Fostering cats for shelters and rescues

This is an update on our foster cat Wally (aka “Wally G”, “Supper G”, and “The Cannon Ball”).  Brief recap:  this boy is from a hoarder.  He is very much of two minds of people:  part of him is wary of people and part of him loves to be pet by people.  Other cats from this site became supper affectionate but Wally remains mixed.  Other cats from this site also had good litter box habits but Wally:  mixed.

While his buddies from the site were here we kept the whole group together downstairs over night.  Wally spent a lot of time by him self but he also spent some time snuggled with his buddies.

Wally liked to sleep with his site-mates.

Wally liked to sleep with his site-mates.

Since the two ladies have been adopted we integrated Wally entirely – he how comes upstairs with our two resident cats.

Wally has presented us with some challenges.  He is wary of being touched.  I (Tom) put him in carriers several times and lost all his petting privileges.  He can get restive and somewhat noisy, particularly before meal times.  But worst of all: occasionally he pees on furniture.  There can be weeks between incidents but then he goes and does it again.  We don’t know why and are not experts on dealing with inappropriate elimination.

On the other hand he is a darling boy deserving of a good life.  I love Wally.  What a dear, beautiful cat.  He has the energy of a somewhat nerdy, awkward boy who does not know how to interact and make friends but has a good heart.  He is a happy and gentle boy who’s biggest offense is not knowing what to do.  Where he grew up he never learned not to pee on the couch, never learned to fully trust people, and somehow never learned to skillfully greet other cats.  With other cats he has two modes.  He either does an enthusiastic head-butt and body rub or cautiously shies away.  He does not seem able to distinguish another cat soliciting play vs intimidating him.


He got adopted once and returned 2 days latter.  His main offense was peeing on the bed but he also complained loudly about being shut in his “sanctuary” room.

Since that time we have not posted him for adoption.  We don’t know what to do with him.  We think he wants to live with other cats – but they have to be gentle cats.  We would like to place him as a companion animal but know it will be difficult to find adopters who will take a cat who is known to pee on furniture and have patience to socialize him.  He might do well in a shop home…

On one hand he is making great progress.  He lets us pet him more often.  He is very playful and often seems quite relaxed.  In just the past couple nights he has joined us on the bed and cuddled with our resident cat Annabelle.  He loves this and has purred louder than I have ever heard him purr.

Annabelle and Wally snuggling

Annabelle and Wally snuggling

On the other hand he is an un-repentant pee-er.  I have video of him peeing in a cat bed which he was just sleeping in.  My best understanding of this is that he never learned to pee ONLY in litter boxes.  He will use them in general but if another soft surface presents then he will use that.

We are not sure what to do with this boy.

November of 2012 the Seattle Animal Shelter received a number of cats from a hoarder.  We got the 5 most likely candidates for socialization:  4 adults and a kitten.  We set the adults up in carrires in cages in the basement.  Initially they were too shy to come out of their carriers but 3 clearly loved to be pet.  All were undernourished, had URI, and needed time to recover and get healthy.  After a while we moved them to an upstairs room where they all hid under the bed.  Now they have full run of the house and are some of the sweetest, quirkiest cats we have fostered.

Lucy (left) and Lily were too shy to come out of their carrier at first

Lucy (left) and Lily were too shy to come out of their carrier at first


Lily relaxed by me on the couch.

Lily relaxed by me on the couch.

Lily shared a cage with Lucy and the two would sit at the door of their carrier with little tortious shell faces looking out.  I could reach in and they would both head butt and crowd up to my hand for pets but they were too shy to come out.  After a couple days they got bold enough to come out for their meals.  I would sit by and pet them while they were eating.  At first this was too much and they would scurry back into their carrier but then they could stay out to eat while being pet.  Lily was the first to come out to greet me and seemed interested in exploring outside of the cage.  We called her “Ms Adventure” because she was the boldest of the two ladies.

Now that she has run of the house she has shown a unique blend of shyness and boldness.  She hides inside a livingroom chair most of the day and is the hardest to approach.  But, in the evenings when we settle she is the first to jump into our laps for pets.

Lily has a very soft, down, medium length tortious shell fur – just a delight to pet.


Lucy always has a serious, shocked expression.

Lucy always has a serious, shocked expression.

Lucy is my particular favorate.  She supper loved head rubs but was more wary coming out than Lily was.  Now that she is upstairs she is the one who is most likely to approach me for pets and the one who will sleep on the bed with me.

Lucy has not one tooth in her head – we speculate an effect of in-breeding that happened in the hoarders.  She has a tendency to wheeze and snort – we think related to the structure of her mouth and nasal passage.  Her purr is a charming cooing snort.  Lack of teeth, however, does not much impair her abiltiy to eat.  We generally feed her pate which she gums down with gusto.  She is the thinnest of the honeys but slowly putting on weight.

