Our Humane Society Police Officer conducted 200 animal cruelty and neglect investigations in 2022, and one of those investigations led Officer Cruz to Bubble. Bubble, along with six other cats and numerous other animals, was living in a house where his paws could not even touch the floor. His owner was the victim of a hoarding disorder, and therefore, Bubble was a victim, too. Household items and garbage were piled in mounds throughout the house, some taller than the bed. The animals were doing their best to survive, but as Officer Cruz found, some had not. They had been suffering severely from neglect, unsanitary conditions, and lack of veterinary care, and we do not know for how long. Officer Cruz rescued he could and transported them to the YCSPCA.
When Bubble arrived at our shelter, he was terrified. We imagine the cats in that house spent most of their time hiding or staying in one place. There was no open space to roam or explore, so we believe Bubble’s entire world for one or a few years of his young life was extremely small, extremely limited. Bubble was ear-tipped, which means he lived as an outdoor cat at some point in his life as ear-tipping is a sign that an outdoor cat has been spayed or neutered. If Bubble transitioned from being an outdoor cat to living in a house devastated by hoarding, Bubble’s only experience of home life would have been traumatizing. At just four years old, it’s likely the only home life he knew was scarred by neglect. Bubble had no medical records, so it’s also likely he never stepped a paw outside the house, not even to go to the veterinarian, once he was inside.
Bubble struggled immensely to feel comfortable at the shelter. After being suddenly removed from his confined world to an immense space with hundreds of other animals, it only made sense that Bubble was scared. He would hide in the corner of his cage in cattery, under blankets or a bed, and stay as invisible as possible. Our staff and volunteers worked with Bubble and the other animals he was rescued with to help them relax, trust humans, socialize, and begin to feel ease, maybe even happiness. The other cats began making progress but while they were letting down their guard, Bubble could not. In fact, he shut down. Bubble was beyond stressed – he was petrified.
At that time, we started looking for a foster home for Bubble. Fostering is critical to saving lives. Many animals do not thrive in the shelter environment due to reasons ranging from fear and anxiety to medical issues or behavioral challenges. Sometimes, an animal simply cannot thrive in the stressful, overwhelming energy of a shelter day after day. Foster homes give these animals a soft place to land, a place to find ease and comfort. Foster caretakers give animals the love and affection they may have forgotten they deserve, and they can provide individualized care, socialization, enrichment, and routine. Animals who are mentally or physically declining in the shelter depend on fosters to keep going. Fostering truly does save lives, and there are 458 cats whose lives turned around in foster throughout 2022 who can attest to that.
Bubble moved from the shelter into his foster home on March 9th, 2022 – another significant transition. But this time, Bubble could adjust and decompress in the peaceful, cozy environment of a home. His foster mom, Anna, ensured she and her family gave Bubble as much space and time as he needed. Bubble was their very first foster cat, but despite being new foster caretakers, they seemed to know exactly what Bubble needed.
“He was very shy and scared, and he mostly hid under his blanket for days,” Anna said. “I did all the things to make him comfortable and allow him to get to know me. I spent many hours just sitting in his safe room, hanging out and waiting.” Anna continued this for about two weeks, after which time there didn’t appear to be much change in Bubble’s comfort level. However, this slow-paced socialization allowed Bubble to feel secure in a home, and it taught him he could be at ease with a person nearby. These were tremendous steps of progress for a cat who previously had no trust or sense of security. During those two weeks, Anna showed Bubble that he was safe. She showed him that a person was going to love him and show up for him every single day. Anna helped Bubble acclimate to home life and to the presence of people at his own speed, even if that speed was quite slow.
After two weeks, Anna decided to try softly talking to him and giving him gentle pets. By this time, Bubble had grown more comfortable coming out of his safe place in his crate, exploring, and accepting attention. On March 22nd, Anna’s patience paid off. While she was petting Bubble, “He purred, rubbed his head against my hand, and almost sat in my lap!” she said. “That was big progress for our scared boy.” After that milestone, Anna began introducing Bubble to her young daughters. “They so desperately wanted to pet and play with him,” she said. Then, finally on April 10th, Bubble allowed them to pet him. “He purred up a storm and rolled around enjoying the pets,” Anna said. This was extraordinary growth for Bubble. With a reassuring foster home and dedicated foster family, Bubble finally began letting his guard down. He not only felt safe enough to trust people, but he felt comfortable enough to show love – and to let love in. Thanks to about four weeks in foster care, Bubble was healing from the last few years of his life. He had come so far that we began preparing for the next stage of his journey – adoption.
We updated Bubble’s bio and listed him as available for adoption; however, he was receiving no applications. In the meantime, Anna and her family were falling deeper in love with the cat they rehabilitated from paralyzed with fear to purring, belly-rub-seeking sweetheart. And Bubble, who had finally found a place where he could open his heart and let himself find peace, was clearly in love with his foster family, too. Shortly after Bubble was listed for adoption, he overcame another hurdle. “He finally sat in my lap,” Anna said, “and I burst into tears! After that, we knew we wanted to adopt him.”
On April 29th, about seven weeks after welcoming Bubble into their home temporarily, Anna and her family officially welcomed Bubble into their home for forever. Since then, he has only continued to blossom into his true self, becoming more confident and more loving by the day. “Since adopting him,” Anna said, “Bubble has fit right in with my other resident cats and has become a total love bug. He follows me around waiting for pets and snuggles and he even coos when he’s really happy.”
But his happy ending doesn’t end there. Anna and her family have continued fostering nearly two dozen cats and kittens since adopting Bubble (including their most recent foster, Bubbles). Bubble has become the foster mentor – he helps the new fosters feel comfortable, learn to socialize, and become the best versions of themselves, just like he learned. Anna said, “As our foster journey continues, Bubble has taken on the role of ‘Uncle Bubble: Foster Advocate.’ He is always first to say ‘hi’ to the new fosters, and he always plays with them under the door. He even somehow trained one kitten to slide some dry food under the door for him to snack on!” As Anna and her family continue saving the lives of cats and kittens in need, Bubble is training them to bring him treats.
“While the beginning of Bubble’s journey with us was challenging,” Anna said, “he was absolutely worth the wait! He has turned out to be such a fun and snuggly cat, and he is truly in his furever home now. My family and I continue to foster and are so grateful for all the cats we’ve helped get adopted over the past year.”
Bubble taught us that fostering saves lives not only thanks to the human caretakers, but also thanks to Uncle Bubble: Foster Advocate.