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  • Terri VanValkinburgh, Assistant Principal Viola

How to Live with 20 Cats

One at a time, sometimes two. Ok, there was that one time where there were three cats living in my house at the same time. And to be honest it's been more than once. But I won't go over three at a time. Probably.

The interwebs can get you in a lot of trouble if you're not careful. One minute you're looking through Facebook to secretly stalk the annoying over-poster-of-every-life-detail (why? Because that’s why EVERYONE’S on Facebook – hello) when you stumble on a page about cats at Animal Care & Control, i.e.; the pound, and your previously stone-cold annoyance melts into something, I don’t know, called compassion (go ahead, look it up, I had to) and you find yourself calling one of the most awesome shelters in Chicago and babbling about these cats you saw on the internet thing and can you foster them? So the next morning you're hauling yourself out of bed at the unholy hour of 7am (I'm a musician, anything before 10am is a felony), and driving your boyfriend’s car to the pound to pick up these very cute, not-feeling-all-that-great kitties named, I kid you not, Harry and Potter. That, my friends, is the origin story of the adventure I'm calling A Violist’s Home For Wayward Cats.

For three years I’ve been fostering for Tree House Humane Society. They have a wonderful program where you give a cat a temporary home, bring said cat to the shelter clinic periodically for check-ups and treatments, and when there's space on the adoption floor the foster cat takes up residence at the shelter to find their permanent home. Until that time, you get a cat! A usually very hungry, sometimes frightened cat. You will find yourself on the floor, peering under the couch, saying things you never thought would come out of your mouth (‘don't do that to your sister, she's just not that into you’). You will learn the grossest things about parasites like ring worm (it's not a worm! it's a fungus! Yay for bleach!). And you will discover that the biggest, toughest tom cats are the biggest, purr-monster lap cats.

Sometimes it's tough to take them back when there's room at the shelter but there’s usually another one waiting for a room, some food, and a lap to snooze in while you’re trolling online (some habits die hard). The one thing a foster cat will never do is tell anyone anything about your stupid, awful Facebook habit. Good kitty.

For more information on Tree House and fostering cats, please visit

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