A Very Special Feline Foster Parent Program

By Martha Michael >>>

Most people are aware of the dire need for more individuals to save abandoned and abused pets, some of them stuck in shelters with conditions that are worse than the homes that surrendered them. But how often do you hear about the animals with special needs that need adoption and foster care?

Furever Purr Rescue is devoted to helping cats at the Lancaster shelter. Deanna Davis is one of the volunteers and devotes herself to the extra demands of everyone around her, including the responsibility of fostering cats with special needs.

Since last fall, Davis has been taking in foster cats with such severe issues that she thought they would never find homes. She got “Cutie Pie” in September — her first experience fostering cats. The feline had serious allergies and had been returned to a shelter, with no name designated to her.

This sweet tuxedo cat—identified only by an intake number—was returned to the Lancaster shelter in horrible condition five months after she was first adopted as a healthy cat. At this point, she had a skin allergy or what appeared to possibly be mange, and was dumped at the shelter without even a name. Animal owners get away with neglect, because there isn’t a better system in place.

Because this kitty would require a tremendous amount of attention and medical care, volunteers handpicked Deanna Davis to take her on.

“She is very high maintenance,” Davis says, adding that her 12-year-old son has bonded with Cutie Pie in the last six months.

Cutie Pie still has flair-ups, but they give her Benadryl or prednisone, and she wears a cone when it’s necessary. Because the cat needs constant observation, Davis believes she really isn’t adoptable.

“She was so ugly the vet was calling her “Cutie Pie,” Davis says. “I kept it because it was so fitting. She was an ugly mess — allergic to tons of food items and environmental — pollen, mold, certain cat litter, candle smells, etc.”

Gracie, formally “Grayson,” was surrendered to the shelter still wearing her little pink collar and bell. As standard protocol, the shelter administered flea treatment, and the cat had a reaction that resulted in a gaping wound on her neck. Because cats in this condition need to be moved into isolation and can no longer remain in the adoptable area, a foster family was needed—pronto. Deanna Davis stepped up immediately after seeing photos of Gracie.

They got Gracie on December 30 and the family members took a vote and decided she is staying with them. “She is a dog in a cat’s body,” Davis says. Another cat with serious physical problems came into the system: Morris, a 10-year-old orange tabby was surrendered to the shelter with what appeared to be chemical burns. It’s suspected that acid was poured on him and he was in pain. He went into foster care and became reclusive and was exhibiting feral traits, so the foster family was unable to handle him or treat him, and he was getting worse. That’s when miracle worker Deanna Davis came in. Without hesitancy, she said “yes.”

Davis says the cat has pretty severe scar tissue on his skin. “He is in a cone until his skin gets stronger. One swipe of his paw and it cuts his skin wide open. It’s very hard to manage,” Davis says. “We are still working on his skin issues, and now his mouth issues.”

While Deanna Davis is new to the foster care experience, she has owned other special needs pets, and knows the demanding nature of that kind of care.

“It’s difficult to go out of town or be gone long time periods,” Deanna Davis explains. “Not everyone can do what I do, so it’s hard to leave and get away.”

Because Davis is a substitute paraeducator for the Saugus Union School District, she has a flexible enough schedule to foster pets.

“Things come up that are unexpected; and you just have to learn to adjust and roll with it,” she says. “It’s not all roses and rainbows. With the good comes also frustration and hard work. You’ve got to be strong emotionally, and dependable. I’ve shed a lot of tears, but it’s been worth it to see them thrive and grow and be happy.”

Deanna Davis’ favorite aspect of the fostering experience involves the positive results she sees in the cats’ behavior. “Saving a life and seeing them thrive and enjoy life. The basics of being able to run and play and sun bathe,” she says. “Having high maintenance foster babies is very hard, but very rewarding. It’s hard to let them go.”

Furever Purr Rescue relies solely on donations to cover vet care and daily maintenance for the cats in their care. The non-profit is always in need of foster parents. All donations are tax-deductible and go directly to the cats in their care. Visit www.fureverpurrrescue.org.