Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Year with Foster Cats

What follows is a tale of love, loss, and hairballs.

It all began last August, shortly after we moved into a bigger place so Junior can have his own room. Out of the blue, I remembered my friend Jelly (name altered to protect identity) from grad school and dropped her a line to see how she was doing. The next thing I know, I was on a Skype call with her, agreeing to take care of her “babies” while she was working overseas. Apparently, their current foster mum was not happy with the arrangement.

Even More Background
I’d met Charlie and Maetel when they were kittens, so I thought, “NBD.” They’re purebred Ragdolls, which are known for being docile and affectionate. I even went with Jelly on a couple of trips when she was checking out breeders. So me and these kitties have history, is what I am saying.

Charlie and Maetel when I first met them, six years ago

A Protest
Ever the wiser one, Fragrant Husband said, “No effing way!” We have a baby, he explained, in the patient tones of one explaining to an idiot. Cats are a lot of work, he reminded me. Why would you want to be running around after a one-year-old and two cats?

But in my new-mom haze, the only thought in my head was “KITTIES.” I overruled all objections.

The Pick-Up 
Hubby gave up. We went to the ‘burbs to grab our new foster pets from their temporary digs. These cats were very loved by their mom, who’d lavished them with toys, treats, and furniture, including a 6-foot-tall cat condo. Hubby had a terrific time lashing that onto the car roof in the summer heat, let me tell ya.

Cats circled. Everything else is their stuff.
Once home, Charlie and Maetel took the customary 24 hours to adjust to their new surroundings. Favorite hiding spots included under the couch and under the bookcase. Eventually, they started hanging out on their condo, especially once we fenced it off from Junior.

Settling In
The first few months were painful, because Hubby, still miffed at not being consulted about fostering the cats, refused to help with them, apart from buying a pet gate for the bathroom. The cats’ stay also coincided with super busy time at Hubby’s office, so he was barely home anyway. So in addition to caring for a tiny human, I also had to feed and water the cats, scoop kitty litter, and prevent Junior from eating the kitty food and litter.

Honestly, Junior was 99.9% of the work – cats realistically need only 30 minutes a day of care, max. Meanwhile, my newly-upright and mobile spawn was overwhelmingly curious and had to be watched like a hawk lest he use the 6-foot-tall cat condo as a climbing gym, or crawl through the pet gate to play with the “sand box.”

But sometimes, we would have these moments:


I was getting overwhelmed after several months. I asked Jelly when she would come back for them.

Can you keep them for a few more months? she responded. Red flag!

I turned into that girl at work, complaining about my lot in life. Which wasn’t fair to Jelly, since she was paying for the cats while they stayed with us. Still, I resented the uncertainty. Not knowing ties me into knots, just ask my poor husband, who has learned by now not to try and surprise me.

The Silver (Fur) Lining
The cats themselves are darling. Charlie is extremely friendly and will come hang out when we have guests, whilst Maetel literally just sits there and looks pretty. My dad-in-law keeps saying, “Which one am I taking home?” when he comes over. (Mom-in-law: “I’m not cleaning up hairballs!”)

Charlie's the goofy one and Maetel's the pretty one

And Ragdolls are fantastic with young kids. Once Junior got over the slap-happy phase of infancy, he and the kitties got along well. No claws were unsheathed; no blood shed; no allergies emerged. Junior got very good at cat anatomy, and could correctly identify which bundle of brushed fur belonged to which cat. And he was always eager to give them treats.

Yes, there was the near-daily vomiting by Maetel and the occasional hairball from Charlie, who hates being brushed, but these are typical cat behaviors. NBD. Even Hubby grew to love the kitties, despite being frequently surprised and dismayed at the sheer volume of their hair in the most unlikely places, such as on the to shelf of the closet. All over his dark suits, obviously.

The Move
Then we decided to move to a quieter neighborhood. We found a terrific place, but the catch was that it was pet-free.

I told Jelly and she said she’d found someone else to take them. Great! Said person even came over to check out his two future housemates. But alas, this arrangement fell through.

So I cast a net. My buddy Crispy pointed me at someone, so we schlepped the kitties to the north to meet their prospective new parents. Also alas, a family emergency had just occurred and no one was home. And anyway, it seems they were hesitant about keeping the cats long-term since they already had two cats of their own.

Who wouldn't want this???

Or this???

But third time’s the charm, as they say. My buddy Special K volunteered her services. Her beloved dog had met the cats plenty of times, since she always brings him when she and her fiancĂ© visit. But she also had half a set of ninja turtles. “Are you building a menagerie?” I joked.

She was serious, y’all. She didn’t want them to go to a shelter, which is where I would’ve had to leave them if no one wanted them. And they would very likely have gotten a disease and/or separated as a result.

Special K is a true friend and a lover of animals – back off, she’s taken!!!

This past weekend, Special K, Vitamin B and Henry came for dimsum, board games, and the kitties. After two cutthroat rounds of Monopoly Deal and two rousing rounds of Istanbul – while K and B kept checking on their Pokemon Go – it was time for the send-off.

Hubby had hurt his back, so his default role was management, while we were labor. From his perch on the sofa, he barked out instructions such as: “Get both cats at the same time! We don’t want them to hide under the bed!” and … actually, that was it. And good advice it was, too!

We somehow shoved the cat condo into their Jeep, and everything was easy after that. Our little family, back down to three members, waved goodbye as they drove away.

Thus endeth our year of fostering two cats.

Looks like Maetel is settling in well at her new home.

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