Saying Goodbye to a Foster Pet Is Never Easy

Fostering is a wonderful experience, but the hard part is saying goodbye once a foster pet has found a permanent home.

I didn't want Freya and Thor split up. Pictures by: T.J. Banks
I didn’t want Freya and Thor split up. Pictures by: T.J. Banks

Freya and Thor came to us in early November courtesy of Animal Friends of Connecticut.

The kittens, who were roughly 2 months old, were only 2 of the many feral felines that the group was trying to rescue from the city of New Britain.

Freya was a dainty little inkblot with beguiling eyes. Thor was stockier and dark gray — what people used to call “Maltese” — with lighter gray stripes underneath. They weren’t our first foster kittens, but they certainly were engaging. And our adult cats were, on the whole, very good with them.

Then Judy Levy, director of Animal Friends, called. She’d gotten a lead on someone who was interested in adopting a black female kitten. I listened, commented and hung up. I thought about Freya being separated from Thor, her partner in crime, and the rest of her new friends (she has the biggest crush on Magwitch, our Snowshoe Siamese cross), and a sadness washed over me.

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Finding the Perfect Match

Now, I love finding the right homes for down-on-their-luck felines. One of my favorite books growing up was Mary Calhoun’s The House of Thirty Cats (affiliate link). In it, Sara Rutledge, a shy young girl, helps her elderly friend, Miss Tabitha Henshaw, find homes for all the cats that the town has told her to get rid of. Sarah comes up with the idea of “fit[ting] cats to people. She’d go out and study each person she met to discover what kind of cat that person would need.”

There has always been a lot of Sarah in me. I love making the right cat-human match, and so do the other animal rescue folks I know. “I’ve never really felt sadness, only happiness at finding the perfect home for a cat I cared so much about,” observes Bernadette Kazmarski, an artist-writer-photographer who has fostered many cats and kittens over the years.

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In fact, she recently wrote about one of them, Murphy, on her website The Creative Cat. Murphy, a very sociable calico, eventually found her person. For Kazmarski, “the letting go of a cat whose life you may have saved, with whom you’d spent time to gain her trust, get to know her likes and dislikes in toys and affection and food, was worth it for the joy of matchmaking, of finding just the right person or family for this cat you’d come to love.”

The Cat Not Kept

All of this is true. But sometimes there is that tug on the ol’ heartstrings, as Robin A.F. Olson of Kitten Associates Inc. can testify. Olson, another longtime cat rescuer, talks lovingly about Jackson, “a big apple-head white cat” from a kill shelter down in Georgia. He went to the shelter in Connecticut where she was working “since I couldn’t take him on but wanted to save him.”

Thor was Freya’s partner in crime.

Jackson — or Jax, as he came to be known — eventually ended up with Olson. Then the 5-year-old cat “got really sick and almost died.” He had, it turned out, hypertropic cardiomyopathy (HCM). “We realized we’d probably never be able to find him a home,” Olson says, “so we made him a part of the family while he kept his Petfinder listing online.”

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Almost a year later, a senior couple in Vermont offered Jax a retirement home with them. When they met Jax, “whose personality is so big, it fills the room,” Olson knew they were a good fit.

But “as we said our goodbyes, I turned to my boyfriend and burst into tears. I said I wished we could have kept Jax, and he admitted he wished we had, too…. It was all I could do to not chase the car down the road and stop them.”

Kitten Update

I thought about all these things after Judy’s phone call. The next day, I called her back and said, “I think Freya and Thor need to go together. I’ll miss them when they go — but I’ll feel better if they’re together.” Judy understood. She had, she said, just gotten a phone call from a nurse who wanted 2 kittens after the holidays.

So we have a little longer together.  I look at Freya curled up trustingly against Magwitch and sigh. It’s not always easy being Sarah Rutledge.

T.J. Banks

View posts by T.J. Banks
T.J. Banks is the author of several books, including Catsong, which received a Merial Human–Animal Bond Award. A contributing editor to laJoie, T.J. has also received writing awards from the Cat Writers’ Association, ByLine and The Writing Self. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Single Parent’s Soul and A Cup of Comfort for Women in Love, and T.J. has worked as a stringer for the Associated Press, as an instructor for the Writer’s Digest School and as a columnist.

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