As I approached the door, I was nervous. It was my first time, and everyone is always a little nervous when it’s their first time. What if it didn’t work out? What if something went wrong? What if I wasn’t up to it? What if I did something wrong?
Fostering cats isn’t something I thought I was up for. I don’t really like mess or smell and the life of a Cornell student is busy enough. I have a cat already, and I thought that visits to the cat café downtown would be a sufficient source of additional cat time when I needed the serotonin boost.
Despite that, I felt drawn to fostering, which is how my current cat ended up going from being left in a box on the side of a road to deciding she prefers Solid Gold cat food over the Wegmans’ brand. I reached out to Browncoat Cat Rescue (BCR), a local volunteer organization that focuses on unwanted or abandoned cats . I was interviewed, approved and matched with my first foster cat.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect as I drove a somewhat stinky, meowing cat carrier home. But when I first opened the door to the carrier and a tiny black cat slinked out, my hang ups all but evaporated.
Ester is anywhere from one to three years old, and she came to us after being rescued from a hoarding situation involving sixty cats. She’s underweight, and kitten-sized despite being an adult. She has her quirks, like carrying her food out of the bowl because she’s used to fighting for a meal. She cleans up nice though. After giving her a bath in a restaurant bus bin and some well deserved pets, she’s turned into quite the affectionate little furball and smells much better to boot. She’s still learning how to play, and right now only likes to bat at toys from a safe distance.
Quarantine saw a dramatic increase in animal adoptions, but those were mostly dogs. There will always be homeless animals. The overall rate of animal adoptions this year has declined by 36% according to a 24PetWatch report, probably due to the pandemic. Euthanasia rates in the US have decreased since the 90s, but there are still hundreds of thousands of animals being killed, excluding those euthanized because of rabies or other conditions.
One number estimates around 625,000 animals killed per year, but this data is actually incredibly hard to come by because of the criticism and death threats that shelters can recieve for euthanizing animals. “Euthanasia,” also referred to as being “put down” in animal control pounds and shelters is the number one documented cause of death of all cats in the U.S. The National Council on Pet Population Study estimated 72% of all cats are killed, 23% are adopted and 2% are reunited with their owners (Alley Cat Allies).
Locally, BCR has noted an increase in the number of Cornell students, mostly grad students, looking to foster since the start of the pandemic. Fostering is different from adopting, and requires a less long term commitment, though you still of course need to care for cats that in many instances have had a pretty rough life.
I fully recognize that fostering and adopting reflect certain privileges. Having your own space and resources to afford food and litter isn’t something every college student has access to. That being said, kitten season is coming up and local shelters are expecting to be flooded with even more cats. So if you are able, I highly recommend de-stressing at the cat café, volunteering, or trying out the rewarding practice that is fostering. So does Ester!
Emma Smith is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. Emmpathy appears every other Friday this semester.