Whisker by whisker

Foster care


Kind love both give and get
— Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889)

Signing up to be an RSPCA foster carer household was one of the best decisions Louise and I have ever made. And from the untroubled way Lottie, Olive, and Leonard have all coped with the arrival of a young foster cat, it seems they agree too. 

We took our first and current foster cat in on the 27th of March, and we are still minding them. What was earmarked as a 4 to 6 weeks case of post-surgical care has become a little more involved. Our little charge has sore and irritated skin, which may be in response to diet or parasites. As such, in combination with her existing medication, she is on a diet for hypersensitivity and skin irritation (Hill’s z/d prescription diet), and gold star flea treatment. In addition, she also has to wear a clear plastic cone to stop her from excessive grooming that results in open skin. In her little Elizabethan ruff, her red raw ears and tummy have a chance to heal. With an increased head size to negotiate and altered vision, she walks about the house with exaggerated head and shoulder movements, swinging left, right, left, right, reminiscent of the sparring actions of a boxer. Being so diminutive in size, this little fighter’s swagger is endearing. As the cone is slipped on and off, at mealtimes, this former stray (presumably) is proving a good-natured patient. She has even had three baths with an oatmeal shampoo to help calm her inflamed skin. She sits at the bottom of the bath, quietly, as the water is gently poured across her body with a jug. Though quick, it seems to help with the discomfort for a while. But the little bumps on her skin persist, and her glands are still swollen. 


We have been sharing her progress on instagram, accompanied by images by Francis Picabia and August Macke, and photos of the cats currently up for adoption at the RSPCA East Burwood shelter (please meet Stella, Mick, and Zorro). Until the vets know what is causing her allergies, she cannot be adopted, and we can’t share her particulars (her name and number, and photos of her) until she receives the green light for adoption. So, we are treading water, in a way, trying to get her well enough to be adopted, giving her her medicine day and night, and ensuring she is comfortable.

She has prime spot by the heater for her convalescence, and is getting along well with Lottie and Leonard. Olive is a little less sure of her, and they both keep to their respective zones. Olive the front half of the house, and our temporary ward, the back. Rehabilitation is as slow for animals as it is for humans, but we are muddling along, happily so. The cleaning of three kitty litter trays is little different to the cleaning of two, so for however long it takes, we’re in. Though it will be tough to say farewell, it’ll be so good knowing we’ve given her a super leg up. Whoever adopts her will be equally as lucky as our little foster cat with a penchant for sticking her tongue out.


In the weeks that we have been minding our little foster, we also came across another cat in need. On a quiet Sunday morning, a guy with a small and terrified kitten clinging to the front of his jumper stopped us and asked us if we’d like a cat he was hoping ‘to be rid of.’ Louise scooped up the little calico kitten, as I asked if there were any others in the litter. He’d brought the kitten back with him from Gippsland, as a gift for his daughter, but his wife’s friends spent the night terrorising the kitten, shining lasers into her eyes, and he thought he’d better get her out of there. We were merely fortunate that we happened to be walking down the street at the right time. He passed several other people at a café who looked the other way, and upon seeing us walking with Lottie, he all but thrust the kitten at us. Maybe it was easier or quicker than dumping her, or maybe he thought we’d look after her, who knows? For those of you who have also been following the progress of the little rescued calico, she is doing well at the RSPCA, and is scheduled to be desexed soon. We call every couple of days to check how she is doing, and feel overwhelming grateful to have been able to help both cats along their journey in some small, warm way. Softening things closer to right, one whisker at a time, has been good for all of us, tailed and otherwise.

Because some starts are harder than others, if you are thinking of volunteering at or becoming a foster carer for the RSPCA, please do. All you need is a little time, and, if fostering, a space for the animal to lay their head. A bathroom or laundry is an ideal ‘safe zone’ until they feel comfortable to explore the rest of the house, especially if you have other animals. You also need to be able to get them to their vet appointments. But all food, bedding, litter, and other equipment is provided, along with their thorough and tender vet care.


The next Foster Care information session at the Burwood East shelter is on Sunday the 28th of May, 2017.


Lottie is set to take part in the Million Paws Walk for a second year, in a bid to raise funds for the RSPCA. You are welcome to support her campaign, with all proceeds going directly to the RSPCA.

Sunday 21st May, 2017
Albert Park Lake
RSPCA Victoria


Image credit: (detail of) Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita’s (1886–1968) Black and White Cat, 1920