The ups and downs of my first time fostering a cat

Sorry, this is gonna be one of those long ones…

A lot has happened in the last month, and the ordeals pretty much closed the chapter of my 3-year relationship with feral cats . I just needed to vent I suppose.

I own a cat called Milktea. She’s my avatar. Before becoming a house cat, Milktea was a feral cat that I’ve been feeding for over a year. However, she wasn’t the first cat I wanted to take home with me.

I first fell for this another cat called Silly. Silly and Milktea roamed the same community. Silly was no more than 6 months old when I first saw her. She was getting beaten by an old guy with a broom stick on a rainy night, then she got bullied by bigger cats to give up her hiding spot. Silly was so skinny I just decided to give her some food. My thought was if she ever likes me enough, maybe I can give her a home.

Turns out getting beaten by people on a regular basis since childhood is a hard thing to get over for a cat. Silly never grew that close to me. Sure she would run over when she sees me or my car, and circle me when I get her kibbles, occasionally close enough to brush up against my legs, but she never came close to touching my out-stretched fist, even after 3 years of feeding her. I call her Silly because she seems to have no idea who is being nice to her.

I gathered from two other people who have been feeding the feral cats in the neighborhood that their attempts to capture Silly for TNR have failed repeatedly. They used different kinds of professional cat traps and Silly just wouldn’t even attempt to go in. So it’s no surprise that for the 3 following years Silly got pregnant repeatedly. Each time I waited to see if she would be followed by kittens when she emerges from hiding, but each time Silly emerges alone.

In the mean time I adopted Milktea, who came straight up to me, rubbed my legs, and flopped her belly at me. After feeding her for a year, typhoon Matmo struck, she got very ill, I just picked her up and that was it.

This spring, Silly got pregnant again and I have stopped wondering about whether there would be kittens. I figured it’s a good thing that she couldn’t raise her babies because she was the last female cats in the area that hadn’t been spayed.

Well, after the 4th or 5th time of getting pregnant, Silly finally got it right. Two kittens survived, one orange, and one that looks just like Silly. Orange was a brave little boy, and wasn’t afraid of anything, which isn’t a good trait for surviving the streets. He disappeared after 3 months. Grey, who looks just like Silly, is just as cautious and wary of people as her mom. I decided to wait until Grey is 6 month old, then try to capture her, get her spayed, and see if I can find her a home.

Orange and Grey if you can spot them

Before I could wait that long, one day Silly showed up with a gash on her stomach, and a tooth hanging out of her mouth. I wanted to take her to the vet but I didn’t have the right trap. So I just used a regular cat carrier, opened the door, put a can of tuna inside, and asked Silly to go in so I can take her to the Doctor.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve tried this on Silly. I did this back when I wanted to take her home with me. She didn’t even get close to the carrier back then. This time around, she wouldn’t come near the carrier on the first day. On the second day she put her two front legs inside, but then backed away. On the third day, she went in and started munching on the tuna. As she was about to finish, I shut the door. Finally, after 3 years, I captured her. I was so ecstatic that I started planning how to set up my place so I can introduce Silly to Milktea in my head.

So when the vet told me that Silly has FIV, I was devastated. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is a cat only disease. It’s transmitted when cats really try to maim one another, or vertically passed it down to kittens. Apparently most of the cats in the community have recently became affected. One of the cats was brought to the vet for FIV shortly after I’ve captured Silly. Due to FIV, all his teeth fell out, and he hadn’t eaten for days. He was a plump orange cat, but when I saw him at the vet, he was skin and bones. He died within a week.

That kind of disrupted my plans of bringing Silly home with me. Knowing how Milktea and Silly have interacted when they were still both feral, Milktea’s dislike for other cats, and the skittishness of Silly, it’s impossible for those two to have a peaceful introduction. I’ve house sit for a co-worker’s 3 month old kitten, and even after over a week of living together, Milktea still would slap the kitten when she has the chance.

Milktea disciplining a 3 month old kitten

It was hard finding someone that would take in a cat with FIV. Worst of all, after spending 10 days at the vet after her surgery, Silly was still very very hostile to people. You can’t even get her to eat a stick of tuna paste when there’s people around. As previously mentioned, getting beaten by people on a regular basis since childhood is a hard thing to get over for a cat. After talking it over with other cat care-givers in the community, we decided the best way was to release her to her original territory.

Silly, just before her release. She has a clipped right ear after being spayed.

Meanwhile, 4 month old Grey, the lone surviving kid of Silly, has been waiting for her mom’s return for 10 days. Before her mon’s capture Grey would follow Silly everywhere, and eat together. After her mom got kidnapped by me, Grey would wander the streets yelping, wondering where mom went. When I released Silly however, Silly wasn’t glad to see Grey. Grey tried follow Silly, but Silly would hiss and swat at her. Silly could barely stand eating across the street from her daughter. I wouldn’t say Silly has forgotten her daughter, but she probably figured Grey is now old enough to be on her own.

