Happy family holding cats.

Foster of the Month: Aarati

For our Foster of the Month for March, we just had to put Aarati—and the magic touch she and her family have with shy cats—in the SAFe spotlight! 

Growing up, being surrounded by all kinds of animal friends from dogs to cows was the norm for Aarati. She was no stranger to cats either, since litters of kittens were being born and running around the area she lived every three or four months. Aarati took care of many strays and helped them get adopted. 

Aarati’s love for animals followed her to the US where she adopted her first dog. She recalls, “We tabled the idea of having a cat.” The dog wasn’t a fan of cats, so her humans got another dog friend for her instead. 

Between losing their beloved older dog and COVID-19 turning the world upside down, in 2020, Aarati knew it was time to fill the hole in her heart and make the most of the time her family had to stay home together. Being able to help cats short-term and knowing that foster cats require less space gave her the confidence to give this fostering thing a try. 

Luckily, being able to foster was just what their family needed! Now, the SAFe foster team loves watching Aarati’s family help so many cats transform from shy to complete lovebugs. 

The most rewarding foster experiences for Aarati? “Initially, when they come, some cats could be scared and grumpy. As trust is gained, the love in their eyes and purr music you get to hear is super rewarding.” Getting the approval to go to their forever families is a proud moment.”

Fostering is filled with good days and bad days. Growing up, Aarati was no stranger to losing a beloved animal. SAFe knows whether you foster a cat for a few minutes or a few months, losing them is never easy or any less painful. Aarati learned foster heartbreak firsthand when she found out a litter she was fostering had distemper and might not be able to beat this devastating illness. She recalls, “Hearing that they might not make it was super challenging to digest by myself but also to communicate to my son and husband. We all were doubting if we missed signs.”

Aarati and her family decided to stay positive and trust the SAFe team while they continued to care for the kittens and hope for the best for their health. She remembers, “Wishing the kittens have a strong will to live was the best we could do. Having regular sync with the medical team helped us know they were getting better and will soon come back. Deeply sanitizing every inch of that room was challenging too. We all worked as a team. I, my husband, and my son rolled up our sleeves, divided the work, and took care of laundry.” It wasn’t easy but their family pulled through together—and the kittens survived!

Speaking of family, Aarati made sure to let us know she couldn’t foster without the help and support of her fostering copilot rockstars! She gushes that—even though her 11 year-old son, Samvit, had never experienced cats before other than at a relative’s home in India—now he’s a huge help! “His role is to throw out the dirty litter, play with kitties and share responsibilities around giving food, water, and cleaning their utensils. He is also their nap buddy.” 

The second copilot is Aarati’s husband Chetan: “He never had a pet growing up. Our dogs are his first pets. He was initially apprehensive about the idea of having cats. Now with every foster, he tells them he would love to keep them. He seems to have the knack to work with scared or feisty kittens. Kaali, the single-eyed kitten, used to come and greet him every time he entered the door, unlike when he noticed it’s me or son and would hide or ignore us…. While I am the bad cop, since I give medicines, they both are the good cops and shower foster cats with love and play.”

Aarati says cats totally helped make living in a world of socially distancing way more fun: “Kittens have made a huge difference. I miss in-person engagement with my work team. Through SAFe, I have found a new connection with the community where I can meet and chat regularly in person. Working and studying from home seemed to have a purpose when we had cats to take care of. These kittens now give me more chances to engage with my cat-loving colleagues and make zoom calls fun with my family in India.. Fostering allows me to follow my heart and passion while taking care of other commitments.”

When SAFe asked if we could feature Aarati and her family as our Fosters of the Month for March, of course she stepped up. Not to be in the spotlight herself but “To do my share of advocating for fostering!” She says, “I was worried I can’t do fostering with a full-time job. I learned that with remote workdays, it has become much more accessible. Also, the SAFe team is super accommodating on nonurgent items. Fostering needs patience and some time to engage with the cats. There are occasional hisses and scratches, but frankly, those have been great learning opportunities especially for my son. So if you have the desire to go and try it out, we and the whole SAFe community are here to help you.”

Aarati’s dedication continuously reminds all of us at SAFe how lucky we are to have her and her family as a part of the fostering team and community. We can’t put into words how grateful we are for her and her family believing they had something to offer to kitties in need by fostering with SAFe!

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