would you personally encourage people to foster and adopt animals?
CR: Adopting animals is definitely the way to go! It gives animals who have, through no fault of their own, found themselves without a human to love them, a second (or first!) chance at a loving home. Also, there are some real characters amongst adult animals up for adoption, and you may just find you share a few quirks. If you are able to do it, fostering can be very rewarding and fun. If you are thinking about it, I would encourage you to give it a try, provided you have the means and time to devote to it.
Follow the adventures of Cheryl and her foster kittens on Instagram.
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