SCG Volunteer Spotlight

August SCG Volunteer Spotlight

Shirley Holbach

Q: How long have you volunteered for the ARL and in what capacity?
A: I have been volunteering for the ARL since 2011 at which time I became a foster mom. I also worked (and still do) with cats with behavioral issues in the apartments, condos and as a foster mom. This year I was trained to walk dogs off-site and at events. I also volunteer at a variety of events and attend seminars.

Q: How long have you fostered cats for the ARL and how many over time?
A: I have been fostering cats since 2011. I started with a pair of bonded buddies who I promptly adopted. My third foster had behavior challenges which we have been able to minimize so eventually I adopted her also. My next fosters were bonded buddies and adopted by a wonderful family. Fosters, Meg and Katie, came from a hoarding situation and once again I became a "foster failure" and adopted them. Friends and family were concerned I was turning into "the cat lady". Since adopting Meg and Katie in early 2013, I have fostered 12 cats that have been adopted into great homes. I am currently fostering three cats along with the five I adopted.

Q: Do you have any particularly fun or interesting stories to share about your foster cats?
A: Being a foster mom has afforded me the opportunity to work with an eclectic group of cats, with each having their own personality and quirks. Since I work with cats with behavioral issues, it is exciting see the positive changes.

One in particular, Susie, who was a beautiful long-haired gray and white cat, displayed her anxiety and hypersensitivity through teeth on, hissing and scratching. My job was to find her cues as to when and how long it took her to calm down when in a hypersensitive mode. With some work I was able to determine her triggers. Susie loved to cuddle, take treats and play with wand toys. The person who adopted Susie knew she was the one and came to the meet and greet with a new collar and a new soft-sided kennel. After talking for awhile and being aware of Susie's quirks, Susie was off to her forever home.

Another foster, a beautiful black and white boy named Sammi, was scared and hid in the closet for about three weeks. He startled easily so I worked on shaping his behavior with treats. We took it slow and after awhile Sammi was a more confident cat. He would help put jigsaw puzzles together by laying in the middle of the pieces and would give head butts when he wanted to be petted but most of all enjoyed doing what cats do. He was adopted into a family with a young boy when they became instant friends at the meet and greet.

Q: Who are you currently fostering and can you tell us about them?
A: I am currently fostering bonded buddies, Monday and Friday, and Cy with behavioral issues.

Monday is a beautiful sable-colored blue-eyed Siamese and Friday is a black and white cat with the softest fur and cutest white paws. They were strays and not used to living indoors or having much human contact. I was impressed that they have always used the litter box and the scratch box provided.

Friday loves to play with strings, wand toys, her buddy Monday, and the red laser light, and also enjoys having her belly rubbed and cheeks scratched. She has become friendly and enjoys being around humans especially if food is involved. Monday is more shy and cautious and likes to watch from under and/or on top of the desk. She also enjoys playing with string toys and is beginning to be okay with me holding her. Neither have ever put teeth on or hissed, even when stressed.

I have had Cy for just a little more than a week and am trying to figure out his triggers. We are making progress.  It helps that since I am retired I can work with him throughout the day. He does enjoy playing with wand toys and treats. So far I have found that he has issues with feet and legs so I am trying to establish a plan for him. He can be very sweet and enjoys being petted and scratched around his cheeks.

Q: Any tips that you'd like to share for other foster cat volunteers?
A: I have loved the opportunity the ARL has afforded me becoming a foster mom. One tip is don’t be afraid to ask the very knowledgeable people at the ARL if you have a concern or question. I have learned so much from asking questions and they are always willing to help.

Something I had to resolve was falling in love with my fosters and wanting to adopt them all. I found my limit that I can adopt at one time and stick to it. This way I can continue to foster many more cats. Meeting prospective adopters is a good way to see if it’s a good match. I share as much information as possible and answer questions honestly because my goal is to find a “forever” match.

I feel good about being able to open my home so the ARL can take care of all the cats that come through their door. The last tip is to enjoy being a foster parent and spread the word about fostering and its many rewards.