Thursday, March 20, 2014

Interview with a Fosterer - Robyn from Love and Hisses

I was so hesitant to ask Miss Robyn to participate, I don't know why, she's such a lovely person that I was pretty sure she would say yes but I didn't want to bother her. Now that we all seem to be in a fostering lull here in the US, I thought I'd take a chance and she said yes!! She blogs very regularly at  I'm sure you all read her, but if you don't, go check her out.. you won't regret it.

Interview with a Fosterer badge

Introduce yourself and where do you hail from? I am Robyn Anderson. I was born in Maine, moved around a lot as a kid (my father was in the Air Force), ended up back in Maine when I was in middle school, and now live in Alabama. I've lived in Alabama for almost 18 years, which is far longer than I've ever lived anywhere. I live on a small farm in the country with my husband, Fred (he's from Alabama, and is the reason I moved here). We have 50+ chickens, two Great Pyrenees dogs, occasionally a couple of pigs, and of course CATS.

What rescue group, shelter or sanctuary do you foster for? Challenger's House, located in Toney, Alabama.

What kinds of animals do you normally foster? Kittens, with the occasional older cat thrown in to make things exciting.  We've had bottle babies and pregnant cats. Usually we get kittens when they're 5 weeks or older. They stay with us until they've had their vaccinations and have been spayed and neutered, usually between 3 and 4 months of age.

Three of Robyn's current six foster kittens
How did your adventure being a fosterer begin? I was on the mailing list for Challenger's House because we'd adopted a couple of cats from them in the past. One day in mid-May 2005 the shelter manager (Susan Burlingame) sent out an email to the entire list asking if anyone would be interested in fostering a mother cat and her kittens. I'd gotten emails like that before, but for some reason this time the idea really caught my interest, and I told her I wanted to give it a try. I ended up with a beautiful gray and white tuxie mother, who we named Mia, and her kittens who we named Flossie, Oy, Edgar, Peanut, and Snoopy. It was an amazing experience, but sadly Mia ended up with kidney failure and had to be euthanized.  Her kittens were fine, and were all adopted out from the adoption center at Petsmart. With the 6 kittens we're currently fostering, we're at a total of 236 kittens fostered!

Mother cat nursing four kittens
Mia and her kittens
How do you keep yourself from becoming too attached to the fosters you help? I try,  but I haven't yet managed not to get attached to each and every foster! Honestly, for me it's a matter of falling in love and having my heart broken with every kitten. It's something I've gotten accustomed to and I never like it, but it is so very worth it.

What is most frustrating for you as a foster? The (what seems like) endless rivers of kitten diarrhea, especially when kittens are tiny and inevitably tromp through their diarrhea. I've been known to wail "Don't WALK through it!" helplessly as I shuffle-run toward the offending kitten. Cats being returned to the shelter after being in a home for years is frustrating, too, though I'm also grateful that Challenger's House will always take back cats.  I know that sometimes life circumstances make it so that cats have to be returned, but it makes me sad for the cat and hurts my feelings a little.

What is most rewarding? Seeing a well-formed kitten poop in the litter box is like winning the Super Bowl. Getting a scared, shy kitten and watching him or her blossom into a confident, self-assured cat is amazing. Getting updates on my former fosters and seeing happy, pampered cats in homes with people who adore them is the BEST.

two week old kitten sitting upright
What experience moved or inspired you the most? The most heart-breaking foster experience I had is also the one that made me realize there's no way I could ever give up. In July of 2009, we suddenly and unexpectedly lost our cat, Mister Boogers. A few days later, Susan sent out an email looking for someone to take four kittens who were only a few days old. I thought "Oh, this is what I need, some bottle babies to keep my mind off losing Mister Boogers!"  I got four little white male kittens who were in horrible shape. They were born at an animal control facility in Tennessee, and shortly after they were born, their mother was euthanized. These poor babies hadn't even been allowed to have a few hours with their mother, to nurse even once and get the colostrum they so needed from her (a decision that baffles me to this day). A Challenger's House friend worked at the facility at that time, and she snatched up the kittens and brought them home with her, and a few days later they came to me. They seemed at first as though they were going to make it. They were energetic and ate fairly well. They moved around a lot. But as the days went by, they developed upper respiratory infections, and we couldn't get them to eat. We resorted to tube feeding them and spent as much time as possible caring for them, but no matter what we did, they faded away. One died and then a second, and after rallying for a bit, the third one died, too. The last one seemed stronger and I honestly thought he was going to make it. But he died in my hands, and there was nothing I could do. That was probably the closest I've come to a nervous breakdown, and after that I had to take a break from fostering for a couple of weeks. Having no kittens in the house was strange, and I knew that fostering is just something I have to do. I couldn't save those kittens, but they were loved and warm and safe to the very end. I'd absolutely do it all over again. (I should add that I have been exceedingly lucky as a fosterer - those four kittens and Mia, the mother of the first litter I fostered, are the only ones I've lost.)

