The COVID-19 quarantine has given us a lot of stressed out emotions and not many outlets to rid ourselves of them. Depression, anxiety, stress, panic — there’s a whole lot of those feelings going around. We’ve also been left feeling somewhat helpless. Maybe we volunteered in the past and we’ve been cut-off from that role or maybe we see the suffering in our community and realize we aren’t even able to extend a hug. It’s an isolating and lonely place to be.
But there are ways we can still help! And not only can these acts be so needed by our communities, but they can be extremely beneficial to our mental health. Many times when I’ve been going through a depression, one of the things that has kept me grounded and moving forward was focusing the energy I had on doing the smallest bit of good for someone. By putting our emotions outward and asking “How can I be of service today?” we change the ruminating negative loop of self-talk to more constructive, problem solving thought. It is amazing how therapeutic this act of charity can be.
For me, fostering cats from the local animal control department was a natural fit. The lessons my involvement with fostering cats and kittens has taught me have not always been easy ones, but they have made me more humble, more kind and more aware of the struggles in my community. I typically foster momma cats and their newborn litters. Last year was a banner kitten season for me as I took in my largest litter yet: One mom and SEVEN kittens. There were so many kittens!
People always say to me, “I wish I could do what you do, but I couldn’t handle giving them up.” I want to explain that the reward for me is found in the letting go. If I kept one litter and indulged my most unrealistic wishes, I wouldn’t be able to take another one after that.. So it is essential that I learn how to say goodbye to cute, cuddly, adorable kittens so that they may go to their new homes and I can take on more. I’ve discovered a lot in those goodbyes. I mourn each relationship that has to end while celebrating the success of this stray finding a forever home. It is never easy, but our hearts here mend and move on and do it again. There’s a beauty in that process that feels a lot like a metaphor for all of our bonds throughout life.
That’s a long way of saying, now is a great time to consider fostering! Whether it’s a cat or dog, puppies or kittens, fostering is best compared to being a grandparent and getting to do all of the spoiling and none of the grunt work. Most long-term fostering lasts about 1-3 months and involves taking excellent care of the pet like it was your own, until a forever home can be found for it. If you’re good at social media, that can be helpful, as many times shelters will need all the help they can get with finding prospective adopters.
The easiest way to begin fostering is to check with your local animal control department. Seek out high kill shelters as they need the most help because they typically cannot turn away animals. Foster training may be done over video conference and many shelters are implemented no-contact pick-ups of animals.
During quarantine, I took the leap I’ve been procrastinating on making, to graduate finally to bottle-feeding kittens. These are kittens too young to eat on their own with no mom, that are not able to stay at most shelters overnight, so they need overnight rescue immediately. They also need to be fed every two-three hours, making them an around the clock project. I’m signed up and am ready for the call when babies come in, so I anxiously await this next step in my fostering journey.
If you can sew or are the least bit crafty, you might want to try your hand at sewing some homemade masks to donate. Everyone from hospital staff to immune-compromised people to homeless men and women could benefit from the added protection masks can provide. All you’ll need are some basic supplies like cotton (not polyester) fabric, wire for the nose piece and elastic. There’s one super simple design made with elastic hair ties. With a ton of tutorial videos online and many social media support groups, you’ll have no shortage of resources, you might even make a few new friends.
Food Donations/Shopping Trips
If you have no symptoms and are healthy, another way to help is by lending a hand to your neighbors. Some people are having trouble getting to the grocery store for food and with online shopping apps overloaded and booked, you could be a lifeline to a vulnerable neighbor who needs supplies and groceries. Homeless nonprofits are also experiencing greater demand during the coronavirus outbreak and many will list on their websites what specific items they need donated. Aside from food, socks and hygiene items are usually always in short supply.