Hi all. Mel here. I’m part of the team here at RSPCA Sunderland, Hartlepool and South Tyneside.
Recently, I put myself forward to foster a stray kitten. So, today, I thought I’d share that experience with you. This blog is for anyone. But perhaps it leans more toward being an insight piece for anyone considering fostering with the RSPCA.
It also calls out to the animal lovers amongst us, of course. I mean, look at this face, for starters…
This is Greg.
We named him after Dr. Gregory House, from the American TV series. I know, right? Standard. Sadly though, this is because Greg came to us with a severe leg injury (hence the namesake). In fact, he was missing a hind foot.
So, from the start, Greg needed a little extra TLC, and a little crate rest to help his wound heal. While his injury had been treated, unfortunately, it wasn’t healing in the way we had initially hoped, even with crate rest.
You see, after a couple of days, Greg’s ‘inner ninja-kitten-playtime-to-the-max’ came to the surface of his gorgeous personality. And he wanted to climb and play, just as kittens do. This meant that keeping his wound clean, rested, and away from obstacles was proving very difficult, and we wanted to give him the best opportunity to be able to move freely and with confidence, without hurting himself or causing more harm.
With vet’s advice, it turned out that little Greg would need a full leg amputation.
Here is my first real insight for those looking to foster: Animals that come through to RSPCA care don’t often have the most perfect of starts in life. While, with Greg, he was very young and adapted very well, even though his history, so far, had not been an easy one. With foster animals, this is something to bear in mind. It may not always be smooth sailing. For me, it was about being prepared to go on a journey.
Once Greg had his op, it was my job to make sure that he was able to rest, that he took his medications on time, that he could eat OK with his buster collar on (aka Elizabethan collar, or “cone of shame”)… actually, let’s back up. Just so you know, buster collars and kittens… yeah, that’s not so fun.
On his first night back, he was still a little ‘out of it’ from the op. The collar was quite big, and he was struggling to reach his bowl (aside from the fact that he was NOT happy to have this thing on). So we managed to find him a ‘comfy collar’, which would be otherwise known as his rubber ring.
To cut a long story short, this took some trial and error. Greg was crate rested overnight, and I would check on him through the night to make sure he was OK, and that he hadn’t managed to pull the collar off and get to his stitches. We worked it out together. Also, knowing that I had the support of the RSPCA branch team on hand when I had a concern – that was a real help. Part of the fostering process, I should also mention, is to document everything: dates and times of medication, vet visits, care-related trips or required purchases, eating, drinking, motions, behaviour, and any changes to any of the aforementioned.
This is my second little snippet for those considering fostering: It’s best not to put a time limit around your availability, where possible. You see, had Greg’s injury healed after his initial treatment, it’s likely that he may have only been with us a couple of weeks. However, with the op and the recovery time, he was with us for well over a month. With some animals, their time with the RSPCA may be much longer or shorter than this. It all depends on the circumstances around each individual animal.
This leads me on to the final, quite unexpected, experience from my time with Greg. Everyone knew we would miss him. They knew we would fall in love with him, and some even suggested we may not want to let him go because we would miss him so much.
The thing is, fostering doesn’t always give you the option. So, we had prepared for this from the very beginning. Seeing him go to a loving home, once he was all healed, happy and well, was an amazing thing. And we would be OK. Of course, I was going to miss him. I still do.
But here’s what I hadn’t anticipated: My worry, or my sadness wasn’t for me at all. It was for Greg. I found myself worrying that he had made his home here, that he had bonded so much with me, he would now wonder where I was, or why I wasn’t there, or where he was going.
Here’s the thing though: His adventure was only just beginning. And, while his forever home wasn’t here with us, his adopted home was exactly what he needed: a loving, quiet home indoors where he would meet and get to know his new family (including another furry friend), build even more confidence, and live happily and well.
I soon heard back from his new forever home, that while he was initially a little unsure and spent a little time hiding (as he did with us too, at first) he was already getting cuddles and up to his usual mischief.
That was amazing to hear.
My job was a simple one. Not easy. But straightforward, challenging, and rewarding. I was there to give him what he needed when he needed it: love, care, a fresh start, and a sense that he could trust people. I think we were able to give that to him in spades. And I’m so happy to have been a small part of his big life adventure.