Lucy’s coat is a little coarser than Lily’s but has a beautiful mahogany color and is a pleasure to pet.  She has a of a disheveled, serious look, but is always ready for a head rub.  If my attention lags she will tap our arm with her paw to pull our attention back to petting her.  (Lucy and Lily have since been adopted together.)


Wally at a cat adoption event.

Wally at a cat adoption event.

Wally is a black boy, shaped like a cannon ball.  He had a big appetite so got a cage by himself.  He would sit head out the door and hiss at us when approached.  If we just held our hand above him Wally would give it a moment consideration then headbutt us and purr.  He would come out for his food then notice that he was out and shoot back into his carrier.  He would then notice that there is food and come out to eat.

Once we gave them free run of the house he immediatly adopted the space under our dining room table as his safe spot.  He can watch the world go by but has protection of all the chair legs.

While all the honeys are playful, Wally is the most.  A toy pulled across the livingroom floor will always lure him out.  He must never have had a chance to chase a toy as his first attempts were clumbsy.


Charles cleaned up by Chip

Charles cleaned up by Chip

Charles is a beautiful long legged grey boy.  He was the most shutdown of the adults and got his own cage as he was reluctant to eat.  For the first several days he gave no response to any pets and I considered him the most at risk.  Then I made a point of spending some extra time with him, petting him regardless.  Some switch seemed to flip and soon he was head butting and rolling around with the pleasure of being pet.

Chip, who came over to spend time with the crew, took a particular liking to Charles and spent extra time with him.  Upstairs he was always the first to come out and would come right up to us for pets.  When Chip became a SAS foster parent we transferred Charles to her.  Charle’s now has his own web page to facilitate his adoption.  (And has since been adopted.)


Shadow soon after arriving

Shadow soon after arriving

We put the kitten in his own room.  Shadow clearly had no idea how to live inside and was scared and shutdown.  Marie spent a lot of time with him, showed him how to use the litter box and how to receive pets from people.  When we first let him roam the house he hid in and under things but always came out for play and meals.  Over several weeks he shifted dramatically and was soon out and confident all the time.  Shadow revealed a delightful, balanced personality.  He could play by himself, he could play with people, and he could play with other cats.  He could sleep by himself, he could snuggle with us on the bed, and he could snuggle with other cats.

Shadow became good playbudies with another foster, Bubbles. Bubbles was somewhat dominate toward the other cats but always very affectionate and tollerant of Shadow.

These two have been adopted together.

We are often asked:  “How can you give so much care to foster cats and then give them away?”

At first we could not.  We adopted the first two of our foster cats.  But then we learned two things:

  • We can’t keep adopting cats.  
  • Sending cats to good homes makes us happy.

If we adopted too many cats it would limit our ability to help others.  Two (mostly) cat friendly residents is a good number.  This gives us time and space to help other cats.

We do put a lot of care into the foster cats, come to love them, and want them to be happy.  When we find a good home for them we think:

This cat will now have a great home.  They will have people to love it and protect it.  We could not have done that for this cat.  We have now helped one more cat through the re-homing process.

We just sent Bubbles and Shadow to a good home.  Bubble’s came to us first, a Seattle Animal Shelter (SAS) foster chosen to be companion to Mustache, another young cat we were fostering.  (Mustache later went to the Feral Cat Sanctuary.) Shadow came later, one of 5 at-risk cats, removed from a very unpleasant hoarding situation, who came to us for evaluation. Shadow and Bubbles soon bonded.

Bubbles, not the most affectionate cat, and prone to picking on other cats in our house, showed great patience and tenderness toward Shadow.  Shadow went from a shut down, confused little kitten, to a confident great companion to us and to Bubbles.

Shadow sleeping in my arms.

Shadow sleeping in my arms.





Shadow cuddling with our resident Annabelle

Shadow cuddling with our resident Annabelle

Bubbles grooming Shadow

Bubbles even cleans the bottom of Shadow’s paws!




They were adopted to a nice man who really appreciated cats.  Sending cats away with adopters is bitter-sweet.  Bitter for them because we know it will upset them to be uprooted and sent away from a home to which they have grown accustomed, and bitter for us to say good-by.  Sweet when we hear news of them in their new home.  The next day we go this photo and note:

Bubbles and Shadow taking claim of the bed. Very playful and active :)

Bubbles and Shadow taking claim of the bed. Very playful and active 🙂

Since we started working with cats we have fostered quite a few kittens

Maxwell was the first. Marie went to the shelter and saw this frightened, hissy kitten. With in a couple of hours at home she had him purring in her lap.

To keep Max company we then got Blanka and Sabine, two out of several kittens languishing in the shelter. Within two weeks they were adopted together.

