I started fostering Miss Elsa in September 2017 after I saw a picture of a sorry looking one-eared skinny white cat in a cage. My own beautiful cat, Olive had to be put down in June after 16 years because of cancer. I wasn't ready to commit to a cat full-time, so I decided on fostering. Elsa looked so bewildered I immediately put in an application to foster.
For the first couple of months I didn't really see much of Elsa as she made her home under my couch. I would even put blankets and towels under there for her to lie on, yet she always chose to sleep on the hard, cold tiles. I guess years on the street meant that this was her normal.
I would look on the CATS Facebook page and see all the updates on the other kitties and get so embarrassed because Elsa had firmly entrenched herself under my couch and I had no updates to provide. It was like this for ages. I worried that I wasn't doing a good enough job as a foster, that I was failing Elsa. All I knew was that I could offer her a safe place with protection from the elements with food and love.
The years and stressors of living in the carpark for so long took their toll. When I would check on her during the night, it didn't matter what time I checked she was always wide awake. Like she was on permanent look out for danger and couldn't rest for one minute. I was so excited the first time I saw her asleep, it meant that she was finally felt safe enough to close her eyes and rest.
Elsa turned a corner when I started fostering Kimba (the alpha from Elsa's Kingsford colony) and almost immediately I noticed a shift in attitude. She watched how he behaved and interacted with me, and slowly you could see her trying to mimic him. She started coming out from under the couch the eat. At first it was just her head poking out to eat from the bowl, but then slowly but surely her whole body appeared.
It started to become a time for firsts. The time I was lying on the couch one evening and she came out from her hiding hole to jump up on the couch and curl up and go to sleep. The first time I walked into my bedroom one night and saw up on my bed. The first time she took food out of my hand without hissing and the biggest breakthrough, the first time she let me touch her!
It's been a year but the change in Elsa has been remarkable. I'm so proud of how far she's come. There's still a little way to go: she's still unsure of how to react to affection and either starts purring loudly when being patted or is baring her claws and fangs while taking wild swipes.
Kimba needs to take most of the credit. While he could happily live without Elsa, to her he is her life. She constantly smooches up to him to be groomed. Flopping down on the floor while he licks her with a look of ecstasy on her face.
I've come to the conclusion that while fostering Kimba and Elsa I can no longer invest in any more quality bed linen. It will either end up with rips and holes or in a coating of white cat hair. Both, if I'm really lucky. Good thing Kmart have a good selection of well-priced sheets and doona covers. I'm no longer bothered doing the 'cat hair check' on clothes before I put them on, because I know that between removing it and then walking out the flat it will all magically reappear again. But it's a fashion statement I'm willing to be known for.
I'm also down one budgie. I don't know which of the two were responsible or who was the ringleader, so I've decided it was a joint effort.
A big thank you to all the volunteers that fed and cared for Kimba and Elsa when they were on the street. Ihope I've done you proud. On days when it's overcast, cold and rainy I love knowing that these two are tucked up and all cosy on my bed. I like to think that they're happy too!