One day I’ll foster cats. My apartment is too small. Fostering just isn’t possible right now.
That’s what I used to think. My apartment is indeed too small. I share it with my husband, Rich, and two cats. When I say small, I mean it. We live in a 550 square foot studio apartment in Chicago with one bathroom and no official bedroom. We had been tossing around the idea of fostering a cat for a long time. It was a future dream we’d try it out once we moved to a larger apartment the next year.
To be honest, I didn’t really know how to begin fostering. It seemed complicated. Would I get attached to the cat, regret my decision to foster, feel unequipped? I wanted someone to invite me to foster. I needed someone to tell me that a kitten would be better off living in my bathroom than in an alley or a metal cage at the city intake. I wasn’t sure if I could, or should. I was full of excuses. Some of them valid, some not. But at the end of the day that didn’t matter. The deeper I dove into cat world, the more I realized how hard some people work to trap, neuter, return (TNR), bottle feed and treat cats. They care for and inconvenience themselves, for the sake of saving lives. After talking with some foster friends, a cat cafe and scrolling through foster pages on Instagram, it started to seem like more of a reality.
Months passed when one day I was scrolling through my Instagram feed. A particularly cute ginger cat named Marmalade caught my eye with his serious little adorable face. He was on @catsofpilsen, an IG account dedicated to TNR and street cat photography. He had been scooped up from an alley in Chicago. The post read “He will not be going back to living on the streets – we have different plans for this curious cutie!” I was happy that he was saved from the streets. Part of me wished he was mine, but I knew he’d find a home in no time.
Or so I thought. When his face popped up on my feed again, the message was very different. “Marmalade is still at CACC (Chicago Animal Care and Control) and must be pulled by Monday night!” Marmalade spent 3 weeks at the city intake and didn’t attract any rescues or adopters. He was terrified, hissing and sad. He needed a foster family to work with him on socialization or he’d be headed back to the streets. Rich and I decided this was the time so I messaged Veronica from @catsofpilsen who put me in touch with Autumn from @castleblackpaw. Autumn TNR’s a ton of cats in Chicago including Marmalade.
From there, I contacted the rescue who would be sponsoring him, Forever Fortunate Felines. They are a Chicagoland entirely foster-based rescue saving over 200 pets per year. After speaking with and applying to be foster parents, Rich and I drove to CACC to pick up Marmalade. We didn’t even get a glimpse of him until we got home. Slowly we opened the box to discover a terrified kitten with an upper respiratory infection (URI). Like a scared little bird, he smashed himself into the corner of the box as much as he could.
Marmalade was given space to decompress in the bathroom for a bit. When we checked on him, he would hide behind the toilet, or hiss and he would not eat if we were present. We knew we had our work cut out for us. Rich and I visited him in the bathroom; working on our computers or just allowing him to get used to our voices as we talked to him. He started to come out but spent a lot of time in his litter box, where he felt safe. Gradually, he began eating around us and cautiously taking treats from our hand. I wrapped him in a purrito to medicate his eyes and fed him treats, to associate being held with something positive. He’d slink around the sides of the bathroom, smashing himself against cabinets, in an effort to feel safe while getting to know us. And then one day, with the help of treats, he climbed into my lap. Although he didn’t want to be picked up, he wanted all the head scratches possible. He loved scratches so much that he’d practically fall over as he leaned in. He’d lose himself in being affectionate, becoming less terrified of people and his surroundings.
We slowly introduced him to our resident cats Mikita and Dahlia. He loved them. He would follow Mikita around and looked up to him like a big brother. He fit in with our family. We were asked many times why we didn’t want to keep Marmalade. We wanted to! We fell in love with him. But, we put our wants aside. If we wanted to save more, we’d have to let him go. It wasn’t easy but it was incredibly rewarding! Marmalade went from a terrified sick kitten, to a curious playful purr machine in a matter of weeks.
Marmalade is an amazing cat, but adopters wouldn’t have known that during his time at CACC. Some cats NEED foster families to come out of their shell. His future could have been a lot different if someone didn’t offer up their bathroom. Unfortunately, many cats aren’t so lucky. The numbers are sad, approximately 860,000 cats are euthanized in the US each year. On the bright side, the euthanasia rate is declining overall, thanks to people taking a tiny slice of the pie and doing something about it. There is more than enough pie to go around. I’m inviting you to have a piece with me! Foster a cat, or dog or rabbit, whatever animal speaks to you and offer them a second chance.
Marmalade taught us a lot about patience, creativity and the power of a small bathroom during his three week stay. He loves all cats so we knew he’d need a brother or sister, to continue to come out of his shell. Marmalade is now in his forever home with his cat sister, Kitty. Here he is in his new home! Such a happy little dude, growing up so fast!
To become involved in fostering, talk to your local shelter, reach out to friends who have done it, google fostering in your area. There are many ways to go about becoming a foster parent for pets in need. The organization we have gone through, Forever Fortunate Felines, is an entirely foster-based rescue. They depend on regular people like you and me, to step up, open our homes and foster. Many rescues offer some supplies and foot the bill for approved vet visits. But, there are often some additional costs a foster parent might need to take care of. From food to toys and litter. It’s worth it when you’re saving lives! Any of your local organizations would be thrilled to have your help, whether you foster 1 or 20 pets a year. What are you waiting for? Let’s do this!
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