A good 10 months has gone by since my last post. Overall, life has been well. I have started a new job, had a few new encounters and gained new life experiences. Today, I wanted to share one of those new life experiences I have been working on more recently. Let us start by asking Are you a dog or a cat person? What are your reasons for preferring one over the other?
For the longest time, I have said “I am a dog person”.
I like dogs because I strongly agree with the saying “Dogs are a humans best friend”. Dogs tend to keep people healthier. You have to walk them for their own health benefits, and as the walker you benefit from that. It also works as a way to get the energy out of the dog to minimise the chance of them destroying your home (or so they say in blogs etc) while you leave the dog alone. Dogs can help keep you safe and may act as a guard. Even a little warning is better than no warning some would say. Dogs can be very affectionate and work as great helpers. If you train them well and build a strong bond with them, they will show you loyalty which can be stronger than what you find in human relationship at times. Dogs can also be trained to perform difficult tasks which compliment humans in their work and lives such as acting as Guard Dogs, Sniff Dogs, Therapy Dogs or Seizure Response Dogs. Seriously, what can’t a dog do? There are lots of great things about having a dog.
I am a dog person. Wait. Or am I? Never in the past have I owned a pet. There were a number of reasons for this.
One reason is the parents never broad up the idea when I was growing up. You could argue that they don’t necessarily enjoy or like having pets. My mother apparently had a very bad experience a long while back. Something like having a huge black dog run after her and that encounter completely freaked her out. As for my father, he refuses to have pets because it requires a lot of effort. Especially dogs he says. Interestingly, he does not want to witness the dog passing away. The story I heard was when father was still working in Hong Kong, he met this stray dog who would daily come to his workplace (conveniently a restaurant) and get some food. The dog visited him every day for a couple of months until one day the dog didn’t show up on time. A little bit anxious, father waited and slightly heard a little squeal come out from a corner of the alley way. It was the dog. It apparently had suffered from a serious injury but it tried to drag itself to the alley way and meet father for their usual get-together. It didn’t take long for the dog to pass away. Father strongly felt like the dog had dragged itself to see him and say good bye before it passed. Due to such an encounter, father said no to dogs. Wow right? A second reason is life and work commitment got in the way. The parents owned a restaurant so it was difficult to commit time taking care an animal. I was focused on study. And when ever down time happened, I would travel or work at the family restaurant. I later joined the work force and it came with the job to travel. This made it difficult to look the perfect pet, let alone care for a pet. Another reason I never had a pet is no one in my family owned a pet. An aunt did have 7 Gold Fish at one point. But it was short lived. (pretty sure it was more of a Feng Shui obsession rather than having an attachment to fish). Whilst I have not owned a pet, I strongly believe that a pet is to be part of the family. Bring pets onboard for reason’s such as good luck is a huge no no. They need a caring family and a sense of belonging. As I couldn’t offer that, a pet was never introduced in the household.
Fast forward over a few years to today, I still haven’t got myself a pet. Life and work commitments have changed though over the last 8-10 months. I do not travel as often due to work demands and hence, I have taken a different approach to enjoy the company of furry animals.
How? Foster Caring.
Someone I knew talked about fostering and shared their experience. It made me think, why not? Short term commitments, meeting different animals, good cause and improve animal quality of life…. tick tick tick. I have space at home. I am not traveling much. I like pets. I have a flexible lifestyle where I could commitment to short-term fostering….tick tick tick..tick. So, off to contact RSPCA I went.
The process to becoming a RSPCA Foster Care was pretty straightforward. After expressing interest on their website, RSPCA contacted me to attend a 1-hour induction workshop. The workshop covered information about RSPCA, the purpose and benefits of fostering and explained further the types of fostering. You learnt that fostering could be for black tag animals – an animal waiting the outcome of a court case, abandoned or stray animals, animals with behavioural issues and even helping evacuated animals due to emergency situations such as natural disaster. Attendees each filled out an application form stating what sort of animals they wanted to foster. To take home with us was a guidebook about fostering dogs and cats. Aside from dogs and cats, small animals such as rabbits and mice as well as farm animals were also available options for people to express interest in fostering.