week old white kitten being held in two hands
Do you have pets of your own? How do they respond to the foster animals? We have 12 cats of our own. Of that 12, 7 started out as foster kittens, 4 showed up on our doorstep, and 1 was adopted from Challenger's House way back in 1999. For the most part, the cats just roll their eyes when a new litter comes into the house. We eventually - if they're with us long enough - let our foster kittens have the run of the house, and most of the permanent residents ignore them, as long as the kittens don't get up in their space. We have a couple of cats - Jake and Stefan - who like to play with the kittens, though Jake takes a while to warm up to them, and Stefan can play a little more roughly than I'd like. We have another cat, Tommy, who we refer to as "The Ambassador" because all kittens seem to really like him. Tommy isn't a fan of kittens, per se, but he puts up with them and will even occasionally give them a bath.  We also have two dogs, George and Gracie, who are Great Pyrenees. They're guardians of our chickens, and don't come into the house, so the fosters never come into contact with them.

four kittens in a cat bed
Sugarbutt (winking) and Tommy, the first foster kittens we kept
(one of Robyn's favorite pictures)
What advice can you give to someone who might be wanting to become a foster? DO IT! The world can always use more foster parents! I'd recommend having a space where you can keep your fosters away from your permanent residents, at least for the first few weeks. It doesn't have to be a huge space - a bathroom will do - but it should have a door that shuts.  I wouldn't recommend starting with bottle babies (unless you are super super patient), and wouldn't recommend taking on a huge litter for your first bunch. Having said that, fostering is one of those things that you really learn about by doing. Jump in with both feet, and use all the resources at your disposal to figure out what you're doing. There are a ton of great foster parents with blogs, and a lot of forums, where people will happily answer your questions or concerns.

six kittens lounging or playing on a rug in the sun

When you are not saving animals what do you like to do?  I like to read, watch TV (I'm addicted to those stupid Real Housewives shows), and have recently picked up cross-stitching after a few years away from it. I occasionally sew, though I'm not terribly good at it. I keep saying that I'm going to learn to knit, but haven't done it yet - I'm really good at planning, not so good at following through!

Three kittens in a cat bed, two yawning

And now the questions from Inside the Actors Studio:

What is your favorite word? Onomatopoeia.
What is your least favorite word? Moist.
What turns you on? A just-vacuumed, just-mopped, just-dusted house.
What turns you off? Kitty litter in my sheets.
What sound or noise do you love? The purr of a deeply contented cat.
What sound or noise do you hate? The "hrk!Hrk!HRK! HRK!" of a cat beginning to barf.
What is your favorite curse word? I have to choose a favorite? It's a tie between fuck and goddamnit. I have a potty mouth.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? I want to be a singer! (But I suspect that would require some sort of surgery on my vocal chords, as I cannot sing on-key.)
What profession would you not like to do? I don't think I could handle being a vet.
If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gate? They're waiting for you, first room on the left. I hope you brought Da Bird!

I love this photo, I'm thrilled she sent it over ~Connie


  1. Fantastic interview - so happy and sad at the same time. Volunteers for rescues are the most awesome people and I hope they always know it, through the good times and the bad. Robyn is undoubtedly a beautiful soul.

  2. Fantastic interview! I find this series fascinating and hope it continues.

  3. LOVE Robyn!! Great advice on the comment at the pearly gates. :)

  4. Thanks for letting me be part of this series, Connie - it was a lot of fun! :)

  5. Ya just gotta love humans like that!

  6. I absolutely love Robyn's answer to the last question. And she will need a VERY large room indeed to hold all who will be waiting for her some day.

  7. I loved learning about Robyn and hearing some of her foster stories! Foster humans are just so very special!

  8. What a beautiful story and purrson. I hope my furkids are waiting for me when it's my turn to cross the Rainbow Bridge. I just want to hold and kiss them again.

  9. What a wonderful interview... Robyn is an angel and I admire her love and strength. That last picture was too cute!! I am going to share this great post on facebook!

  10. Terrific interview! I've said it before, those of you who foster are my heroes. Thank you Robyn and Connie for the care you provide for these helpless cats. You provide hope and inspiration!

  11. I think Robyn and I were separated at birth. I love this series so much! It makes me, as a foster parent and a pet parent to 12 cats and 1 dog, feel like part of a larger group of really awesome people…and potty mouths! And I think you provide such inspiration to get others to foster by being so honest and true to what fostering is really like (-:


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