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Guest blogger Tracy Stocker of When You're Not There Pet Care describes the uniquely rewarding experience of fostering (aka adopting) senior pets.

Adopting Seniors

The very first time that I considered adopting a senior pet was back in 2012.  As a veterinary professional, I came to know both our clients and their pets very well.  When Cat Adoption Team (CAT), the local cat rescue shelter in Sherwood, began their efforts, it was part of their "adoption plan" that if at any time one of their cats should ever need to come back to the shelter for any reason, they would take them back no questions asked.  Over time however, this meant that the shelter was ending up with lots and lots of sick, senior or behavior challenged cats that they then had a very difficult time adopting out again.

Upon going to a "behind the scenes" event for veterinary professionals in 2011; I saw one of our (vet clinic's) former cats, "Ginger" was there at the shelter after one of her owners died and the other went into hospice care.  No family member was able to take Ginger, so she was taken to the shelter.  Ginger was about 12 years old, had Irritable Bowel Disorder and sporadic seizures, and required a special hypoallergenic diet.  Ginger had been back at CAT for over 7 months and not one person had shown any interest in adopting her due to her medical conditions and her medication needs.


Seeing her in a cage, depressed, not getting exercise or interest from potential adopters just broke my heart, since I had known her in happier times and knew what a sweet cat she was.  I was approached by the shelter's veterinarian who asked if I would foster Ginger, since I knew her and was familiar with caring for a cat with medical needs.  I knew I couldn't leave Ginger there in a cage to waste away, sad and lonely.


I went home and "asked" my husband if we could "foster" Ginger, and although he wasn't thrilled with the idea, since we already had 2 cats, 1 dog and 2 guinea pigs.....he said "yes, bring her home."


Sadly, Ginger was only with us in our home for 22 days before she went into full respiratory distress.  She was happy and loved so much in those 22 days, though.  Her diet and her medications were no problem at all.  It turned out she was living with cancer and that, coupled with being at the shelter after living in a home for 14 years, was too much for her little body.  We rushed her to the emergency vet clinic where she was kept overnight for monitoring and a procedure called a "chest tap" to remove fluids from her body.  The very next day, it was determined that her quality of life was suffering. As a family, we decided to end her suffering by humanely euthanizing her.  The staff at Cat Adoption Team was very supportive through the whole process and we even were able to receive her ashes back, which is something I do with all of my pets.


After Ginger's death, it took me awhile to recover and ready myself for the next senior kitty doing poorly in the shelter environment.  I waited a few months and then brought Sheena, a 14 year old, overweight, not-very-nice kitty into our home.  She had a very hard time at the shelter and was not "friendly" to visitors and potential adopters.  She had been at CAT for some time with no real interest in her.  So, hospice kitty #2!  

Sheena resized
Sheena resized 2

Sheena was a tough cookie!  She had no known health issues, just a grumpy attitude. Over a bit of time, and with lots of love and attention, she thrived in our home.  She became a Mama's Girl, and even slept next to my pillow at night.  One day, about 6 months later, I came home to a very distressed kitty, spinning in circles and crying out relentlessly.  I knew this was either a stroke or a seizure of some kind, so we rushed her to the closest vet.  It was a stroke, brought on by very high blood pressure, which also caused her to go blind in one eye immediately.


Once started on the appropriate treatments and medications, she did wonderfully for the rest of her time with us; which was a total of about 9 1/2 months.  When she started going downhill, becoming lethargic and not interested in eating for a few weeks, it was obvious that she was very ill.  She was diagnosed with liver failure.  We opted to humanely euthanize her so that she didn't suffer.  


I am now on my 4th official "hospice foster fail" kitty, Mouse, who came to us from Salem Friends of Felines.  Mouse is another one of my "heart cats"....she is like another piece of me.  We are very attuned to each other.  Mouse's story is fairly short: her owner went into a hospice care home and


then passed away shortly thereafter.  Her owner's family didn't want her and dropped her off at the local shelter.  She started to waste away and of course, become "cage-depressed"....because she had been a loved, house-kitty for 14 years, and now was expected to live in a 2 foot by 3 foot cage!  I saw her plea on Facebook and drove down the very next day to get her and add her to our family.  We now have 7 pets: 3 cats, 2 large dogs and 2 rescue guinea pigs... and we are complete.  Mouse just celebrated her 1st year with us and we hope to have many more!  But even if we don't, she will be loved and never forgotten in a shelter.  


Tracy with her dog Mary
                                     Tracy and Mary