I have absolutely adored cats for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure where the infatuation started, but I definitely had an imaginary band when I was a kid called “The Egyptian Kitty Cat Sundaes.” My dream was to become a famous rock star and build a mansion filled with homeless cats. I’d welcome all my friends whose family wouldn’t allow cats to visit and pet them. This is still the dream though, but perhaps I missed the boat on becoming a famous rock star…
Years ago, I was battling terrible depression. PTSD from past trauma was taking a toll on me to a point where I lost all desire to live. In an effort to take back control of my life, I started fostering as therapy. I knew that when I was depressed, my cat Princess was the reason for living. She loved me and needed me. Fostering gave me a purpose I desperately needed, helping animals and my community. I knew that if I wasn’t there for them then no one would be there to feed them, give them their medicine, or take care of them, and I could never abandon a cat in need. After seeing how much rescuing animals helped me, I figured that for every cat I saved, another sad little girl like me would adopt one of my former fosters, who would give her a reason to live too. It sounds cheesy but I love the slogan “Who rescued who?” because I don’t believe I’ve rescued a single cat, they have all rescued me.
My absolute favorite part of fostering is getting to meet such a variety of personalities and watching the progress they make. I worked with a lot of young neonatal kittens that needed round-the-clock care, and feral kittens that required a lot of special one-on-one socializing. It’s incredibly exhausting work, repeatedly putting yourself out there to a scared cat who probably thinks you’re trying to kill and eat them lashing back with a fury of howls and scratches. It takes a lot of persistence to keep working with them until they understand you’re there to love and help them. I cannot think of a single thing more rewarding than cuddling with a happy, healthy cat who six weeks ago was on their death bed or in constant fear for their life.
I’ve fostered some of the silliest goofballs on the planet. I had a litter of kittens who would only sleep if they collectively transformed together into the shape of a scarf around my neck, which was cute until I needed to, you know, move or breathe in any way. One foster would perch on my shoulder like a parrot while I worked on the computer, and would insist on perching even after he grew into an adult cat who could no longer fit there. Another kitten thought the mop was an evil monster and would chase me down during my Saturday morning routine attacking the mop at every stroke. He got the occasional nose full of bubbles but that never stopped him from conquering the mop beast. My most recent foster was appalled at the idea of me willingly submerging myself into a tub of water during an Epsom salt soak and stood on her two feet like a meerkat to investigate, resulting in one of the cutest and most liked photos on my Instagram account. They never cease to amaze me with all of their funny quirks.
The question I get asked the most about fostering is “OMG how do you not keep them all!?” But at the end of the day no matter how much I love them (and I ALWAYS fall in love with each and every one) it’s selfish of me to keep them for myself. The sooner I get them well enough to be adopted, the sooner I can take in another sick or homeless cat. They did their job of showing me love and teaching me lessons, and it’s their purpose to share that love with someone who needs it more than me. I’m blessed to experience them all in my lifetime, and after 7 years and almost 100 cats later I still cry every time I hand them over to their new home. But I know that they will be working hard to save someone else.My beautiful Princess (as in Xena Warrior) used to be a local feral I TNR’ed in my old neighborhood in Austin. She was the cutest and most scared little angel that wanted nothing to do with me at the time. But after months of feeding her and slowly getting her accustomed to me, she became my best buddy. She even started to bring me gifts, like dead birds to my door mat. Even though I politely declined each time, she never took it personally. I ended up bringing her with me when I moved and she’s been happy as a clam by my side ever since.
Princess is absolutely all about that tort-i-tude. She’s got a lot of sass and knows that it’s her world and we’re just livin’ in it. She greets you at the door with a chirp (when she meows it doesn’t make a sound for a second and then you just get the tail end of what sounds like a crackle) and her tail twerk (she does this funny thing where she vibrates her booty and it looks like she’s twerking).
When it’s cuddle time, she loves to be the baby spoon and shows her affection by bathing your hair. But you have to be careful or she will bathe you so aggressively she’ll chew off chunks of it.Princess doesn’t like not being the center of attention, so she’s very suspect when we bring in new fosters. But the second she hears the baby crying in the crate she bursts into the room like Lassie to see what’s wrong and save them and her maternal instincts take over. She’s turned into quite the foster mom (when she feels like it) and whips the kittens into shape.
My favorite thing about her is her little clipped ear from when I had originally TNR’ed her, when she was still a feral neighborhood cat. It reminds me of how far we’ve come together and never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined the cute, crazy feral cat would be spooning me in bed every morning.
Sarah Hood (@babysarahrulz) is a Product Designer from Houston, TX who is now based in Brooklyn. She currently works for Condé Nast working on a design system for their digital brands.