I kept wondering whether Grey has gotten FIV from her mom or not. A couple weeks ago, Grey was finally 6 month old. I tried the same trick again. Regular carrier, tuna, and Grey went in. Silly was right behind Grey, just watching. Silly didn’t even try to warn Grey when I shut the door.

Grey, right after her capture.

Silly probably taught Grey to be wary of people, but unlike her mom, that lesson wasn’t beaten into Grey. So while Grey was fairly fussed the first 2 days at the vet, she fell in love with the lanky primates who feed her. I went to the vet everyday to check up on her. While she was recuperating from her surgery, the vet placed her in the waiting area so everyone visiting the vet can see her. I soon realized Grey loves company. She is friendly to people, cats, and doesn’t mind the dogs. She becomes a playful kitten and who loves being pet.

Grey at the vet

The doctor ran tests, and Grey doesn’t have FIV. Meaning there’s a good chance that Silly only gotten FIV after giving birth, and probably got into that fateful fight to protect her kids. It’s pretty obvious that Grey is perfect for adoption. Releasing her back to the streets would mean there’s a good chance that she will become infected by FIV, cutting her life short.

This time though, I hesitated. I felt obligated to Silly. I’ve always wanted to take Silly off the streets. I was willing to sacrifice my standard of living by taking in a completely unsocializable adult feral cat because I felt like I’ve already made her that promise. With Grey though, she is only 6 month old, still a kitten. I was sure people would love to take her in, and be delighted by her. So I started posting adoption ads for Grey online. This was my first time fostering a cat. The difference to real cat fostering is that my cat was still recuperating at the vet’s.

I wanted to make sure Grey gets treated right. So as I posted those ads, I drafted up an agreement to be signed by potential adopters. I referenced templates online and ended up with a 25 article agreement. The only article I personally came up with stated that if the cat is lost due to negligence or the cat is abused, I’ll donate the generated fine to an animal shelter agency.

The first caller was a couple still in college, and they were scared off by that agreement. They responded the way I expect of young people in Taiwan these days, by not getting back to me, which is fine, I’ve been warned by veteran foster care givers that students and couples often don’t make ideal adopters. After a couple days of silence, I started wondering if I should ask other Forumosans if they are up to adopt a kitten.

Then I got another phone call. This time from a couple at least in their 40s with a kid. She said she also feeds stray cats and wants to take Grey into her home. It all sounded ok, except for the fact that she wanted to take her home that very same day. Usually people would want to see the cat first, hear what I have to say, think over it and prepare for the arrival of the cat before picking the cat up.

I told her please get a carrier and cat litter box ready if you are picking her up. She showed up having gotten neither of those things. She arrived with a big plastic bag and a cardboard box on a scooter. That should have been a red flag.

I put it behind me though, she has a family, is a teacher so has steady income, lives in a self-owned townhouse-ish building, and she didn’t hesitate to sign the agreement. I got copies of her and her partner’s ID cards. When I took her to the pet store to buy supplies, she didn’t hesitate over the price.

She did get pretty quiet when I told her that she will have to pay for Grey’s surgery and medical exam fees, while I’ll pay for her hospital stay. Although she snapped out of it when she found out the hospital stay costs more than the surgery and med exam.

She went on and on about how much she loves animals, to the point that I kept getting interrupted when I try to explain some of the basics of handling a new cat. When I try to tell her a cat should have at least a can of wet food that has sufficient nutrient a day, she kept interrupting me about buying kibbles from the convenient stores. That should have been another red flag.

When telling her about a cat might try to hide in a new environment, so she should be very careful, she cut both me and a person from the pet store off, and went on about her plans to give the cat a loving home without restricting her freedom to roam. We asked about what she’s going to do with the windows, she replied there are screens when the windows are opened. It took us several minutes to convince her that leaving a cat unattended with only windows screens between her and outside is a recipe for disaster.

The entire communication process was frustrating. So much so, I came down with the flu the very next day. Nothing compares to what happens next though. She and her husband had nothing to ask me. For the first 2 days, they sent a photo or two of Grey, as required by the signed Agreement. Each time, Grey was being cuddled and held by her. I felt it was way too early to be holding Grey, but I was ok with it the first day because Grey looked at ease. By the second day Grey was obviously very stressed in the photo. Grey was pressed against her body, and her ears were flat in a frightened position. They also did not take pictures of their arrangements for Grey, which was required by the Agreement. I tried to not seem pushy and restrained myself from bothering them, but 2 days after the adoption, I still had no idea how they’ve housed Grey.

