The Gray Area of Fostering
Ah, where to begin? I’ve learned over many years of fostering and having hundreds of fosters come through my home that fostering is not black-and-white. Each foster that comes to me has their own story, background, individual personality and I take all of that into consideration when I care for them and plan for their future. When I agreed to take a foster into my home whether they are being fostered through a rescue group or on my own, they have my 100% commitment that I will love them and look out for their best interest.
This takes me to my current foster Lindy. Lindy was trapped by a volunteer trapper who was working on a TNR job at a extended stay motel. She had four newborn babies, but a neighbor took two of them and refused to let us have them. We pleaded with this woman multiple times to let mama raise her babies. She swears she is caring for them, but I had to let it go and hope she really is. Mama was trapped along with her remaining two babies. The very next day we received a call from another trapper who was on a TNR job. She told us there was a mother cat who had two babies and refused to care for them. One baby had died and the other newborn baby was screaming for food. We placed that newborn in with Mama Lindy and she took him in and cared for him immediately.
From the day I took Lindy in, I knew she was feral (meaning not socialized by people). Over the years I have taken in other feral mama cats. I have let them care for their babies in my home while I socialize their babies. Typically once the mother is done nursing and caring for her babies, she is spayed and returned to her colony where she has a caretaker that makes sure she will continue to get food and water. It’s always a positive experience because the mother cat gets a clean safe place to raise her babies in my home and her babies can be socialized with people and placed for adoption after they are neutered.
I have a lot to say on the subject of feral adult cats but I will sum it up with this. Feral cats are usually happiest being outside in a colony of other cats. That is not saying they cannot ever warm up to people, some can, although that is not typical. Rather than focus my resources and time on trying to socialize an adult cat, I can use those resources and energy to help kittens that are on their way to be euthanized in municipal shelters.
Feral (unsocialized) cats are typically euthanized in municipal shelters because they don’t qualify for adoption. They are turned away from private cat rescues because no one wants to adopt a cat that is not social and that you cannot handle.
Lindy’s case, like every case, is unique. Lindy is a feral cat. She lived her life outdoors before coming to stay with me. She did not have a good colony caretaker. Two different times people told me that she was kicked by someone while she was pregnant. Her babies were stolen. I will not return her there. She has gotten used to me in that she allows me to sit next to her, handle her babies, but she still hisses at me every single time I bring her food. Although over the past several weeks she is less tense when I am near her and her pupils are not dilated every time I walk in the room, she still doesn’t allow me to pet her. Could that change? Possibly. Could she be extra tense because she is in protective mother mode? Sure. Is there a possibility she will always be tense and fearful around people? Yes, absolutely.
I was contacted a few weeks ago through Instagram by a very kind woman who lives here in Las Vegas near me. She has two cats of her own and has an empty spare room and would like to adopt Lindy and give her a chance away from her babies and see if she is comfortable living in a home environment. She has purchased a large dog kennel to help get her acclimated to her new space. She is willing to essentially let Lindy live out her life as an indoor feral as long as it doesn’t risk the safety of her current cats. Usually with a slow proper introduction, feral cats have no problem interacting with other cats. That’s who they know and are comfortable with. It’s people that they are fearful of. I am extremely grateful to her new mom for opening her home up and offering Lindy this chance. She went all out in the way of indoor comforts, loading up her new space with plush beds and cozy hiding spaces. We are both in agreement that if Lindy doesn’t warm up to indoor living, that I will find her a safe colony with a caretaker for her to relocate to. Ultimately, we want what will make Lindy comfortable and want her to be where she is happiest. She will be spayed in a few weeks once her milk dries up. She will have an eartip (a noticeable identifying mark that she has been spayed) in case she has to ever join an outdoor colony. Whatever Lindy’s future holds, she will be spayed, vaccinated, cared for and happy.