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Happy Tail: Dora (formerly Pandora)

In her first life, Dora was a young cat living on the streets of Toronto, being fed by volunteers. But her rough life rapidly changed when she got sick.

“Her feeder noticed that she was rapidly gaining weight,” Dora’s owner, Deborah, recalls. The volunteer who kept an eye out for Dora was concerned that she was pregnant. It was February, and a litter of kittens would have had a tough time on the cold streets. So, the volunteer brought her in to Annex Cat Rescue.

It turned out that Dora wasn’t pregnant. But she did have mastitis — a large, painful inflammation of the mammary tissue. ACR got her treatment, and then sent her home to foster mom Deborah to recover.

Dora was Deborah’s first foster. She and her husband loved animals and wanted some around the house but weren’t sure about committing to the permanent responsibility of owning a cat.

“That completely failed, and now we have two cats,” Deborah laughs.

Dora (left) and Susy
Dora (left) and Susy are now the best of friends
Dora enjoying a cuddle

When Dora was first brought home to Deborah, the young cat was in a haze of pain medication and confusion. She was recovering from surgery and getting used to an entirely new way of life. She had never been inside a home before.

“Her initial days were pretty tough on all of us,” Deborah recalls. “She was very confused, and the pain meds they had her on were pretty intense… she didn’t eat for two days.” But soon, things were turning around for little Dora. “As we realize now, she’s a pretty adaptable girl.”

Deborah weaned Dora off of the pain medication, and soon Dora was eating and exploring the apartment. “Her curiosity overtook her fear pretty quickly. Although she’s not a kitten, in many ways, she exhibited a lot of behaviours that were like what kids do exploring a new environment.”

Originally, the plan had been for Deborah to take in Dora for four to six weeks, until she had recovered from surgery, had acclimated to living in a home, and was ready to be adopted. But Deborah quickly found herself falling in love with her new friend. Despite having lived on the streets, Dora was sweet and easygoing. She made a powerful impression on Deborah.

“I don’t think it was more than two weeks before my husband and I looked at each other and said, ‘I can’t give her up,’” Deborah recalls. “And he said ‘No, I can’t give her up either.’”

So, Dora’s four-to-six-week home became her forever home. But there would be an additional chapter to their happily-ever-after.

Now that they had Dora, Deborah believed she and her husband would get less attached to the next cat they took in. They agreed to foster Susy. Like Dora, Susy had been living on the streets all her life. But she was older (four years old, where Dora had been only one when adopted) and clearly traumatized. Deborah and her husband gave Susy all the care they could. But neither of them expected a third helper to step in.

“Dora was absolutely adorable with Susy,” Deborah says. “She could tell right away that [Susy] needed space, and she kind of stepped in, showed her where everything was, reinforced stuff when she needed to… she kept a very respectful eye on her. It was really quite something.”

Sometimes, two unrelated female cats can have conflict when introduced into the same home. But Dora and Susy are the best of friends. They regularly groom each other and play together. Deborah put up pigeon netting on the balcony so the two can hang out outside, and the cats love taking their afternoon naps out there.

Their past lives aren’t completely gone and forgotten. “Susy still has some resource guarding around food. She’s afraid that there’s not gonna be enough. She muscles Dora out of the way. But Dora is such a sweetheart, she just shrugs her shoulders and says, ‘OK, I’ll be back. Sorry you haven’t figured it out, but I know there’s always enough food. So, I’ll be back later when you’re finished.’”

Even though they jokingly call it a “foster fail,” Deborah considers her experience with the cats a huge success.

“They bring us so much joy. To watch them, and to see them… they’re endlessly interesting. And responsive. I mean they’re very affectionate in their way, and very engaging. They’re hard to ignore.

Would Deborah recommend fostering to others? Absolutely.

“It’s one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do in your life. I mean, yeah, it’s work, and it requires patience. It requires a lot of patience. But it’s just so rewarding.”

“Just don’t send us any more fosters,” Deborah laughs. “We’re full.”

-Aleks Kandic

Susy looking up at the camera
With a bit of loving guidance from Dora, Susy fit right in