Today we’d like to introduce you to Sarah Sylvester.
Hi Sarah, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I moved to Nashville in the summer of 2018. As part of my assimilation and acclimation process to the community, I began researching organizations in need of volunteers. I heard a story on WPLN about animal shelters in the Carolinas evacuating animals to other shelters across the south because of Hurricane Florence. I connected with Nashville Cat Rescue, which was receiving loads of cats all in need of foster homes. Nashville Cat Rescue is an all-volunteer home-based foster network. We don’t have any paid staff or a facility, just a gaggle of committed, resourceful, passionate people working tirelessly in their homes to rescue cats and kittens and give them a second chance at life. We receive anywhere from five to 20 intake requests per day.
Many are from people caring for friendly stray cats. We get a lot of requests from people who have found kittens. Some are sadder cases — like kitties whose owners have passed away, or those who have been found in hoarding cases.
One of the many things that attracted me to Nashville Cat Rescue is their lifelong commitment to the animal. The NCR policy is “once an NCR cat, always an NCR cat,” which means that if for any reason you can no longer care for the cat, NCR asks you to return the cat and allow us to handle the rehoming. NCR isn’t a one and done, now-it’s-your-problem organization. So in September of 2018, I took in my first foster kitten Daisy, a 12-week-old little black kitten with a teeny tiny white patch on her chest. Somewhere along the way, she was separated from her litter. She was an excellent introduction to fostering for me. Together we spent two weeks learning the ropes — her of life inside with a human and two cats (my resident cats Sam and Sage) and me with a little sweet kitten in need of extra attention, playtime and care. When she was ready for adoption, I bravely delivered her to Germantown on a Friday afternoon to be featured at the NCR tent at Oktoberfest. She looked at me curiously when I took her out of her carrier and placed her in the cage I had prepared for her, complete with a fuzzy blanket, a few jingle balls for playing and a scratchpad. I gave her a pep talk, a tradition I’ve now established with all of the cats I foster, about how wonderful her life is going to be. I told her that she is going to have a new family who is crazy about her and will love her oodles and oodles.
I’ve learned over the three years I’ve fostered that my now-familiar pep talks are as much for me as they are for the cats. It’s an important emotional cleansing and a reminder that while this is the difficult part of fostering, saying goodbye is also the goal. Within six hours, Daisy had found herself a charming dad who she decided would be a fitting partner for life. NCR notified me of the adoption by sending me a picture of Daisy nestled happily in the arms of her new dad, just content as she seemed in my arms. I’ve also begun a tradition of writing my adopters a letter, explaining the quirks of the cat’s personality, their favorite treats and toys and general information on their diets and preferences. I include my contact information and a huge CONGRATULATIONS and THANK YOU. Daisy’s dad reached out to me a few days following the adoption to let me know she was settling in well. Every year on her adoption anniversary, he sends me a picture and a reminder of what a lovely life companion she has been for him and his family. That began my fostering journey…
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Fostering is incredibly rewarding. I like to say fostering cats is 90% SUPER FUN and 10% SUPER STRESSFUL. The stress comes when you have a sick little one and you know you are doing all you can to help them recover, but the outcome is completely out of your hands. You become a worrying parent. For those of us without a remote work option, being away from the kitten or cat when they are sick brings its own level of unsettledness. With illness often follows messy bodily fluids presenting ever more frequently, so cleaning up and maintaining a clean environment can be an extra layer of complication. Getting to veterinarian appointments while balancing a work schedule can prove to be hectic at times also.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Founded in October 2005, Nashville Cat Rescue has placed more than 11,000 cats into loving forever homes. What started with just one adoption center and four foster homes has grown to a network of more than 50 foster homes, 100 volunteers, and 6 adoption centers. NCR’s mission is to rescue cats and kittens from Middle Tennessee area streets and high-kill shelters and adopt them into loving homes. We focus on rescuing cats and kittens who have been abandoned, rescued from neglectful or abusive homes, or are at risk of euthanasia at high-kill shelters. We receive over 16,000 intake requests per year, many for special-needs cats or kittens requiring advanced medical care. NCR enforces no age limit on intakes and rescues countless cats who would be euthanized upon intake at a shelter. Operating without a brick-and-mortar rescue facility and without paid staff, NCR relies on the hard work and dedication of our foster parents and volunteers to help rescue, house, and prepare our cats for adoption.
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, NCR relies almost exclusively on funding from grants, private donations, and adoption fees to operate. Every dollar received by NCR goes directly towards rescue, foster, adoption, and programs that educate the public on the importance of responsible pet ownership.
What makes you happy?
In fostering the mantra is “Goodbye is the Goal.” My personal fostering philosophy is replicating as much of a natural home environment for the cat as to best prepare them for an indoor life with their new family. In my home, we have bedtimes, routines, protocols and levels of privilege to help navigate life with humans, family and other pets. Happiness comes when I get an adoption update from one of my adopters explaining how loved and well-adjusted the cat is. It never fails. I’ll be having a stressful day and out of the blue, I’ll get a former foster update complete with an adorable photo of the cat sleeping, lounging or in some other beloved position. Thankfully, I have managed to attract fantastic adopters which makes saying goodbye less of a sting to the heart.
- Cat adoption fee is $125
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: www.nashvillecatrescue.org
- Instagram: @herekittykittyfoster…. | @nashvillecatrescue
Strays to Baes