Max was with us for about a month more, became good buddies with our adult cats, before being adopted as a companion for an energetic girl cat.

In the fall we started fostering semi-feral kittens for Alley Cat Project, starting Biscuit and Ginger:

Brother and Sister. Biscuit was adopted fairly quickly as companion for another cat. We then got another little tabby. He was so very scared when he came to us. Within a month he was totally relaxed, bonded with Ginger, and one of the friendliest cats we ever met.

The two were adopted together.

About a day latter Deb brought us three semi-feral kittens. These were from a colony that produced very social cats.

This is soon after they arrived and they are looking wary. Greyling, a girl, was adopted as a solo kitten (something I’ll never do again) and the boys went together where they were reported to like laps.

Once they left we got Odel and Winnie. These were slightly older kittens and took a long time to socialize.

They were also very special cats with exceptional personalities. Odel got adopted to a couple in Everette where he has a great life and companion cat.

We briefly fostered this solo bottle baby until he could be moved to another foster with a solo cat. He was one of the cutest kits I’ve ever seen.

Winnie stayed with us a couple more months. I was just resigning myself to his not being adopted when he went to a home in West Seattle where he goes on walks on the beach.

In June 2011 ACP trapped a feral mom with kittens who we housed in our garage:

Pumpkin had an abcess and had to get antibiotics.

Deb had another mother with 4 kittens. We took that family when she went on vacation.

And they all got integrated.

A couple other kittens came through about this time.

Saami, a beautiful lynx point, got socialize and integrated into the clan.

It took us till September to a) raise them to an adoptable age then b) find homes for all of them.

While we were fostering them we had several kittens come through our garage facility.

Georgina was one of 3 grey kittens as playful and friendly as the summer days were long. They got adopted quickly.

The Burr brothers (there were three) were a wild bunch. They went to the Seattle Animal Shelter for socialization and adoption.

Huck and his two siblings went to PAWS. Sadly, they were euthanized a week later for Panleukopenia. (No other cat we housed concurrently got sick so we don’t think it came from us. None the less, we cleaned thoroughly.)

Sara was sweet but shy. Hard to get much sense of her personality in the garage. However, it did not take her long to get adopted and word back was that she became a playful, happy kitten.

In November, soon after finding a new home for our boy Nelson, we picked up two families from the Seattle Animal Shelter who were languishing there because the mothers were reported to be feral. Together they had 4 kittens. The kittens were adopted through the shelter but we continued to foster the mothers through adoption as there were shy and would show best in a foster home. Both were only about a year old.

That closed out the 2011 kittens. In March Alley Cat Project started to see pregnant females and on March 14th one gave birth to 4 kittens before we could get her to the clinic. A week ago we took them. The mother is feral with us but very attentive to her little kittens:

So it begins again…

Sitting on our cat bench

This beautiful young lady is ready for her new home.

A charming young girl


March 14, 2012
Sabrina was adopted by loving couple in Fall City.


Note If you are Griz’s adopter we would love to hear where he ended up.

Griz was picked up as a feral cat by the Seattle Animal Shelter, pass to us, neutered and ear-tipped at the Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Project. As he was recovering in our basement I noticed that he did not seem as scared of me as a fully feral cat would so I started working with him. Two days latter he would come to the front of the cage to greet me, rolled on the floor as I pet him, and complained when I left him. I soon moved him up to my office where he prefers to hang out near me, sometimes in my lap. He clearly has lived with people in the past and somehow got separated from human society for a while.

Griz in my lap

Griz by keyboard

I named him Griz because his head was about as big as a grizzly bear’s. That and he looked a little grizzled: hair rubbed off nose from when he was trapped, scar on head, missing tail, tipped ear. Good food, daily brushing, and lots of affection have cleaned him up considerably.

The Seattle Animal Shelter was reluctant to take him back since he was acting very feral the first time he passed through their care. I took some video of him acting very friendly:

Love Bug in my Office

He is super affectionate, loving head, ear, chin rubs, and good back scratches. He likes human company and would do well in a house where people are around. He is athletic and explorative. I didn’t expose him to other cats but think it likely he would get along with them. Good litter box habits.

If you are the lucky adopter of Griz we would love to hear where he ended up. Pleas write via our feed back form.

Update: I visited Griz at the shelter a week after he was checked in. He is doing well and likes head rubs as much as ever. I wrote on his cage card under “Special Needs” the text “Head rubs, lots of head rubs”.

Griz at the Seattle Animal Shelter

First Video

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In late December we went back to the shelter, officially adopted Nelson, and then asked who else needs our help. This is a difficult question to answer. There are lots of cats who need our help – more than we can help. The shelter officers are not much help either, through no fault of their own. When we ask who needs help they often bounce the question back to us: who do you want to take. But it is not about who I want to take – it is about who needs help. Well, that and who I feel enough connection with to want to help. This question comes up every time we go to choose our next foster cat. Answering it has become a little easier as I rely more on the officers to tell me who they most want to see taken to foster.

