Volunteer of the Month: Emily V.

Some of the most important work done at Cat Town happens behind the scenes with the special group of volunteers in our foster program. These wonderful people welcome a Cat Town cat (or two!) into their home while the cat waits to be adopted. Often times under socialized or senior cats simply need a place where they can destress. As anyone who has fostered a cat can tell you, sometimes the work is slow but ultimately extremely rewarding. 

One such foster volunteer is Emily V., who has fostered 13 cats over the past four years, including five bonded pairs and one special kitty named Trevor, who was one of our longest term foster cats. 

“Emily is a SUPERSTAR!” gushes Dawn Pieper, Foster Coordinator and Deputy Director at Cat Town. “She is always willing to open up her home and her heart to whoever is most in need. She fostered Trevor for 2 1/2 years before the right person came along and adopted him. He was a tough nut to crack, but her love and patience taught him to trust and appreciate humans again."

I talked with Emily about her experience fostering for Cat Town, and those special moments that make all the hard work worth it.

Emily with one of her current foster cats, Clarissa,a member of the Forgotten Kitten Project.

Emily with one of her current foster cats, Clarissa,a member of the Forgotten Kitten Project.

Larissa C.: How did you get involved with Cat Town?

Emily V.: I kept seeing shared posts on Facebook from a friend, so I decided to like the Cat Town page and then from there it was a really quick decision to start fostering.

LC: Have you been a cat person your whole life?

EV: Yes! My whole family really. My sister and I always had a cat each growing up and my parents consider themselves foster grandparents of all my fosters.

LC: Do you have cats at home?

EV: Besides my fosters, no.

LC: What is your favorite thing about working with vulnerable shelter cats?

EV: Seeing each one become themselves and then charm someone so much the person just has to take them home.

Treats are a big part of building confidence between foster and foster cat. 

Treats are a big part of building confidence between foster and foster cat. 

LC: What is something you’ve learned about under socialized cats during your time at Cat Town that you think people wouldn’t expect to be true?

EV: I don’t know if people wouldn’t expect this, but, personally, I’ve always been so surprised and delighted at how each cat’s personality comes out. You just have no idea of the specific goofiness, the preference for certain toys, the kind of affection they prefer to give and get. You’re just not sure where it comes from but one day something happens and now (for example) Trevor just has to have his purple glitter pom!

LC: What is your favorite part about being a Cat Town volunteer?

EV: Besides developing a unique relationship with every cat, I have been so supported through difficult times (and the much more common mundane times!) by the staff and volunteers.

LC: What would you say to someone interested in volunteering or fostering for Cat Town?

EV: I would highly recommend it! It takes a lot of patience and you aren’t getting a pet. You will get a cat(s) with whom you won’t be able to interact with at first, and you will have to allow each cat to set the pace of the relationship. Then you will experience a breakthrough and you will love them and then you will let them go. It all sounds so difficult when you break it down this way, but all the days in between that stuff are days and weeks of all kinds of little breakthroughs and peaks at their emerging personalities and silliness and finally the fullness of them. It all becomes very full and worth it! It can be heartbreaking but I wouldn’t give it up, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to see the next one that needs help.

When Trevor arrived at Emily's he was untouchable, but her patience and understanding allowed him to become a true companion.

LC: Why would you encourage people to adopt a senior or an under socialized cat from Cat Town?

EV: A senior/under socialized cat is not for everyone. I would say a senior or under socialized cat (which I have adopted in the past) is going to be there for love and affection and may not be a flashy, outgoing cat for guests to enjoy. You will get a lot of private goofiness and quiet love and affection, guaranteed.

If you’re interested in being a foster for Cat Town, email info@cattownoakland.org to learn more. We will match you with a cat who is right for your interest and experience level and we will also provide you with supplies, medical care, and lots of support. 

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