Freshman Riley Cousans forms close bonds with foster cats

Smiling at the amusing fight, freshman Riley Cousans plays with her two foster cats, Milkshake and Frankie. The Cousans family began fostering cats from the Saving Sage Animal Rescue Foundation, a non-profit animal shelter, 
 in 2022. Because they [Milkshake and Frankie] dont know anyone else, my mom wanted them to go together, Cousans said.
Smiling at the amusing fight, freshman Riley Cousans plays with her two foster cats, Milkshake and Frankie. The Cousans family began fostering cats from the Saving Sage Animal Rescue Foundation, a non-profit animal shelter, in 2022. “Because they [Milkshake and Frankie] don’t know anyone else, my mom wanted them to go together,” Cousans said.
Ahana Tippanagoudar

Exhausted after a long day of school, freshman Riley Cousans sets her backpack down in her room before cleaning out four litter boxes. Once she is finished, she turns on a laser pointer and flashes it on the tiled floor. She smiles as six cats eagerly pounce on the tiny red dot, enjoying their playtime.

Many students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School own cats; however, some choose to bring cats into their homes by fostering them. Cousans is one of these individuals and is currently fostering two cats.

Cousans began fostering cats in the beginning of 2022, but before that, she personally owned three. As the last one of her cats was nearing the end of his life, Cousans decided to foster kittens to brighten up his life before he passed away. The cats, Monica, Mia, Oliver and Oscar, were eventually adopted into the Cousans family.

“When they [former cats] died, they [new cats] were originally still fosters,” Cousans said. “Then I got really sad and I didn’t want them to leave, so then we adopted them. Then we were like, we might as well foster some more because the shelter is so full.”

Cousans fosters the cats from the Saving Sage Animal Rescue Foundation, a nonprofit animal shelter and vet clinic founded in 2014. Cousans says the foundation is always full because there are not many people willing to foster animals. She believes that fostering from Saving Sage is a great opportunity because they provide caretaking resources for the people who foster their animals.

“For the foster cats, if you are planning to foster, they [Saving Sage Animal Rescue Foundation] spay and neuter them, provide you with litter and provide you with food,” Cousans said.

Although the shelter provides some of the necessities for the foster cats, Cousans and her family are also largely responsible and dedicate a lot of their time to them. They need to feed the cats, give them water, clean out their litter boxes and spend time playing with each of them.

Every member of Cousans’ family has specific jobs that allow them to divide the responsibilities of caring for the cats. The oldest daughter of the family, junior Madison Cousans, feeds all six cats breakfast and dinner whenever she is home. Cousans responsibility is cleaning out the cats’ litter boxes, which she does about three times a day. Her parents feed the cats lunch when the girls are at school.

Although fostering cats seems easy for the Cousans family, they have also experienced some struggles and setbacks. Cousans herself is allergic to cats. If she touches her face after petting a cat, her eyes get red, and her throat gets sore and congested. However, she has found a solution to this problem.

“All I really have to do is scrub my hands really hard after I touch them and cuddle them and whatnot,” Cousans said. “It’s a small price to pay.”

Cousans has found that many people do not want cats when they are too young or too old. She describes the perfect age as three to four months old. When the cats are three months old, they are spayed or neutered and placed in pet stores for people to adopt or buy.

Cousans chose Saving Sage because they are an animal rescue shelter. She feels strongly about adopting from places like Saving Sage, as opposed to breeders, because breeders force animals to give birth to multiple litters throughout their lives just so they can sell the kittens. Cousans disagrees with this practice and does not believe in intentionally breeding animals for profit.

Although Cousans finds the experience of fostering cats gratifying, she does feel sad knowing that they will eventually have to leave. However, she appreciates that they are going to a new home where they will live with people who will care for them and love them. Cousans also earns service hours for fostering cats, but she knows that she would foster cats without an incentive.

“You get three volunteer hours every day you have fosters,” Cousans said. “It honestly adds up really quickly because people I know who foster have more than 150 service hours and are only in their freshman year.”

Cousans typically fosters two to four cats when the opportunity arises. She once had 10 cats at her house at once, with six of them being fosters and four of them being her adopted cats. Fostering cats has made a positive impact on Cousans’ life and taught her many things.

“Fostering cats changed my life, especially when we started after COVID, because it really gave me something to do and it also made me realize that baby animals, like these, are given birth to and just left on the streets to fend for themselves at such a young age,” Cousans said. “They really don’t deserve to live like that and realizing that made me want to help out even more with fostering cats.”

When Cousans is not with her cats, she is often at school or doing homework. She also does taekwondo at Peak Performance Taekwondo and is a member of DECA at MSD. She enjoys collecting crystals, going to the mall and spending time with her friends.

Despite a busy academic and social schedule, Cousans always makes time for her cats. After her current fosters, Milkshake and Frankie, are adopted, she plans to foster more cats. Cousans and her family urge people to foster or volunteer at shelters to take care of cats, dogs and other animals. She has learned many skills from fostering cats, including leadership, responsibility and trust. Taking care of cats is one of her passions and she truly loves doing it.

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About the Contributor
Ahana Tippanagoudar is a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. She is a first-year reporter. Outside of school, she enjoys playing the piano, dancing, volunteering and playing with her golden retriever.
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