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(Written a week ago)

It goes without saying that I’m missing the wolves – and the work involved. My current job is still focused around animals but lacks the hands-on bonding and training that is involved with caring for captive wild individuals. Back at the zoo I worked at for a few years there were similar principals and I find huge satisfaction in this kind of conditioning and the requirement to interact with the animals in a positive manner (even in a hands-off capacity where the closest interaction may be enriching and cleaning enclosures).The different living situations I have been in over the last few years have permitted me from going ahead and taking on animal-related responsibilities at home. I find that New Zealand is relatively limited in its way of local conservation groups in comparison to other countries of the world and with this in mind I have looked at different options of ways to contribute to something I am passionate about outside of work while I am here. I have tried various things; volunteering at other zoos, animal shelters and nature reserves, but having a work schedule that sometimes requires attendance seven days a week means that regular volunteering can be difficult. So, as of last week I am trialing another option – one that I am luckily able to do where I now currently live.

Tom Tom
This is Tom Tom. Well, Tom’s head sticking out of a sink. Tom is one of six kittens I adopted last week to foster for an Auckland charity called the Lonely Miaow. The Lonely Miaow does a range of services including trapping feral adults and kittens and re-homing them. It is a huge undertaking: there is an estimated minimum of 200,000 feral cats in the Auckland region alone and it is the Lonely Miaow’s mission to see Auckland feral-cat free with as many as possible going to caring homes. Fostering is such a great way to help them out and I’d recommend something like this to anyone who is looking to lend a hand to an animal-related charity but may not have the time to dedicate a full day a week to one sole establishment.

Not to say that fostering isn’t a lot of work. I do not live alone and there have been major compromises made just so these kittens can be cared for here by me (and those willing or unlucky enough to get in the way). Feral cats, especially, require a lot of careful handling to turn them from hissy spitting biting kittens into confident and comfortable pets. The number one priority when fostering animals is obviously the health and welfare of every individual, but you are also wanting to get them as prepared as possible for a new home. So far, of five or so days of having the kittens, they still hiss when I come to see them but mostly settle down. Some – like Tom Tom – are still shy of people but inquisitive enough to come out and have a play, whereas others – such as Felix who only came to us on Monday and before that was out in the world by himself after the rest of his litter had been trapped – still get upset if you come too close. It is hard to imagine that a creature so frightened will eventually come out of his shell and learn to trust humans to a capacity.

I love feeling the sense of responsibility you get when you have creatures under your care. I’ll probably put a few updates on here as time goes on with their progress (and providing I can get some decent photos with my phone). So far we have:

Nymeria
F torti, about 7 weeks.
Nymeria is the most confident of the bunch; very playful and mischievous. She’s the only one I have managed to get purring at bed time with some cuddles. She is also the only one of the group who has had her first vaccination – probably because she was the most handleable.

Tom TomFluffyTom Tom
M ginger, about 7 weeks.
Super shy, but getting seriously more confident as time goes on. Always trying to get into nooks and crannies and sneak past behind your back. Hilariously inquisitive, but his skittish nature can cause mishaps!

Fluffy
M black and white, about 7 weeks
Not-so-original name, but it really suits him. Fluffy was originally ‘Sentinel’ – the day we picked him up he was the most hissy of the bunch and was extremely protective of his litter mates. He has since turned into a very sweet little man and will quite often climb up into my lap to watch the others play. He really has relaxed so much and this has allowed him to develop large amounts of kitten confidence.

Felix
M black and white, about 7 weeks
Poor Felix. Felix is the new boy, he was trapped days after his litter mates and arrived to me on Monday morning, an extremely fearful-aggressive kitten. He scratched and bit my hands to shreds and still tries to. He is, however, settling down and while he does hiss and bolt if you come too close he will actually sniff around your legs if you are sitting nice and quietly while playing with his buddies. I hope after a few more days he will be more calm.

GreywindGreywind
F silver tabby, about 7 weeks
Greywind and Nymeria were named after a couple of the five direwolves in the Game of Thrones epic. Originally I was given five kittens and there was the idea to name each after a Game of Thrones direwolf, but this would mean that one of the lads would have to be called Lady and this may not have been so appreciated.

Squishy
M black and white, about 5-6 weeks
Squishy is SO CUTE!!! Squishy is not related to the other kittens at all; he was found alone in an industrial area but gets along very well with his adopted brothers and sisters. We named him Squishy because at the beginning he was constantly trying to bury himself under the bodies of his friends and seemed most at ease when one of them was squashing his face. He has since come out of his shell and is an absolutely adorable little kitten. He is still very apprehensive when you go to touch him – he will initially duck down but he has snuggled in to my lap quite a few times to drift off. Squishy has the tiniest miaow and will sit there by the doorway calling until you appear, then will run off to play.

Fostering these babies includes getting them vaccinated, microchipped and neutered. The cost of these treatments adds up quickly and the Lonely Miaow covers all expenses. Adopting a kitten costs $150 and this is absolutely nothing considering the work that has gone into them let alone how much you would have to spend on merely vaccinations if you had adopted them early. The Lonely Miaow survive completely off donations – visit their website at www.lonelymiaow.co.nz to contribute or find out more about their organisation. I don’t have a lot to donate but am so glad I can at least do something, and it really does feel fantastic to know I am making a difference to the lives of some little creatures – even if they don’t know it.

Sam.

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