I’m a cat person. I grew up with cats, and have always been completely sold on their perfect blend of independence, quirky personalities and affection. Not having a cat myself since leaving home 17 years ago was never about a lack of desire; I’m a renter in London, which means my domestic set-up is the opposite of secure and predictable, and throwing a cat into the mix just feels too challenging. Which felt like something sad, but just how it had to be.
In a bid to scratch my “I want a cat cuddle itch”, I leapt at the chance to go behind the scenes at my local RSPCA unit, and had planned to blog about my visit. I hadn’t realised that each RSPCA branch was a unique and separate registered charity in its own right, responsible for their own fundraising and cat rescuing, and I was instantly impressed at both the cat unit itself, and the passion from the people who work there. The cat pods were pretty hi-tech, and they work tirelessly to prevent cross contamination between pods. I had to get into a new hazmat suit each time I entered a new cat pod to meet a cat. I hadn’t planned to end the visit with a cat….but the fact that it did hardly comes as a surprise does it?
I was introduced to Bronwyn the cat, who’d ended up with the RSPCA, aged 5, when her family had to move house. She’d had symptoms that weren’t clearing up with medicine, and they feared that perhaps the stress of the cat pod were causing them. She was an ideal candidate for fostering, in the hope she’d have clear test results so that a “furever” home could be found for her.
Fostering can vary from charity to charity, but generally it means that you are responsible for paying for litter and food (they can’t go outside) but all medical expenses are paid for by the charity. The reasons a cat needs fostering, rather than re-homing, may vary from needing a course of treatment (and not wanting to keep a cat in a pod for that length of time), socialising to ensure a happy adoption, a lack of cattery spaces (some charities operate fully via fostering places), or even temporary fostering before being returned to the family in cases involving families escaping domestic abuse (pets are often cited as a reason for not wanting to leave). Longer-term fostering may involve cats with special needs, or cats that are too old to find a new home.
Bronwyn (I assigned her the name, as her official RSPCA name was too dull for her), ended up being with me for 11 weeks, and I was amazed at how quickly she became part of my home. She was stubborn and sassy, and confident unless a hoover was nearby. She liked to sleep on the corner of my bed, and she loved watching the garden through the window. I really enjoyed having her, and I had been prepared to wave her off, to her forever home. She’d make a fabulous pet.
Sadly, when she left, it wasn’t to a snug new sofa in her new family, but back to the RSPCA, as her symptoms are still proving a mystery, and she needs more medical supervision and testing. I’d prepared myself for her departure, but hadn’t considered she may return to her pod, so it was a bit of a shock, but I know she’s in the best place. Hopefully they’ll find her solution soon, and can send her straight off to a new family.
As for me, I’m ready and waiting for my next cat flat mate. Fostering is providing an ideal (if sometimes briefly sad) way for me to enjoy sharing my life with a cat, without the commitment that made me believe I couldn’t.