Meet Sam. Sam had been living in an Annex Cat Rescue colony for a few years, where ACR volunteers fed and interacted with him daily. Because Sam was so friendly and showed signs of being open to human contact, ACR volunteers decided he would be a good candidate to be fostered and adopted. It can often be difficult to foster an adult feral cat that has been raised without human contact and some cats are not able to make this transition. The first step in determining this is to do an assessment.
An assessment determines if living indoors with humans is an option for a cat. Some adult cats born and raised in feral colonies cannot be domesticated and will never be happy living with humans. These cats are often neutered and released back into their colonies as part of a Trap Neuter Return (TNR) program in an effort to stabilize the number of feral cats in the community. One of the main things a person doing an assessment looks for is temperament; this is a good indication of whether a cat will become comfortable in a human home.
The assessment process usually takes a few weeks; socializing can take a few more weeks and usually continues in the foster home. ACR volunteers can assess cats within an assessment home, or remotely once a foster home is found. Mobile assessment is often a better option because there is less movement for the cat.
Sam had been waiting for an assessment home when he was taken in by ACR volunteer, Marianne. A reality with most adult feral cats, and with Sam, is chronic disease. Efforts to feed and care for feral cats by ACR and other organizations often extend the life of feral colonies, and accelerated age can invite chronic disease for these cats. This is a reality that assessment and foster homes often must combat in the care and socialization process. Sam was brought into an assessment home with serious dental disease. Dental issues are very common with older cats and are often hard to spot while the cats are in feral colonies. Sam was still eating daily but was in a lot of pain and had to have most of his teeth extracted, in addition to dealing with vaccinations, worms and neutering. ACR takes on the cost of these expenses as part of the assessment process.
Sam’s medical issues played a role in his socialization process; he was in a lot of pain before and after the surgery, and stopped eating altogether during the overwhelming process. As a result Sam did not make much progress until his medical issues were attended to and he was recovering. This is a common issue that assessment and foster homes must be open and compassionate about in order to achieve success with their cats.
After Sam had recovered his progress remained slow until he was introduced to Marianne’s cat. “He instantly perked up,” Marianne tells us, once Sam met her small cat. Being around another cat gave Sam confidence and he began to come out of his shell. A large part of the assessment process is determining the best conditions for each individual cat to flourish. Some cats require solidarity, and some, like Sam, require other cats to be happy. For any foster home, however, it is often important to have a small, isolated room in which to begin the transition process. This allows the cat to get accustomed to its new home in a less overwhelming process, as Marianne did with Sam in her bathroom. Once the cat feels secure, other cats and humans can be introduced and eventually, the cat can explore the rest of the home.
Sam has been with Marianne since May — longer than average for an assessment home. He is currently waiting for a suitable foster home to become available so he can continue being socialized and eventually adopted. Sam has a gentle and shy nature, and loves being petted and brushed. He has learned that he does not need to be afraid of humans; however, his instincts sometimes take over when he becomes startled. This is a common obstacle with older feral cats and it can be a personality trait that never fades. The ideal home for Sam would be one with other cats for him to socialize with. Sam is very shy but loves attention and requires a gentle home, without small children because of his tendency to get startled. Marianne recommends a home with children 7 years and up. Contact ACR at 416-410-3835 if you think your home is an optimal foster home for Sam.