Maybe they just needed some coaxing, I thought. So I asked if they given Grey a new name, and then used the new name exclusively. I would praise them for taking care of Grey, and try to slip in so pointers. I reminded them that it’s best to keep the cat in a room all to herself for a while, with food water and litter, and Grey can adapt to the place at her own pace. If a single room is impossible, then she should be housed in a cage or a large cardboard box. I had to remind them of that because it seems like they were keeping her in the tiny carrier they bought. I say “it seems” because I had a hard time getting them to tell me anything.

On the third day they informed me that they gave Grey a bath, even though I told them to delay that until after Grey got used to the new place. They said they had to wash her because she got her own poop and piss on her. I have also told them before that they should do a bit of research before giving Grey a bath because human cleanser might be harmful to a kitten, and if they do it right, there’s a chance that Grey wouldn’t be scared of baths. They didn’t take any of that to heart and just washed her with regular shampoo.

I was ready to head for her house had it not been the fact that they said Grey finally ate some food. They don’t ask me questions, even though it seems like they have loads of issues, and they reply in short and unclear manner. They also don’t get to me if I don’t actively engage them. On the forth day, they didn’t message me at all.

That worried me because from my own experience, when I first adopted Milktea, I had tons of questions, and I would ask everyone I know. I sought help not just because Milktea was sick and had a fever over 40°C for a month, or she refused to eat or drink on her own for a week, or her poop had worms, or patches of her fur was gone due to fungal infection, or her ear infections. Or that every night when I turned off the lights, Milktea would literally scream out the window, to the point I wondered if I’m getting evicted the next day. She kept that up for a week. I sought help because if I want to keep Milktea with me forever, and it’s not gonna happen if I don’t get a handle on things. There’s just no way a couple of newbie cat adopters would have nothing to ask.

After telling me Grey went into hiding behind the fridge that gave them a good scare, they went completely silent for the 5th and 6th day. I was having the flu, and had a 39°C fever for a day, so I didn’t have the energy to get them to give me updates. At 9:30PM on the 6th day, they message me. The first time they actively contacted me. Before I could respond, they went on about how Grey kept hiding, and that Grey would hiss at them. They said Grey escaped many times when they try to put her into a cage they borrowed from their neighbors, and Grey scratched her son in the process. Grey also constantly cries at night. In short, they feel Grey has gotten used to being free as a feral cat, so she couldn’t get used to being a house cat, and they want to return her to the vet.

There’s a lot of holes in her claims, but at this point I just asked her when she would like to return Grey to the vet, and asked her to take Grey there in a car and not on a motorcycle. Then I raced out to buy a new litterbox. I picked Grey up from the vet the very next day. I had to separate her from Milktea, so I had to keep her in my bathroom for a while.

I was expecting hell that night. After all her previous owner abandoned her within a week, claiming she cries at night. When I turned off the lights, there was complete silence. As it turned out, her previous owner didn’t keep her in a room to herself. They had this idea that the cat should be free to move about, which is great, but a cat needs time to use their scent to mark their territory. Exposing them to a large area that they are unfamiliar with without a safe place to go to, a cat would simply hide, which was what happened.

It’s now a week later. Grey is still extremely affectionate. She still likes being pet and begged for it. She is a little bit more skittish of my movements than before, but would come right back when she realized I wasn’t about to grab her.

I have renamed her Latte, as it sounds similar to the Japanese name she had before. I’m in the process of letting the two cats meet. Grey is a pleasure to have. She even loves to climb into bed to sleep with me, and every time she climbs in my lap asking to be pet, I am left scratching my head wondering why she would get disowned.

The first two days of having Latte at my place, I would tell her that her mom is doing great. I would also tell Silly that her daughter is now living with me. However, for the next 10 days, Silly is no where to be found. I would walk around the block searching for her, but she’s gone. I keep hoping she would just show up one day, before the weather gets really cold.

If Silly never shows up again, that would mark the end of my days feeding feral cats. Over 3 years, I’ve gotten 3 of them spayed, helped getting 1 neutered, and housed 2 of them at home. I got into an argument with hostile neighbors telling me to adopt the darn cats if I like them so much, or they are getting rid of the cats their own way.

3 years ago, every time I walked outside, I would see at least 3 cats. Now, when I walk around my community looking for Silly, there’s not a single cat to be found. The streets seem so lonely with out them running around. I can only take comfort that when I I go home, two of them are still waiting by the door.

Grey, now Latte, at my place

After cornering Latte into a tiny space under my TV stand, Milktea gloats by flopping her belly


So glad your incredibly long post had a relatively happy ending…keep up the good fight!

Thank you.

I still haven’t found Silly. I hate to think that she is not around anymore. Perhaps her FIV is getting worse and her instant tells her to go into hiding. Although, if she hasn’t been eating or drinking for this long, her chances aren’t good…