All three of the cats we’ve owned came from our local animal shelter – Päijät-Hämeen Eläinsuojeluyhdistys, or PHESY for short. We visit the place quite regularly – sometimes on their yard sale days, and sometimes just because. Every time we go we fall in love with all the animals we see. We’ve both commented frequently that we wish we could give homes to all of them, and often discuss ways in which we could help the shelter.
Early last week we were surprised to hear that S’s parents were going to become foster parents to two six month old kittens. Maybe we shouldn’t have been as surprised as we were – they’d talked about it as a vague possibility ever since we’d moved out and taken the cats with us. And that was almost a year ago! I think what seemed so surprising was the speed with which it happened. They had the boys by the weekend!
On Sunday the four of us went to the shelter for one of their yard sale days. Unfortunately we weren’t able to spend time with many of the cats as they were off-limits due to a problem with Giardia. I did think that would mean a quick and uneventful visit.
Just as we were considering leaving we bumped into the spokesperson for the centre. As it turns out, she is some distant relation of Anoppi, and was very happy to see us. She excitedly showed us around the shelter, even letting us through the back to see the dogs they currently have – an area which is normally inaccessible to the general public.
Whilst we toured S talked to her about our thoughts regarding helping the shelter out somehow or another, which led to a discussion of some things that the shelter needed doing – sorting donated items, feeding the animals, cleaning up after them, and socialising with them.
Having finished our tour of the shelter we left to head back to S’s parents for dinner. Sunday dinner with the in-laws has become something of a tradition since we moved out. It’s a good way to make sure we see them regularly. Plus it means we don’t have to cook!
Going to S’s parents meant seeing their newly arrived foster babies. The boys – Arska and Reiska – are sweet little grey and white kittens. At six months old they seemed tiny. They were certainly very shy too – they didn’t like anyone to touch them, but they did enjoy playing with the many toys available. Reiska is the bolder of the two, and by the time we were leaving he was beginning to allow us to touch him. Arska is much shyer, and was under the bed in the guest room when we left.
On arriving home that evening our minds were full of kittens and fostering. We talked about the possibility of us fostering sometime in the future, be it a cat or a dog. In fact we were strongly tempted to foster the Great Dane we’d seen at the shelter earlier that day, despite the fact she would take up most of our flat!
Unfortunately Luckily it turned out that she was not one of the residents of the shelter, but was in fact the pet of a nurse who works there.
As well as deciding to get serious about fostering, we decided we’d return to the shelter on Monday to donate our time and help out. That plan fell through as something came up on Monday that we had to deal with, leaving us little time for doing much else. It wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon that we were able to go. When we were there we helped by sorting through some of the sacks of donated items and putting them into the storage cupboard.
The nice thing about volunteering is you can take it at your own pace, with breaks as necessary, which allows plenty of time to watch the animals. We did make sure to work diligently though, as we certainly weren’t there to slack off! Equally, the breaks during which we spent time with the animals were also important – being with them helps to socialise them, which of course will make it easier for them to get a new home.
The majority of the rooms were still off-limits because of the giardia, so most of our socialising was with a lovely little dog called Susu. She’s quite a shy dog, which results from previous abuse, but very sweet. If it weren’t for the fact that she can’t be homed with cats we would seriously consider adopting her.
We stayed for a couple of hours sorting through the donations and did make a reasonable dent in the pile. Nonetheless there was lots still to do and we decided we’d return the following day to work at it some more. Before we left for the evening we were asked to feed some of the cats, and did so gladly. One of the cats, Lady Mansikka (Finnish for strawberry), a fluffy black cat with a sweet temperament who reminded me of a cat I used to own, decided that feeding time was the cue to escape from her cage. She didn’t take kindly to my attempts to return her, although once she realised there was food to eat she was more than eager.
Another of the cats we fed, Kujala, gave us slight cause for concern. She was obviously pregnant and awaiting a trip to the vet (to take place Thursday) for a scan to see how far along she was. Shortly after we’d fed the cats we returned to check on them, and found Kujala lying on her side panting lightly and looking for all the world like she was about to give birth. As it turns out it was a false alarm, but we made sure to inform the staff, just in case.
The journey home that evening was unpleasant. We’d cycled to the shelter and of course it decides to start raining before we leave. By the time we got in we were horribly drenched, not to mention exhausted!
Despite the exhaustion we were up the next morning ready to volunteer again. As the weather was decidedly grey we chose to go by bus rather than cycling. On arrival we got straight back into sorting the donations. It’s fairly easy work, and doing it together really helps the time go quickly. We took a couple of breaks and during one S arranged for us to take a trap with us to try and catch a cat he had seen amongst the bins on his way to work on Saturday. Whilst we were being shown how to set up the trap we discovered there had been a new arrival. No, Kujala hadn’t had her babies. One of the staff members had just arrived from collecting a tiny 8 week old kitten that someone had found. It seemed lost in the cat carrier, taking up just a small part of one back corner. She hissed at us in a way that was more adorable than threatening.
It didn’t take us long to decide that we had to foster that kitten.
You may recall me saying that we’d been surprised at how quickly S’s parents had received their foster fur-babies. It was even quicker for us. We told one of the staff members that we’d like to foster the kitten, and just like that we were going to be taken it – her as we later found out – home with us. We signed the paperwork when we had a spare minute, got some kitten food from the store room and were given some worming medicine to treat her with.
It was so lucky that we’d decided to take the bus rather than cycling. Bringing the trap home on the bike would’ve been trouble enough, let alone a kitten too! In the end we decided that a bus wouldn’t be ideal easier, so we waited for Appi to finish work and collect us; trap, kitten and all.
Once we got the kitten – Ilona, named such by the staff because that was the Name Day that day – home we put her in the bedroom and shut ourselves in there with her. She was to be kept isolated for a couple of days as we needed to monitor her eyes in case the discharge developed into a full blown infection. We left her in the carrier whilst we quickly tidied and kitten-proofed the room. You’d be amazed how quickly tidying can get done with a kitten as a motivator!
As soon as she got out of the carrier she of course disappeared under the bed, hissing if we dared approach her. We pushed a bowl of food and another of water under with her and decided to leave her to get settled a bit. We checked on her frequently during the evening, but were careful not to push her boundaries too much. At one point we did catch her to show her where the litter tray was. When we went to bed she was still under the bed, but she’d eaten the food and used the litter tray so we weren’t too worried.
And that’s how we got our first foster kitty! I’ll post again in the next couple of days to let you know how she is doing.
PS, sorry that it’s been so long since the last post. When I say we’ve been busy I mean really busy. We got married, I went back to studying, I had the flu, and now this volunteering stuff… Fingers crossed there won’t be any obstacles to posting a bit more frequently from now on. I shall certainly try to! As well as updates on how our kitten is doing I’ll try to post some other things like DIYs and recipes. Watch this space!