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Life of a college foster parent

My fianc and I (boyfriend at the time) were in Alexandria, VA enjoying a trip away from University of Maryland, College Park last November when we were invited to go upstairs in a store to see Tails High cats for adoption. There we met Kelley Cislo who told us all about the opportunity to become foster parents of cats. I was ECSTATIC. As a cat fanatic (born and raised with a cat), I had been feeling the pangs of living without a pet for my four years of college. As a senior, it was still too early to officially adopt a pet, but this was a perfect way to help the organization out by watching over any cat that needed a temporary home. And, as chance had it, I had fallen in love with someone allergic to cats. I knew that I NEEDED a cat as soon as my cap flew in the air on graduation day, but fostering provided an opportunity to see how his allergies reacted to various cats while not committing.

And that day, Dez (Desdemona) stole our hearts. I quickly called my roommate Diana to see if she would be ok with fostering and, though mainly a dog person, she was also very excited at simply having the opportunity to have a little pal around in our previously pet-free college lives.

Dez (pictured below) was adopted by the time we were going to pick her up the next day.


Diana and I were happy to pick out a new foster pet and chose Pumpkin, a loving (and rather hefty) orange cat (pictured below in our apartment the first day he arrived). He quickly was following us everywhere, sitting on our laptops as we wrote papers for school (clearly preventing us from doing work) and became a close friend from day 1. Dmitriy (my fianc) also fell in love with Pumpkin, a great sign for us having cats in the future!


Because of our student schedule of having 6 weeks off for winter break, Pumpkin was luckily adopted in time for our break, and we got to go home to our pets (see my Himalayan, Belle, pictured below at home in California).


But Tails High welcomed us back from break for a new friend to accompany us in our last semester of college. Peanut (pictured below on our windowsill), an extremely shy but beautiful girl, became our companion. She really was more of a squatter in our apartment (as we rarely saw her for the first few weeks) but she slowly warmed up to being at least near us. But as spring break came around, Peanut had to be taken back.


As chance had it, we were given a small girl, Jayla (pictured below), once we returned. Jayla had recently been a rescued mother and had lost 3 of her babies while suffering illness. We were happy to welcome her, but afraid she would be rather sad and tired after her emotional stresses. But Diana and I soon learned that she was a spitfire! From day 1 she was not only happy cuddling in our laps and touching noses with us, but was sprinting through our apartment and playing with anything that remotely resembled a toyanything.

Jayla now Cleo

She slept through the night, played through the day, talked to us all the time and clearly demanded not only a lot of attention, but a warm spot in our hearts. Dmitriy took to her right away (she always ran up to touch his nose first) and when he came over to visit, had no allergy issues. But Kelley called us one day and told us it was time for her to show at an adoption event. We fretted the evening away because we had found one of the best cats any of us had ever met and knew someone at the event would fall in love with her as well. As Kelley walked up the stairs the next morning with a new cat (Snook) for us, I had to break down and tell her that Jayla was now a part of our family, and there was no way we were giving her up!

Her new name is Cleo (as in Cleopatra), and she has been a great companion through our last couple of months of college. In August, she will become a city-girl when Dmitriy and I start our careers in New York City. Various pictures below show Cleo fitting right into the family.

Dmitriy and CleoShannon and Cleo









Cleo under cover

Cleo exposed in backpack

One day our future children will be coloring pictures of their family for a Kindergarten assignment, and Cleo will be created in Crayola-style. For the next couple months, Dmitriy and I will be backpacking through Europe, but we didnt want to let that stop us from adopting a family member and will rely on another loving foster parent to care for her as we did all of our foster kitties.

I strongly encourage any college student that has a living situation conducive to pets (and a willing roommate) to foster as an answer to their pet-companionship needs! I hope I can find an organization as great as Tails High to be involved with in NYC!


Shannon Kielty

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