Sunderland, Hartlepool and South Tyneside Branch

700 Kittens and Counting

A Q&A with kitten and cat volunteer fosterers, Neil & Olwyn

Above: Neil & Olwyn with Cinnamon

Q. Can you tell us a little about your involvement with the RSPCA?

We have been volunteering with the RSPCA now for almost 11 years, across a number of different roles. We visit the Felledge Animal Centre cattery regularly to get stuck in with the cleaning, as well as spending time with the cats to help socialise and care for them while they are waiting to find their new homes.

We also carry out home-visits for potential adopters on behalf of Felledge. This entails visiting the home of a potential adopter who has reserved a cat or dog from the Centre. We have been trained to make certain observations to ensure that the home and environment is suitable. It also allows the adopters the opportunity to ask any questions they might have before they bring the animal home.
As part of our ongoing volunteering work with Felledge, we also provide ongoing foster care for cats who may need or benefit from a home environment whilst they are waiting to be rehomed. For example, nervous cats who need a little extra TLC and young kittens who can thrive with the dedicated socialisation that comes with fostering.

Q. What motivated you to volunteer with the RSPCA?

First and foremost it is our love of animals and our desire to help in their welfare. We love being able to help towards the recuperation of animals in RSPCA care, and to promote rehoming.

Q. What is a typical day as a cat foster carer?

There really is no typical day. We have kittens for most of the year, which is a 24 hour responsibility. They can certainly keep us on our toes. For kittens, it’s all about giving them the best start possible: giving them attention, helping them get used to being handled, socialising them with older cats and allowing them the proper time they need to get used to a home environment and all the sights and sounds that come along with daily life.

Q. What do you like most about volunteering with the RSPCA?

It allows us to use our spare time in a productive way, and in a way that brings such enjoyment, as well as a bit of a challenge at times. The joy of seeing cats and kittens go to loving homes makes it all worthwhile. Watching, often frightened and neglected, kittens thrive and become friendly, happy and confident; having fun and developing into healthy pets. It is incredibly rewarding and heart-warming to see.

Q. In what ways is your role challenging?

While fostering is an amazing way to give back, and to have a positive impact on the life of an animal, we are also conscious that caring for and nurturing small animals is a huge responsibility. The joy they bring to our lives is incredible, but to be a fosterer takes time and dedication. It is about ensuring that the animals are mentally and physically stimulated, as well as being able to observe and recognise any changes or instances which could, for example, indicate that they need medical attention.
To date, we have fostered approximately 700 kittens over the years. We wouldn’t change it for a thing.

Q. What’s your funniest or most memorable experience from your time fostering?

One of our most memorable moments was when we had nine 7-week-old kittens in foster with us. We laid on our bed and all nine of them climbed on the bed and snuggled down on us and went to sleep.
Another really special memory was when we spent some time with two frightened, feral kittens who, one day, put their trust in us and came to us voluntarily for a cuddle.
The funny times are just too many to list, kittens are always fun and make us laugh.

Q. Is/are there any aspect(s) of your role that people might be surprised to learn/know?

Our own 6 cats play a big part in the fostering process too. They welcome kittens into their home and are invaluable in teaching kittens ‘cat etiquette’, as many have been separated too young to have learned how to read body language and signals that help them learn appropriate/sociable behaviour.

Q. What do you hope for the future with your fostering?

Just to continue helping the animals in whatever way we can. Ensuring we rehabilitate them so they are ready for new homes.

If the above interview has inspired you, and you’re interested in becoming an RSPCA fosterer or home-visitor, please do get in touch – we would love to hear from you. 0191 250 7148