Fostering is for Everyone! Yes, you!
As the rescue mantra goes, “If you can’t adopt, foster.” For many animal rescue organizations, fostering is the most important thing a person can do to help find homes for homeless pets. In many ways, it is better than adopting because you save more lives over the course of a year than if you adopted. By adopting, I have saved 6 cats over a 10 year period. Over the same time, I have saved hundreds of cat and kittens as a foster mom.
So why are rescue groups always short on foster homes? Because most potential fosters use the excuse ‘Oh no, I could never foster because I’d never give them up, or I’d be too upset if I did.’ Other reasons include not having the space, or not wanting to upset current pets. Often money and time are concerns as well. This post will tell you why you can and should foster.
Don’t be sad, you’re saving lives!
Sure, saying goodbye the first few times will be tough: its likely you will shed some tears. Maybe you won’t even want to be there when she goes home, but then again, perhaps you’ll want to be the one to drive her there. Everyone deals with it differently, but the bottom line is this: if you decide not to foster because you ‘can’t handle’ the goodbyes, that pet may not have a chance. She may spend the rest of her life on the street, be euthanized alone and afraid, or abandoned because there are not enough foster homes .
So be strong, and keep the goal in mind: save more lives! Get more pets adopted! Once you get going, you’ll be addicted to the happy endings. Besides, the sadness only lasts a short time because before you know it, you’ll get another adorable foster and you’ll fall in love all over again.
A Small Space in your Home = A Large space in your heart
For those of you who don’t think you have enough room to foster, think again. Only a handful of hardcore rescuers live in mansions; the rest of us live in small to moderately sized homes, some even in apartments, and simply make do with what we have. For a cat whose life is in jeopardy, the space in your heart is worth more than the space in your home.
Our rescue suggests using a small room such as a bathroom or laundry room, but we also supply large dog crates for fostering as well. A litter of young kittens, a pair of juveniles, or a single adult will do just fine in a large crate; they need your love more than they need the run of your house.
Small rooms are often better for fostering because it forces the animals to get used to interaction and being held, whereas cats with a whole house can easily evade handling or hide for days on end. Plus, crates or separate rooms keep the fosters away from your current pets, which will help to keep the peace if your pets aren’t too thrilled about your new hobby.
Finding family in a rescue group
Feeling comfortable with a rescue’s volunteers and leaders is important if you want to have a pleasant experience. Ideally, they should be a kind of support group to help you through the early emotions, celebrate your happy endings, and be on your side when making tough decisions. Most adoption groups allow fosters to be involved in the adoption process from start to finish, and I would encourage this. This gives you the opportunity to get to know and feel comfortable with the family that is adopting your foster, and will make parting with them much easier. Familiarize yourself with the group’s approval/screening process, too. Any reputable organization will have one.
Both cat rescue groups I work with (Pet Adoption Network & Fur Friends in Need) give the foster family the final say on whether or not a pet goes home with a certain family. After all, fosters know the animal the best, and will have the most worthy insight on whether or not potential adopters are a good match or not. If you would rather not (or don’t have time) to be so deeply involved, find a group whose leadership and adoption process you trust. You provide the caring, cuddling, playing (and cleaning, too); they’ll take care of the rest.
Fostering: Eternally rewarding
As I’m writing this, I’m sitting beside my foster, Freckles, a 1-year-old cow-print cat whose family loved him while he was a baby, but surrendered him as soon as he became a full grown cat. Clearly, they didn’t understand the meaning of ‘furever.’ That happens. Right now, my role is to encourage Freckles to feel comfortable during the transition, help him to trust people again, and keep him happy and healthy until his real family comes along. Basically, keep his spirits up, play with him, and love him when other people or circumstances have let him down.
He’s doing wonderfully: rubbing on my feet, crawling under my legs, and rolling over constantly. It doesn’t get any better than knowing I’m part of the reason he is doing well, the reason he’s purring right now, the reason that his eyes- and mine- are filled with hope and happiness.
(UPDATE: Freckles was adopted in the fall of 2013 to a wonderful home that is a perfect match for him, definitely worth the wait!)