Happy Tails: Oscar & Brandy

The term “failed foster” is a funny one. It’s what happens when a feline who was only supposed to be a temporary foster is so loveable that his/her humans cannot say goodbye. The term sounds like it might be a negative, but the reality is, a failed foster is born out of love, commitment, and attachment. Long-term ACR volunteer Joanna has plenty of experience with a wide variety of volunteer roles including that of “failed foster.” Sometimes saying goodbye is just not an option and sometimes the failed foster relationship involves more than one feline!

Oscar and Brandy

Oscar and Brandy were born in a feral cat colony in Toronto’s east end. The two are from the same litter and they lived on the streets for the first eight weeks of their lives before going into foster care with another rescue organization. They were socialized together, played together, and tested each other’s boundaries before being adopted together when they were four months old. Oscar and Brandy lived with their former adoptive mom for five years before she had to give the pair up because of health reasons.

The rescue world is small and both cats were taken in on an emergency basis by an ACR foster volunteer who had fostered them as kittens. Going through the surrender process and then being moved to a foster home was very traumatic for the pair. “Due to absences of the former owner for long periods they both had become very nervous and afraid of change and other people. Out of the two, Oscar had more difficulty in the foster home. He would hide in a covered litter box all the time, and they didn’t seem to be comforting each other,” explains Joanna. “Brandy was a little braver and more outgoing.”

Oscar then changed foster homes and moved in with Joanna. “At first, Oscar seemed very angry and I was nervous about letting him mix with my other foster and my own cat, but once I let him out of my bathroom, I began to realize that Oscar was a very shy, gentle, sensitive cat who was simply very frightened and confused. He seems to have a constantly furrowed brow that makes him look angry or worried, but that’s just the way his face is! He got along very well with the other cats from the start and particularly enjoyed the company of my other foster, Gordon, a young male who was very brave and adventurous,” says Joanna.

Call it fate or coincidence, but Oscar and Brandy were reunited in 2015. After Gordon was adopted, Joanna learned that Brandy had been in a couple of foster homes but was not fitting in well at any of them. “She has a strong personality, as a calico, and although not aggressive, she has a clear sense of territory and likes to have her own space. Like Oscar, she was also probably scared and confused after having been moved — in her case, a few times.”

Although Brandy was supposed to be with Joanna for a couple of weeks, it soon became clear that she fit in well with the entire family. Joanna formally adopted the siblings in October 2016. “There was no fighting. As long as the others let Brandy choose her territory (the window in my bedroom and the chair under it) then she is fine. Sometimes Oscar will try to go up there when Brandy is there, and she usually chases him off after a bit of a scuffle. They have two very large cat trees that they share with no problem in the living room.”

Both cats are very affectionate, but shy of new people. They will run away sometimes from Joanna, but they love pets. “Oscar is a big cat and looks tough but cries like a kitten when he wants attention,” says Joanna. Both cats get along with Joanna’s older cat who is 20-years-old and very frail. “Oscar is like a big brother to him and sits with him and keeps an eye on him,” explains Joanna. “He has appointed himself the big brother.”

“Oscar also has a baby: his favourite toy is a yellow feather snake. He carries it around with him very gently. I’ll find it in various places and if he can’t find it he seems a little worried. It has survived being sucked into the vacuum and I have to be very careful not to do that again.”

Oscar

Brandy on the other hand is territorial and very playful. “She will roll on the floor sometimes, showing her tummy and kneading her paws in the air, and it’s like she’s entertaining me. If I react by praising her, she will keep doing it. She does not like other cats coming in to the house. With her strong personality, she will whack at you without her claws if she is annoyed. She lets you know when she’s had enough,” Joanna adds.

Brandy

What are Joanna’s thoughts on being a “failed foster?” “I adopted both because they had made some progress with me and all three cats were getting along, and knowing how sensitive Oscar is to change, I was ready to adopt again. I try to pay lots of attention to them because they get bored easily and my cat Sami is elderly and frail, and doesn’t play with them.”

People usually become “failed fosters” for different reasons — they fall in love and realize the cat fits in well with their family/lifestyle; they become foster parents knowing full well that adopting might be a reality or they realize the cat(s) they are fostering might have difficulty being adopted out.

Whatever the reason, becoming a failed foster is the best kind of failure there is!

— Nina Yanko

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