When we left Montréal, we left behind our two cats, Comet and Pandora. We left them with Grand-Papa on his farm, a place where they were already used to spending gleeful weekends chasing mice and climbing trees. They continue to thrive there, so loading them onto a plane and bringing them to our decidedly-un-farm-like townhouse in Calgary doesn’t seem fair.
Before we had children, we also fostered cats for Montréal’s Animal Rescue Network. We became a crazy cat couple and fostered and re-homed over thirty cats. Our last foster got adopted out shortly before Cub was born.
In Calgary, once we got settled, we talked about getting a cat and quickly decided fostering would be a much better option.
So far, we’ve fostered one orphaned litter of four kittens and a pregnant mother cat (Zelda), who had six kittens.
Here’s why we’ve chosen to foster cats:
- It’s a short-term commitment
Cats live long lives. A kitten you adopt today for your children may still be at home with you once your own progeny has flown the coop! Fostering cats and kittens comes with a definitive timeline, which means you can take on a litter knowing you won’t need to find a cat-sitter when you go on summer vacation or wonder what you’ll do with your children’s cat when they move out and you become a snowbird.
- It’s inexpensive
If you’ve ever taken an animal to the vet, you know that even a simple check-up for a healthy animal can be over $100. (Honestly, the next time we commit to a pet, I’m getting pet insurance.) Cats don’t need much, but to prevent costly medical procedures later in life, you need to feed them high-quality kibble and canned food. You also need litter, and typically the most odour-absorbing and low-tracking options are more expensive. While this was not the case when I fostered in Montréal, Calgary’s MEOW Foundation provides all the food, litter, toys, scratch posts and bedding that you need for your foster felines. Your only real expense is the gas it takes to bring the kittens to their appointments.
- It’s volunteer work without leaving home
I think we all like to give back to our communities. But with young children at home it’s not exactly easy to carve out time for volunteer work. There are some fun ways to volunteer with your children, but not many for the under-five crowd. Fostering cats is my way to volunteer from the comfort of home. Let’s pretend I’m doing it because I’m such a generous person and not just #becausekittens.
- It’s all the fun of kittens without contributing to cat overpopulation
I once got into a heated argument with an acquaintance who wanted to breed her cat so she could experience the joy of kittens. I’m pretty sure no city in the world is short on cats, so breeding kittens just for the fun of it is a terrible, awful idea. Fostering a pregnant cat, a mother and her litter or even an orphaned litter brings your family the joys of kittens without actually adding more kittens to the world. MEOW Foundation has the infrastructure in place to make sure those kittens get adopted once they’re ready, so you’re not posting “Free Kittens” ads on Kijiji and wondering who will pay to vaccinate and sterilize your litter.
I was there when Zelda gave birth to her first kittens, and it was AMAZING. I was a cat doula! It was seriously one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced, but it would be ridiculously selfish of me just to breed a cat so I could attend her delivery.
- It’s a learning experience for our children
You might want to foster simply to see if your children—who swear up and down that they will empty the litterbox and fill the food dishes every day—are actually ready for the responsibility of pet ownership. Foster families can absolutely adopt the felines they foster! For us, Cub was told from the start that our kittens were only staying with us for a short time. He doesn’t really do much in terms of care for our fosters—there’s no way I’m giving him a scoop and access to poop! However, he’s learned so much about animal biology. He got to see Zelda’s kittens just hours after their birth and watch them go from blind, hamster-sized wriggle worms to fully autonomous, LEGO-stealing mini cats. As for Little Miss Cub, her first word was, “Zelda.” Cub has had cats around him since he was born and spent many hours on his Grand-Papa’s farm until we moved. I’m so happy I can bring his sister at least some exposure to animals, and I can tell you that this little girl has single-handedly guaranteed that our litter of kittens is as kid-friendly and tame as possible.
- We get to meet amazing people
Who says cat people are weird or anti-social? When our cats are ready for adoption, MEOW gives me the contact information of potential adopters. It’s up to me to arrange for them to come visit the cats. Inviting complete strangers into your home to visit cats may be a bit unnerving, so let me put it this way: In order to adopt from MEOW, adopters go through an online application, a phone interview, a visit to your home, a meeting at MEOW to sign papers and finally another trip to your house to get the cat. Snagging the chance to meet a kitten from MEOW can be like trying to snag high-demand concert tickets. People who care this much about getting a cat are invariably awesome. We have now had about ten different couples and families come to our house to meet our cats, and they have been the nicest people! One even brought Cub some Pokémon cards!
- It’s something we can do together
I really suck at being a stay-at-home mom. I don’t like staying at home most days! I like to have activities for us to do, and I don’t care if it’s just running errands. I am much better at making a trip to the vet fun than I am at making up fun things to do at home. My kids are great in the car, and Cub loves going to the shelter. It’s a way to kill time before preschool or a way to make sure Little Miss gets her nap in the car!
How does fostering work with MEOW Foundation?
The MEOW Foundation makes it extremely easy to be a successful foster family. After applying online, you are interviewed by phone to make sure your home and family are suitable for fostering. Then, you attend a thorough training session! You can foster litters of kittens with or without their mother, pregnant cats or sick or elderly cats that cannot stay at MEOW’s shelter. When foster felines are in need of a home, you’ll get a call from MEOW’s Intake Coordinator to make arrangements.
Things to consider before you foster:
Your major time commitment will be picking up your cat(s) at the shelter and taking them to their check-ups, weigh-ins and sterilization appointments. Weekday availability is pretty important. For example, we had to bring our kittens and Zelda to be spayed and neutered at 8 AM and then pick them up at the end of the day.
Kittens make a mess. If your home is decked out with beloved objects and furniture … you probably don’t have kids.
MEOW will screen potential adopters, and you will need to be available to have them come and visit the cats at your home.
Where’s our next litter?
We are currently taking a break from kitten fostering because my business is crazay leading up to Black Friday and Christmas. Fostering is flexible: you don’t have to be available year-round. Our little feline hiatus is well-timed, since the adoptive parents of a pair from Zelda’s litter are having us cat-sit over Christmas!
If you’re in Calgary and interested in fostering, check out MEOW Foundation!