Meet Mouse. Yes, that's him in the photo looking totally adorable and completely relaxed. Judging by his face, you wouldn't know he was ill at all would you? Look again - because he's at the vets, and has a drip in his paw. Mouse is the reason I became a foster-carer.
Prior to Mouse I think we had some sort of sign out the front of our home; one that only cats could see and read. I'm fairly sure that every homeless cat within the vicinity of our home came to realise that if they came to us, they would be cared for. We never had cat or dog food outside; duck and chook food, yes, but nothing for carnivores. So I have no idea why they came to us, but they just did. They were taken in, fed till their bodies filled out, and then somewhere in there, vet checked, desexed, wormed and any other treatment that was necessary. Those that were obviously someone's pet, we would register their new locale with all the local vet clinics and pet stores; plastering their details up in the hope that someone would claim their cat back.
For the ferals, it was the same - sadly though, there was obviously never a requirement to advertise them, for they'd never had a home prior to us. The very first feral we took in, we'd decided to trap, neuter and release him; deeming that to be the best thing for him. Also, we had to stop the explosion of cats in our neighbourhood somehow. This, we thought, was the best way of going about it. That first feral - Thomas, the Tank - spent the first week after his operation, living in our spare room.
Big mistake. HUGE.
We got to know him, and he us. He was the biggest, loveliest cat we had met. Head like a tank, hence his name; and the soul of a lover. He turned many of our more aggressive or hostile cats, into purr babies. He taught them manners. Cat manners. It's now my belief that he had come from an urban cat colony. In the end we had a room in our small cottage that we would clear, so that when we got a cat home from the vets, we could set them up in there; away from our dog and the other cats, while they rested up from their veterinary work.
My husband and I were both working at the time, and although we were by no means rich, we also couldn't stand to see a cat starve, or in pain from wounds that could be treated. No animal deserves that. Eventually, we had to let the vet clinic know what we were doing. I can well imagine what they did think. The best part of the disclosure was that everything changed for us and the cats. It was pretty awesome what they did for us, and those in our care at the time. To all the vets out there that continue to work hand in hand with people like myself, and rescue groups in general, you have my heartfelt and grateful thanks.
There was one young cat that we caught, only because she was so very pregnant that she couldn't move quickly enough to escape. She'd been living in our back shed and we had tried everything to catch her. Within twenty-four hours she gave birth. Running, round and around our back room, trying so hard to escape the pain that she was in. Dropping babies as she lapped the room. Everyone of those kittens were quickly scooped up, sacs broken, and rubbed vigorously until life filled them. Dumped quickly into the queens box, before running up and scooping the next kitten and doing it all again. That young queen overcame her fear of her kittens, nursing them through till each of them were adopted. None of which were adopted out until they reached four months old - and yes, they still liked to suckle off their feral Mum. We called her Kit-Kat. She's still with us, and is one of our 'special' cats. In her fifth year of life with us, she finally decided she didn't want to be a feral anymore.
Some of them are like that. They seem to come to a decision, and if you pick up on it, and handle it right, they become lap cats with amazing amounts of love to give. She will always be special though; she's got some extremely strange ideas. Today, for example, she tried three times to get out the front door...by going under it. Which of course, just isn't possible. Still, her antics make us smile. We've had many ferals over the years. Some have turned into the biggest, softiest, (yes, I am aware that's not a real word), sookey-lah-lahs you've ever met. Many people don't believe that some of these guys were ever feral, the shift in them has been so large. I read something once, about how kitten's, if not socialised with humans by a certain age will remain feral once grown, or have major feral traits (attacking et cetera) for the rest of their lives. I can tell you first hand - that's bunkum.
The senior pusses that I get are both my greatest joy, and my saddest to receive. They arrive usually bewildered, sad, angry, anxious and usually not wanting to associate with anyone. I often wonder if they've been thrown out of their home* by the relatives of someone who has passed on, leaving them homeless, as well as loveless. Can you imagine living in a home with someone you adore, who up and leaves (dies) you one day, and within a few days of this, you're tossed out on your adorably fluffy rear? I too would be angry, bewildered and scared. Still, when they finally come out of their shells, three, six or eight months later - when they are ready, it's a joy to behold. For they've finally realised that we (their foster-carer's) may not be 'their' human/s, but we do give them the love and care they so richly deserve at their great age. Watching them go from grumpy and cranky, to bouncing around on the deck or in the enclosure chasing a toy, or just leaping and frolicking around? That's the reward. That's one of the greatest joys of this job.
I digress though, because the oldies have come to us through 9 Lives Cat Rescue. They do so, because of Mouse. A few years ago I received a phone call from one of my sister-in-laws early one morning. A couple of rellies had gone to work as usual on a building site that morning, only to discover a very small, weak and dirty kitten in the builders rubble. They'd done their best to get it into a vets, but no vets were open at that hour, so they took it to my SIL's as she was closest, and she rang me. I trooped out to her place with my feline first aid kit, weighed him, and generally checked him out; then gave him some wet food and a bottle of milk (specifically for kittens). Once fed, I popped him into a carrier and took him home. I named him Mouse.
It was at this time that we realised that we simply couldn't continue doing this by ourselves. So I started researching rescues in and around Perth. I was fairly horrified to find that many of them (at that time) euthanised a large majority of cats, and kittens, and that most of the cats that we had had in our care and some that we'd managed to adopt out, would have been in that category. Then I found 9 Lives Cat Rescue. I read everything that I could find about the rescue, and its founder Nat. The big thing for me was they didn't euthanise unless it was a last resort. I discussed it with my hubby, and we decided Mouse would go to 9 Lives Cat Rescue only if we could get him in there. I made the call. Imagine my surprise when I found I was actually talking to Nat herself. I have to point out, that I was suffering from a fair amount of hero-worship for this young lady, with everything that she had achieved for and on behalf of the felines.
Sadly, it was kitten season, I remember her saying, and they were really full. As much as she'd like to help, she just couldn't. Nat then suggested a couple of others. To cut a long story short, Nat and I got to talking and she found out why we couldn't take anymore on. That's when she made the (tentative) suggestion. She proposed that if 9 Lives Cat Rescue took Mouse on, would I be his foster carer? Well, duh! The support we received for the cats going forward, both veterinary-wise, knowledge and emotionally made such a difference. A few days later, Mouse had a foster brother - Nat named him Mickey. Both Mickey and Mouse became firm friends. We eventually had to sell the cottage, and move to a larger property. It's our pleasure to give a place to those that would otherwise not have a warm bed at night, or a full belly. We couldn't do it without the support of 9 Lives Cat Rescue and Nat.
Sadly, Mouse is no longer with us; the photograph you see was taken two days before we had to let him cross over the rainbow bridge. His whole body was shutting down, and there was no way to save him at all. Doing anymore to his poor little body would have been cruel - keeping him any longer would have not justified the time, love and joy that he shared with us. We had to say goodbye. He, like every cat that come's into our care, was loved; he was also the reason we joined 9 Lives Cat Rescue.
If you become a foster carer with 9 Lives Cat Rescue, I can guarantee you, that, like us your lives will been enriched.
During the typing of this, I had to stop to cuddle 8 cats. They came to me and demand it; walking halfway across the keyboard and stopping gets your attention. A few others were content to just sit behind the screen, or roll on the table top for a tummy scratch, and are happy with that little visit. You have to have a great measure of patience to foster to so many cats. To be willing to stop what ever you are doing, when ever you are doing it and give a reassurance to them that they matter. It's a security blanket thing. I see it, and understand - you need to be able to do that, to do this job well.
Deb requires food and kitty litter to care for her foster kitties.