My preference was dogs. The plan was to be a foster carer for small to medium sized dogs. Following the RSPCA foster care induction workshop, I had to get my home inspected for safety reasons and to ensure it was suitable for fostering dogs. Unfortunately, my inspection failed. It was a fencing problem. The inspector said I had a great fence on my property, but it was identified that digging dogs could still escape through under the fence. Having no capacity to fix the fencing issue any time soon, I said yes to being a foster carer for feline animals as they would stay inside the house. Did I have experience working with Feline? No. Did I know what to expect? No. Was I prepared for the challenge? Somewhat. I was excited to give it a go and help where I could.
In less than a week after the property check and agreeing to fostering feline animals, I got a call from the Fostering Care team to pick up my first foster kitten. One look in the cat carrier and I saw a little tri-coloured (black, brown, orange) kitten. She was adorable. I wondered to cuddle her straight away but I could tell her was a shy one. I tried to remember all the points I read in the foster care guidebook to set up a comfy spot for this little kitten. Safe and clean spot, enough space for her to play, and can easily access the litter tray and food/water bowl. First day and first time fostering, and I felt like I was on a role!
I ended up fostering the kitten for just over a month. No surprise to say that I did end up falling in love with this little animal. In fact what started as a single kitten fostering experience turned into a two-kitten fostering experience after a week into it. It was the fostering teams’ suggestion.
The entire process of fostering them was one hell of a learning curve for me. What are some things I learnt along the way? Let me share some with you:
- A single kitten can get very needy. The little one I was looking after grew very attached. Constantly, it would be look or following me around or wanting to sit on my lap. During the early days of the foster care period, I only let it in and out of the bathroom and toilet as I didn’t want to overwhelm her with the new surroundings. The kitten would meow or use their cute little voice until they grabbed your attention. I learnt to not let them win on this. It became apparently that the meows would only get worse if I give her the attention she was seeking – especially when it is not urgent or necessary. So giving her too much attention was more a negative than a positive.
- Kittens need to have time out. There were moments when I wanted to go and cuddle the kitten. But the kitten would just walk away, avoid my touch or bite me. It is fully understandable that kittens need time out. Humans do. Why wouldn’t animals? However, I don’t think I will ever understand the “ignore me” signal though.
- When educating kittens or cats, repetition is everything. The kitten would bite my shoes. The kitten would jump on the table. The kitten would jump on the high chair which I never imagined it would reach at such a young age. The kitten would even climb onto the window bench, grab onto the security protection and climb all the way up to the ceiling. I had to continuously grab the kitten and bring it to the bathroom to show it was a sign of punishment for what they did. I would drop the kitten in the litter tray each time. If they made me drop them in the litter tray for three times, they were out. I would then put them in their cage for a while and ignore them, if not lock them in their room and let them settle down.
- Fostering kittens is better if they come with another kitten. Introducing new members to existing cats need to be done with patience and supervision. After receiving one kitten to care for, RSPCA suggested I foster care another one after about a weeks time. The thought of foster caring another kitten scared me because the single kitten was already a handful. Later I realised it was a great decision. Kittens need to learn that other kittens exists and get social. After 24 hours of slowly introducing the two kittens and witnessing some serious fighting, the two kitten grow to like each other. After a few weeks, they would still play as if they were fighting, but I would see them attending to each other and sleep on top of each other. It was wonderful to see their friendship grow.
- Have lots of toys available but keep things fresh. Don’t give the toys to the kitten all at once. Don’t let them play with the same toys over and over again unless they show some sort of obsession. For example, my foster kittens really loved this green mouse toy with a long red tail and just can’t get enough of it. They would grew tired of other toys much quicker. I found that if I changed it up a bit, they showed more interest.
- Beware of claws. This is not a joke. Kitten claws can be deadly. One random night I was sitting on the floor with the kitten. She suddenly jump on my back and her claws pierced throw my skin. It was painful as hell. Immediately, I texted my friend to ask her to come and cut the kitten’s nails. I wanted the nails gone but had no idea how to do it! Thank goodness for my friends, A and K.
