Fate sometimes has a funny way of bringing a little family of cats together. For Remi Ralte, fortunately, the twists and turns that led her to eventually adopt Pirate were fueled by the very best of intentions.

Pirate is just one member of the band; though they’re all special, he stands out because of his one eye – and because he wasn’t originally meant to stay with Remi. Pirate is what the rescue community calls a “foster fail”, referring to a rescue that one only intends to take care of temporarily, but for one reason or another ends up being part of one’s furry family instead.

We talked to Remi about her experience with fostering and what made Pirate stand out to her.

AS: So, Pirate isn’t your first cat?
Remi: [No.] I adopted two cats prior a few months before him, and over the years, my family and I would take care of cats that friends could no longer take care of.

AS: How did you come across him?
RR: I first saw Pi at the gates of the condo [where I lived]. He must have been just a few weeks old at the time. He had an infected eye and I was constantly [arguing] with myself whether or not I should take him. At the time, I also wasn’t allowed to have pets, so that was another hurdle.

Feline facts

  • The first pet cat (as far as we know right now) existed about 9,500 years ago in Cyprus. Previously, it was thought that the Egyptians first domesticated cats, but this kitty’s grave predates that civilization by about four millennia.
  • Your cat could be the next paw-litician! An orange tabby named Stubbs was the mayor of a town in Alaska for two decades.

AS: What led you to foster him in the first place?
RR: A few months after I saw him around my condo unit, my then-partner found a photo that someone uploaded online. He and I later met Claire Briddon (a cat-savior for the less fortunate felines of BGC), who asked us I if we could foster Pirate for a month as she was leaving town for some time. Pi had just had surgery to remove the infected eye and he needed to be with people who could help with his post-op care. We were unsure [at first]… but Pirate’s story and situation led us to agree to just foster him and see how things went after that, then we’d decide again. We really thought [it would all be] temporary.

AS: At what point did you realize Pirate wasn’t leaving your household?RR: To be very honest, from the moment we picked him up from the vet where he’d just had surgery. He was so sweet [and he liked] being carried by us that we fell in love with him and felt that he might never leave. It was actually the very next morning that we felt that his place at home would be more permanent, mostly because of how he got along with other cats.

Foster fact

  • According to the ASPCA, about 3.2 million shelter animals get adopted each year.
  • There’s a phenomenon called “kitten season”, which, in countries with four seasons, tends to begin in early spring and run through to late fall. That’s most of the year, really, which is why neutering and spaying are important!

AS: Can you talk about past foster successes?
RR: Pirate is the first cat [whom] I’ve taken in with the intention to foster. I’d say that this situation was a unique one for everyone involved!

AS: How does he get along with your other cats?
RR: This is the best part for me. We’ve done so much research about introducing new cats – talking to friends who had similar experiences, watching a lot of Jackson Galaxy videos on the subject – and worrying about the cats not getting along.

[All of it] for nothing. During his first night home, Pirate had somehow managed to get out of the enclosure that we made for him, and we found him and the other two cats all sleeping on the bed together. All three of them were grooming each other.

There hasn’t once been an incident where things got too far when they play with each other. They’ve been cuddling, playing, and eating meals together since day one. I know that this is a very rare occurrence and I’m so thankful that the three cats loved each other since the beginning. Or so I’d like to think.

AS: Do you ever think about what might have happened if you hadn’t taken him in?
I. RR: Yes, I do think of what could have happened to Pi, or the other two cats (Penn and Patches) if [I never had them]. I sometimes feel guilty that I didn’t take Pi home sooner than that day at the vet.

I wonder, if he were adopted by someone else, would he be just as happy, happier even? What would have happened if no one did anything at all? If he hadn’t had help getting his eye operated, would the infection have gotten so bad that he’d succumb to the injury and die? The what-ifs scare me quite a bit but I’m so grateful that he’s now a part of my life.

AS: Do you have a message for people looking to foster?
RR: Make sure that it’s really a foster situation. I know it’s difficult when a bond’s been made and you have to hand over a member of the family. Know what you’re getting yourself into, especially on an emotional level. Also, deciding that things aren’t working out with a pet and dumping them at a street corner is not a solution to a decision that wasn’t thought through.

AS: Do you have a message for people looking to adopt their first cat?
RR: Whether you’re thinking of adopting a cat or a dog, remember that you’re bringing another life into your home. Please make sure that your lifestyle will also suit their needs, and not just yours. If you need to leave them for long periods of time, or need to be out of town for work, really consider this because spending time with them is just as important as giving love and attention to a human child.

Also, please neuter your pets! It’s so heartbreaking to see so many dogs and cats on the street who each deserve a warm home and lots of love. If you’re thinking about it, but aren’t sure, borrow a friend’s cat or volunteer to pet-sit to see how things go.

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s September 2019 issue.

Related stories:
– Mexican wolf pups released into the wild after successful foster program
– Adopting your foster animal: A shameful failure or a huge success?
– How to foster when you’re fostering