On this day we saw several cute cats who had not been adopted for a while for one reason or another. Then we saw Lucky. She had licked the fur off her belly and flanks. There was a large bald patch on her left front leg. Her tail was strangely flat. And she would not come out of her cage. When removed she just jumped back in. She did not look appealing to me – I did not want to snuggle her or take her home – and these traits are exactly what made her a great foster candidate. But we knew we would have to change her name as she appeared to be anything but Lucky.

We sequestered her in the brown room and would spend time visiting with her. I built a barrier so that she and Nelson could see each other but not get into a fight. And we changed her name to Luna.

Marie and I are particularly sensitive to the suffering of loneliness. To ease her loneliness we would, at times sleep in the brown room with her. Mostly she would hide under the bed but at times she would come out, lay on my chest, accept very gentle pets, and purr. Then she lay in the chair next to me and fell asleep.

Luna behind the Introduction Barrier

Looking looking at me

Nelson and Luna Sniffing

Nelson and Luna Sleeping Near Each Other

Luna in Bed, Nelson Near

Nelson in Bed, Luna Kicked Out


Soon we could not imagine giving Luna to anyone else. She was a delicate flower and we did not want to trust her care to anyone else. By February, we had adopted her.

Being a two-time foster failure, the house was starting to feel full and we decided to get serious about the fostering part of being foster parents. Once again, we went back to the shelter and asked who needs help. This time we were sent home with Precious – a sweet young girl who had crawled into an engine compartment for warmth and was injured when someone started the engine. We cared for her for a couple weeks, keeping her well away from our other cats so she could heal from her injuries. She started to need company and our cats were too much for her state. At the same time, there were foster parents with a cat much too playful for their older kitties. An exchange was made and we said goodbye to Precious and hello to Jojo a playful boy cat who we thought might make a good playmate for Nelson.


Jojo and his toy mouse

Jojo is large and is intimidating when he’s scared. He growled at our other cats (through the closed door) and at us. We were both a little intimidated to go into his room. Introduction took a while but eventually he integrated with Nelson and Luna. And, Jojo and Nelson did become good play buddies. They spent several hours each morning – much to our sleep detriment – thundering around our bedroom. 90% of the play was mutual but perhaps 10% of the time Nelson would take it too far, would play too aggressively. Still, Jojo was big enough to handle Nelson and mostly they seemed to enjoy each other.

Our cat shelves

Maxwell, Sabine, and Blanca

Beginning of June we decided to adopt Jojo. At the same time Marie picked up a scared 7-week old semi-feral kitten, she named Maxwell, who had been found in an alley off Lake City Way. He was a darling ball of energy and quickly picked up the nickname “little peep”. Since he was semi-feral he needed socializing to humans and other cats. Marie slept on the floor of her office (where Max lived) for two weeks, and I made a point to spend time with him every day. After a couple of weeks, we picked up two more kittens, Sabine and Blanca, rescued from a hoarder and each around 6 weeks old, to socialize Maxwell to the company of other kittens. Their story is the topic for another post. In late June the girls got adopted to a nice family in our neighborhood.

Maxwell sprawled on Lap

Blanca and Sabine in cardboard cubby

In July we integrated Maxwell in with our residents and this caused a big upset.

Fractious Residents

Very playful Jojo soon realized that Maxwell was really, really fun and never got too aggressive. Soon Nelson was cut out of the play. Nelson became more aggressive toward Jojo. Jojo, in turn, became more aggressive toward Luna. Seemed like the only cat that could get along with every one was Maxwell. Soon we were separating Jojo and Max in one part of the house, Luna and Nelson in another.

By August, we redoubled our efforts to adopt out Maxwell and soon he went went to his new home on Capitol Hill to live with Dan and his resident cat Scraps.

(About this time the Seattle Animal Shelter sent out a desperate request for foster parents to take some cats from their overfull ISO unit so I picked up Whiskers and Kinka followed by Feather and Juliet. We housed them in the basement while their health improved and never integrated them with our residents, all a story for a later post.)

Present Day

This brings us to the present day. We have our resident cats, Nelson, Luna, and Jojo, who don’t quite get along. We have consulted with a behavior specialist and a natural veterinarian (and gotten good help from both). We are on a program of behavior modification to encourage the cats to re-integrate. Jojo has turned out to be a sweet heart, event spending some time in our laps. Luna is our darling girl. Nelson. Well Nelson, when he’s not pouting or playing king, is a real lover.

Luna has become subtly more confident. Confident enough to climb to the top of the scratching post.

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