What a Foster Home Meant to One Special Kitty
Patrick was a scrawny gray tabby cat who taught me the true meaning of being a foster parent, someone who can give a cat, dog or any animal, the feeling of having a family and being loved, and to prepare them socially for a new forever home. This experience also enabled me to see first hand how intuitive cats are and what love and compassion other cats can have for each other.
Patrick originally was brought to the shelter late one night in the winter of 2012, as a stray who was sick and needed help. He was taken to the veterinarian the next day and was diagnosed as having renal failure most likely due to some sort of poisoning, possibly antifreeze. No one knew just what his outcome for survival was going to be – weeks or maybe months. We were told to give him subcutaneous fluids everyday without fail and to keep him on a specialized renal diet, it was then a waiting game to see how he would do.
A week later the shelter manager was scheduled to go on a much needed vacation and even though volunteers would constantly be in and out caring for the cats and dogs, we worried about Patrick. Would symptoms indicating that his condition was worsening be recognized?
It was decided that he had to be watched a little more closely so he would have to be fostered by someone. I raised my hand to take on this responsibility, after all it was only for a week! So Patrick was going on vacation also.
A special area was set up in our store room – all heated and cozy – in the garage, right next to the room where all 5 of our orange barn cats live. These are very loving friendly cats when they are not out terrorizing and catching the gophers, ground squirrels, pack rats and moles that live in our pastures. These cats are pure killers of the rodent world. I’m pretty sure that if my husband and I were not as big as we are, we would also be on their dinner plate.
For the first few days Patrick was fine, took the administration of his fluids with no trouble and seemed happy. Then on day 3 he wanted to be with the other cats. He would waddle over to the door ( his back legs were weak and he walked like he had a full diaper). A little orange paw would sweep under the door as if beckoning to him. This sent shivers down my spine as these cats were known for chasing off our neighbor’s Rottie and at times would try and tear each other apart. The thought of turning Patrick loose in their room was frightening. Since the barn cats are locked up at night I know he could hear their battles.
Meet the 5 assassins: Scooter, Jack, Jill, Jerry and Willie.
These 5 killers turned out to be the reason Patrick lived for 2 years and 5 months longer than was ever thought possible.
From the day he first waddled into their domain his life changed. Instead of threatening and attacking him, they welcomed him. They seemed to intuitively understand that Patrick was different and that he could not do the things that they could do, perhaps they sensed that he needed protecting and nurturing. From that day on Patrick was treated like a prince by the 5 assassins.
He slept in any bed he wanted and he never slept alone as Willie was always with him at night. If he went outdoors he was always accompanied by one of the 5 – generally Willie. Patrick could not hunt or climb trees and spent most of his time under the Lilac Bushes.
During all this time Patrick was once again part of a family, not just a human family but a family of his own kind. It made me realize that not just we humans can foster and make a sad life happier but given the chance, animals can have just as strong an impact on making life better for a Being in need. Patrick gained weight and was active (as active as he could be with his weak back legs). He was truly interested and curious by everything around him and he enjoyed life with the 5 assassins. Even though he could not hunt himself, miraculously a small dead rodent would appear at his feet. He would make a beeline with it to his room in hopes I would not see it.
His friends would keep him company during the day in the “ Cat Room”, urge him to take walks outside and allowed him to eat out of any bowl he wanted. At night he would be curled up with at least two orange cats.
Patrick passed away peacefully on July 12, 2014. This was the first time we had ever fostered an animal. It was only supposed to be for a week but turned out to be for 2 years and 5 months.
Fostering for us did not turn out to be the happy time socializing a cat or dog in order to help them transition into a new home. We elected instead to foster him for whatever time he had left, we knew if he were to go back to the shelter he would not be a cat that would be adopted. What Patrick and our own barn cats taught us was amazing. We witnessed a kindness that I never knew our cats were capable of.
I know Patrick is missed as the purple bed by the heater remains empty at night.
Fostering a special needs animal can be sad but in the end you realize what you were able to add to the life of one who may have died without feeling the love and care so deserved.
Colville Valley Animal Sanctuary