I want to foster cats, but am trying to figure out how not to emotionally injure them in the long run. Depending on the individual, the pain of abandonment by someone you love, is worse than the pain of living in a cage. How am I going to keep them from bonding to me? I can't adopt every cat I foster.
I hypothesize that young kittens, even those accustomed to humans, have a need for closeness, but are not yet bonded fully bonded to anyone. I got the idea from Chelle Gordon. It would be a sin for those that have bonded for years to be separated.
Felines bond for life: (Caring for a Serval Cat as an Exotic Pet), and will have difficulty bonding again if re-homed. Felines such as lions and cheetahs, form life-long coalitions.
Most humans don't understand cat's capacity for emotional attachment. Cats that have been abandoned, or even those that have been in foster homes, will always remember their previous owners.
I found this thread on Reddit:
In particular one post:
“We've had many cats over the years - ours and foster cats, but only 1 comes to mind for abandonment issues. He was dumped as a kitten, but was adopted by a neighbor. They had him for years and eventually they moved a couple towns over. A few years later, they had to move again and somehow he ended up not going with. Don't know if they dumped him or he ran. Anyway, he showed back up in the neighborhood and we took him in. It took us months to gain his trust enough to get him in the house, but he didn't bond with us. When my brother moved in, kitty bonded strongly to brother and did NOT take it well when brother joined the military - in kitty's mind he had been abandoned again. He'd run away for weeks at a time. When brother came home after training, kitty was LIVID with him, but eventually forgave him. They've been together since.”
“Adopting is when you intend to keep them forever. Fostering is when you only want to keep them until a new home can be found. I have adopted cats and fostered them. You have to be careful when fostering. If you intend to keep them for a while then find new homes, good luck. There are so many cats and kittens out there that need homes it is often difficult to find proper homes you would really like to leave your babies with. If you only wanted to keep them for a little while only, you are stuck. The other danger is getting so attached that you can’t bear to give them up. You could wind up with way more cats than you ever intended to have. Fostering and giving up a kitten or cat that you have put time, effort and usually money into is hard. I have sobbed at giving up kittens I have bottle fed and gave up because I already had more cats than I could reasonably take care off. I rarely foster anymore because it gets to you after awhile, giving away a cat that you have really come to love.” source
“…your best bet is a kitten that was brought up with human care, handled and loved by humans as soon as it was possible to do so up until four months. These are formative times for cats and if they haven’t gotten used to human contact, handling and scent by four months, they’re very likely not going to be able to form a complete trust of any humans thereafter. Even so, that doesn’t mean that they then can’t learn to live around humans but they definitely won’t become the lap kitty that people yearn for.” source
I am fostering a 3 year old girl cat, and while she enjoys my company, she is set in her ways and doesn't fully trust me.