Fostering a Kitten – New York Style

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My US publisher Michaela is a wonderful woman and a great cat lover. Three pampered felines slouch around her Manhattan apartment confident in the knowledge she’ll go to extraordinary lengths for their comfort. When Hurricane Sandy hit New York she didn’t think twice about heaving buckets of water up eight flights of stairs to keep them in the style to which they’re accustomed. I’m not sure they bothered to say thank you.

Michaela’s an enthusiastic person and I like her enormously. But sometimes her enthusiasm verges on scary.  She’s so fulsome about my upcoming visit to the US to promote my new book Cats and Daughters I should have known she was going to come up with a crazy scheme.

“Why don’t you foster a kitten while you’re here?” she asked.

Action replays of cat babies Jonah and Cleo flashed before my eyes. Living with kittens is like childbirth. Best deleted and filed in the depths of the subconscious.

When I told Michaela I intended to spend any spare time available in galleries and Broadway theatres, she didn’t seem to hear.

“I can’t adopt a kitten!” I wailed.

“Oh no, I wasn’t expecting you to adopt one,” she soothed. “I’m talking about fostering. It’s an important way of helping newborn kittens socialise before they find permanent homes.”

 Socialise? She expected me to take it to press conferences?

“It’s just a matter of getting them used to human handling,” she added.”It’s valuable work.”

Valuable. The word pulled me up. Since writing books about family life and the impact felines can have, I’ve met an incredible breed of people. Dedicated to rescuing animals, saving their lives, de-sexing and finding homes, they’ve humbled me to silence on many occasions. I’m now convinced the human race will never be able to consider itself civilised until animals are treated better. The work these people do is so… Valuable.

“I know a great centre that’s always looking for foster homes,” Michaela said. “You could blog about caring for a kitten while you’re here. It’ll raise awareness.”

Then she sent this:

I opened the link with dread, knowing I wouldn’t be able to resist those beautiful furry faces with eyes so innocent and loving. Faces that need help.

 I ached at the thought of opening my heart to a creature I’d eventually have to leave to an uncertain future when I returned to Australia.

But wasn’t it Bette Midler who sang about the heart afraid of breaking never learning to dance?

I couldn’t say no. Not when I could do something Valuable instead of skulking through Macy’s and the Guggenheim.

A few days later Michaela sent an email asking if I’d be open to fostering a cat with a disability. Apparently, many cats with Feline HIV are in need of loving care. A grumpy, unevolved part of me dreamt up a suite of excuses ranging from “What if I couldn’t take care of it properly?” (unlikely)  to “What if I somehow transferred the virus home to Jonah?” (impossible).

I’d seen daughter Lydia work for  teenage humans with disabilities. She found it hugely rewarding. Maybe the same would apply to fostering a cat with special needs. I decided a cat with a disability would be fine.

Now I’m psychologically prepared, one great physical hurdle remains. Finding an apartment for a month in New York is difficult enough. Renting one that’s pet friendly is almost impossible. The response rate from much publicised sites in which people offer their apartments online has been dismal.

The only person who’s  bothered to respond said it was too early for him to commit. He seemed to think I was proposing marriage.  All that’s required is one bedroom in a reasonably quiet neighbourhood for a few weeks from the end of March…. for an author of sober habits and kitten.


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