Saturday, July 7, 2012

Failing as a Foster Mom - Part 1

Handsome Bob.
I haven't been on here in a while. I had promised myself I would try to keep it happy and wonderful ... and that just wasn't how I was feeling. Despite my best efforts, I was failing as a cat foster mom.

When I fostered before, it was in a much larger area with a lot more support. Here it was basically just me. The shelter manager, Aggie, is supportive, but the support groups that are supposed to be helping Aggie and the foster families spend more time fighting with each other than anything else. There are other rescue groups in the area that are wonderful, but they concentrate on pulling at-risk animals from the kill shelters and don't have the resources to help animals that are essentially safe. And so it was basically just me trying to find homes for 4 special-needs cats ... and I wasn't able to do it.

Boots and Bob: Best buds.
Things got worse when Mouse hit an age to go into heat. I wanted to get her spayed as soon as she showed up, but that was the time when my safety net the Big Fix suddenly stopped coming down to Southern Utah. The rescues down here were scrambling to find a way to bring low-cost spay/neuter to the area. Best Friends started offering low-cost surgeries to the public to help, but it required transport to Kanab - 2 hours away. My car was unable to make that trip (it barely makes it to work and back) and I couldn't afford to take a day off of work to drive out there. I was on a waiting list for the shelter to take her, but there were so many cats and kittens being surrendered, I kept getting kicked to the bottom. So I had to keep all the cats inside and hope for the best.

Mouse and Boots, the snuggle monsters.
Well, it was causing all sorts of chaos in the house. Boots and Bob were both neutered, but they were still affected, and the stress caused Boots to start spraying. He had always done a little bit - an anxiety reaction from the poor scared boy - but it got completely out of control. My house constantly smelled like urine and I couldn't keep up with all the spots. Both boys also became belligerent toward ALL the girls, and fights started cropping up between them and Sandi. Diedra went into hiding.

Mouse liked to keep an eye on things.
Finally, I couldn't take it any more. I loaded up Boots and Mouse and went back to the shelter. I was in tears as I explained why I couldn't keep them any more. The lady who took them said they had a slot for Mouse in the next load for Best Friends and she would go that week (why the HELL couldn't they have gotten her in 3 months before?!) and they agreed that the stress was too much for Boots. I sobbed all the way home, feeling like a total failure.

I spent the next few days cleaning EVERYTHING in the house trying to get rid of the urine stench, but things were still not going great. Bob was seriously missing his friends. He really is a social guy, and Sandi and Diedra won't have anything to do with him. Ivy will tolerate him for short periods of time, but she won't snuggle and groom like Boots and Mouse would. Bob just wandered around the house looking lost, then would try to corner one of the girls. The result would be a loud, angry spat.

After Boots and Mouse were gone, Bob followed me around looking lost.
Last weekend the worst happened. Bob tried to corner Diedra, and she fought back. And he attacked. He has never attacked one of the other cats before and it scared the hell out of me. He is big - he has lost some weight but he still weighs in at about 19 pounds - and biting is the one way he can spread the FIV. The squirt bottle didn't work to separate them and I had to pull them apart. Bob went immediately into confinement in one of the bathrooms and I was left to nurse a badly bruised and bleeding arm. Fortunately no skin was broken on either cat, although a lot of fur was left behind.

I don't recommend breaking up a cat fight with your bare hands. It hurts.

Bob went to work with me the next morning and he spent the week in one of the cat kennels. I was hoping things would calm down at home without him there, but Sandi and Diedra were still jumpy and cranky and Sandi kept going after Ashi. I made another round of calls and sent more more emails to EVERYONE I could think of and then some trying to find a place for Bob. Unfortunately the answers were the same as every other time I had contacted all the rescue groups and foster homes: no one wanted a 9-year-old FIV-positive cat in their house. Bob had nowhere to go and I didn't dare bring him home. 

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