By Rowena David
I was not a cat person. Being a crazy cat lady was not part of my life’s plan. But a chance encounter with a malnourished stray kitten one fateful day had changed all that. There was something about that kitten that tugged at my heartstrings. To me, she looked like a helpless baby wandering aimlessly in the jungle. The possibility of surviving on her own was very low. Long story short, I took the kitten home. When we arrived home, I gave her some leftover food which she immediately devoured. She fell asleep under our dining table a few minutes later. I named her Goya. This happened in 2011, and since then, I have fostered many stray kittens and rehomed most of them.
Little did I know then that Goya would be the reason I would get involved in animal welfare. Before Goya came into my life, I had zero knowledge and experience in taking care of a kitten, so I joined several cat groups on Facebook in order to get cat parenting tips. Those groups were invaluable to first-time cat parents like me. Through those groups, I learned new words such as “litter box,” “deworming,” “vaccination,” and “spaying,” among others.
The cat groups also opened my eyes to the sad situation of stray animals. I discovered that kitten abandonment is very common in the Philippines. There are more stray kittens that need to be rescued than there are people willing to adopt them.
The average lifespan of a stray cat is five years, give or take. Compare that to the lifespan of a healthy indoor cat, which is ten to fifteen years. That’s a huge difference. Most stray cats die young because their immune system has been compromised due to prolonged neglect, and because they are exposed to human cruelty. That’s the sad reality of strays, which is why opening up your home to stray kittens can literally save their lives.
If you would like to help save lives by fostering, here are some things you should know:
* Remember that the goal of fostering is to say goodbye. You will get attached to your fosters and it is understandable that saying goodbye to them will be emotionally difficult. I can not count how many times I cried when it was time for my foster kittens to go to their forever homes. If you will be tempted to permanently adopt your foster kittens, remember that you will be adopting them out to good homes so that you can take in another homeless animal who needs your care.
* You will need a lot of patience. Kittens are very playful so some things will get broken. I cannot count how many times I had to buy new mugs simply because my cats kept pushing them off the table. Also, untrained kittens will poop and pee anywhere in the house. Training them where to do their business might take some time but they will eventually get it.
* You will need sufficient time to care for your foster kittens. Kittens who are not yet weaned require round-the-clock feeding, so if you are at work all day, then an older kitten or an adult cat might be the right fit for you.
* You will need to prepare a space for your foster. Foster animals need space of their own where they can feel safe. Kittens love boxes. You can place a box in one corner of the house and the kittens will immediately gravitate toward it. You can put a soft blanket in there, too, so that the little felines will be more comfortable.
* If you are renting, ask your landlord first if they allow pets. If you are living with your family or friends, make sure that no one in the house is allergic to pet fur.
* Know the location of the nearest vet clinics in your area. Just like human babies, kittens can sometimes get sick and knowing where to take them is the difference between life and death.
Fostering animals is good for your mental health. It is exciting to come home when you know that a dog will enthusiastically greet you at the door, wagging tails and all. Meanwhile, a cat’s purr has a comforting effect which can help you sleep better.
If you are interested in fostering a rescued dog or a cat, there are several animal shelters that could use your help. What some people do not know is that animals shelters have limited space and resources. They rely on sponsors, donors, and volunteers so they can continue caring for their rescues. Volunteering to foster one of their rescues will enable them to save more stray animals.
Fostering stray kittens is a challenging but rewarding experience. There is sense of responsibility in the knowledge that a tiny animal is dependent on you for its survival. And with this responsibility comes a sense of empowerment, the feeling that you have the opportunity to change the animal’s life for the better.
About the author: Ms. Rowena David is a faculty member at the College of Computer Science at the University of Makati. She is also a freelance writer who has written Tagalog short novels. She is an admin officer of the Philippine Pet Lovers Society Facebook page and an animal welfare advocate.
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