Steinbach resident Sandra Watson is dedicated to fostering cats and giving them a home until they find their forever families.
Watson started her fostering journey around eight years ago when she moved to the outskirts of Steinbach.
“I moved out to the Steinbach area and out to the country, and I started to see cats on the property.”
She noticed the cats didn't stop coming, and it seemed as though there were endless cats that needed rescuing.
“My husband and I were paying for spay and neuters and finding homes for animals. Then one day I saw a fundraiser for the Steinbach Animal Rescue, and I was just so excited to see this organization. And I jumped right in with one of their fundraisers and then just kept going, and now I just love the organization.”
Ever since working with the local rescue, she has fostered countless cats.
"When I started fostering, I would take in one or two cats every now and then, so the first few years were a little slow,” she says. “Then I started to get more involved with fostering and taking in new litters of cats. The last few years I've really started to take in a lot more animals and help out other fosters when I can.”
She says that over the past two years alone, over 100 cats have gone through her house and found forever homes.
With over 50 cats coming into her home per year, costs add up. Luckily Steinbach & Area Animal Rescue takes care of all the expenses through the donations they receive from our generous community.
The rescue provides all the food, litter, and medical treatment needed to take care of these cats.
"It's just wonderful, so there's no cost to foster at all. And if you take in puppies, then the collars, leashes, and harnesses are provided.”
She says fostering is a wonderful way to have an animal in your home.
“Having a pet is something that can be a burden on finances, so fostering is just a brilliant way to have animals in your life at no cost.”
She says that if you want to foster, you can tell the rescue if you have certain conditions for the animals you would take in, and they’ll be happy to work with you.
"They can say ‘I only want kittens, or I only want healthy cats,’ they're not going to be stuck with an animal with a broken leg or an eye injury if they don't want.”
She says sometimes fosters will start off with the easier cats, and then they’ll gain confidence and realize they can take in other cats as well.
“They realize ‘I can do this. I can take a frostbitten kitten.’ So they'll start off just with a simple, easy to care for animal, and then end up with all of the emergency medical cases.”
She also mentions that people can have a full-time job and still foster, as the majority of these cats don’t need constant attention.
“The great thing about cats specifically is they are so independent. The only time a foster would have to worry about being away, is if they wanted to take in bottle babies: the neonatal kittens that come in newborn without moms. Those fosters need to be home.”
Other than that, it's just like having a having a normal pet in your house. You just treat it the same.
She says depending on the situation, the cats and kittens she has fostered have stayed at her house anywhere from a few hours up to eight months.
Some cats only stay a few days because they’re what the rescue calls emergency intake animals.
Emergency intake animals stay at one foster temporarily until another foster is found.
"In the last two years I've had over 50 or 60 animals go through my care per year, but some of them are just for a day, or just an emergency intake, or just to babysit for a bit while they are getting some medical treatment.”
On the other hand, she’s also fostered some cats long-term, as some cats can take a while to get adopted.
Watson is currently fostering three cats, Elf, O'Brien, and Hesker. And of the three, only Hesker is ready for adoption.
O’Brien was found on the side of the #12 Highway on January 30 with frostbite.
He lost the tips of his ears and will lose a portion of his tail when he is neutered on Friday.
Otherwise, he is healthy and will be available for adoption soon.
He is estimated to be nine months old, and Watson notes he is super happy to be fed, warm and indoors.
Hesker is a Maine Coon, and the rescue estimates he’s around a year and eight months old.
He has been in the rescue since July, and recently came to live with Watson from another foster.
Watson notes when he came into the rescue he was 10 pounds, and he's now 20 pounds. She suspects he’s pretty much done growing.
She says he loves dogs, kids, people, and even getting dressed up in doll clothes.
@sandrainthewoods Hesker needs a forever family! #bestcat #goodsport #adoptdontshop #anythingforlove #steinbachanimalrescue #catsoftiktok @Steinbach Animal Rescue ♬ I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That) - A Little Bit Longer (Than The Single Edit) - Meat Loaf
"He’s fantastic. He is the most amazing cat I have had for a while. And he’s liking the rescue life.”
Watson says Hesker was dropped off at a barn, and somebody saw him and thought he seemed too friendly to be a stray.
"He was very affectionate toward the people at the farm, so they thought that he deserved not to live the farm life. They wanted him to get a home and called the rescue.”
He’s a great cat, but the reason people hesitate to adopt him is because he is FIV positive.
“That means he cannot be with other animals that are sick, because if they get him sick, he’s immunocompromised.”
She notes FIV cats are only a risk to other cats if there's a deep bite wound.
“So there there's no reason Hesker can't find a great home. He's healthy and wonderful.”
@sandrainthewoods #steinbachanimalrescue #adoptdontshop #catsoftiktok @Steinbach Animal Rescue #catstretches ♬ Waking up in the Morning - Chilly Swing Band
Watson says she loves Hesker dearly, but cannot keep him as she is dedicated to keeping her house open to foster more cats.
“I love Hesker. He is wonderful. But I cannot keep every cat that I foster, no matter how much I love them.”
She says that one of the best things about fostering is getting to love so many cats.
"You get to fall in love over and over and over again. People think it would be sad to see animals go, but if you view it as a chance to keep loving... it’s not bad at all.”
If you are interested in fostering, adopting Hesker, or adopting any of the other cats at the rescue, you can fill out an application on SAAR’s website.
They also have an event this weekend where you can find out more about fostering and adopting, and you can see some of the animals they have up for adoption.
The event is at Clearspring Centre on Sunday February 12 from 12pm-4pm.