- Help them with the toilet. Do not expect kittens to already be toilet trained. It is just like human babies. No one is born know where to do and do it. With time, reminding and practice, they will eventually get it. However, accidents are inevitable. I had to move the tray closer or decrease the area of the kitten to be aware where the litter tray was.
- Beware of what to eat and what not to eat. I was not aware of this, but there is a list of items that are delicious to humans but toxic to furry animals such as kittens. Chocolate is one example and grapes is another. It is important to keep these animals under a strict or directed diet to help them grow their healthy bodies.
My kitten fostering experience also taught me a few facts that have made me fall in love with these animals even more.
- Kittens are very self efficient. They don’t need showering or need to be wiped unless they accidentally soil themselves. They lick themselves clean. I even saw the two kittens lick each other! For the entire foster caring period, there were no incidents that required me to clean them. It was amazing! Dogs ain’t the same!
- Kittens are very fluffy and soft to cuddle – especially during winter. Ok. I knew kittens were fluffy but I didn’t realise how nice it was to cuddle and hold them.
- Kittens/Cats can be very affectionate too. You hear a lot about dogs being a human’s best friend. Feline animals can too as well. If they trust and like you, you will be showered with cuddles and licking. Following you around can be a sign of affection. If rolling on their back and looking at your is a sign for you to rub them.
- Kittens likes to do massages. Massaging you by pressing their paws on you is something as well. It is hilarious to watch and very random at first. I was told this is a sign of affection as well. But I have seen by kittens do this to the other kitten while staring at me… go figure why..
- Kittens bottoms towards your face. I found my foster kittens really like to crawl on me and sit on my chest with their bottom close to my face. The two kittens would do it all the time and I would get a little annoyed at first. I later found out that it was a sign of affection and trust. Who would of guessed!
As cute and as adorable as the kittens were, the time for them to return to RSPCA and be released for adoption did eventually arrive. The night before returning the kittens, I had them both slept on my bed. They had actually been sleeping in my bed for a little while at this stage. In the morning, I fed them as usual and played with them. Bit by bit, I packed their things to prepare for their return. For some reason, when I looked into the eyes of the two kittens, it seemed like they also knew something was wrong having witnessed me put their things towards the door and cleaned out the bathroom. The drive to RSPCA to return the two kittens was usual. It wasn’t until I met with the Vet, placed all their things onto a trolley and pushed it back to the centre then I realised, this was the end of my foster care for these two little angels. I wanted to give them a last cuddle but instead I greeted them goodbye while they were still in their cages, got in my car and drove home. Minutes later, I found myself getting teary eyes. It was hard to let the kittens go, but I knew it was for the better. I simply had no capacity to take in these two beautiful animals. The one-month foster caring experience, for what started a bit of a headache, become a wonderful and life changing experience.
Since then, I have continued to foster feline animals for RSPCA. Not only this, I have also begun providing people Pet Hosting/Pet Sitting services. It is truly great fun meeting new animals and spending time with them. Each time I meet a new animal, it’s an entirely different experience. The most difficult part of the interaction each time, which always makes me a little upset, is when I have to part with these beautiful animals.
So. Am I a dog person? Yes. Am I a cat person? Absolutely. I have become more of one actually. Which one is better? Who cares. There are pros and cons for either side.
Rather than asking and trying to justify which type of animal is better, I look towards this question instead – Do I have a connection with the animal? Regardless whether it’s a dog, a cat or even a guinea pig, having a connection is a great start to any relationship. Particularly with fostering, relationships are very important for animals that go to RSPCA.
The thought that I have been involved in their little lives and helped prepare them for a more positive and happy one is very fulfilling. If you are interested in finding out more regarding fostering, check out this link (https://www.rspcaqld.org.au/volunteer/foster). Definitely search around for other organisations closer to you who may provide fostering. I think it is a great cause if you have the time, space and flexibility to help a little furry animal get back on their feet and support them as they take another shot for a better life.