This article was originally published on the Petfinder blog.
By Emily Fromm
I encourage everyone I know to foster — even if they’re dead set on adopting.
Not only does fostering provide an invaluable service to rescue groups and the shelters who depend on foster homes (not to mention the pets themselves), it’s a great way to learn about your own needs as a pet owner. (You can’t know if you’ve got what it takes to walk a young puppy at 1, 3 and 6 a.m. until you’ve done it!)
But I’ve heard a lot of excuses — er, reasons — why people can’t or don’t want to foster. So I was delighted to get the article below in a newsletter from the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society, which answers just about every possible excuse. (It was written by Liz Pease, the shelter’s director of operations.)
With shelters overflowing and many people needing temporary care for their pets while they find new housing or weather a crisis, fostering is even more important these days. So print out this list and give it to everyone you know who thinks they just “can’t” foster.
“I DON’T HAVE THE SPACE” — I used to think this too. Then a cat came along that really, really needed me … and I made the space! All it takes is a small spare bedroom or office, a bathroom, or even a corner where you can set up a playpen cage, which you can borrow from MRFRS! While we do need foster cats to stay separate from your own cats, it doesn’t take much space to do that. And remember, whatever space you have at home is probably more than the kitty has here at the shelter now!
“I MIGHT GET ATTACHED” — OK, yes, you might. But no matter how difficult it is to bring your kitty back to the shelter, just knowing that you’re helping to save a life should ease any short-term pain. When you take in a foster cat, it gives us room to help other cats that might otherwise be brought to shelters that euthanize for time and space. It also lets us learn more about a cat’s personality than we ever could in a shelter environment, which, in turn, makes the cat much easier to adopt out. Yes, some cats are harder to bring back than others, but be strong! You can do it! (And yes, I’ve kept one foster cat, but not the 60 that followed that first one!)
“MY OWN CATS WON’T TOLERATE A FOSTER CAT, ESPECIALLY AN ADULT” — If you have a separate room, this shouldn’t be much of a problem. Yes, your cat(s) will know there is another cat in the house, and they may be a little upset about it at first. But chances are they’ll get over it pretty quickly, especially if you make sure you wash your hands after visiting with the foster cat and keep the cats from seeing each other if possible. Feliway Comfort Zone diffusers or Rescue Remedy flower essence can also help. Tell your cats they need to help do their part too! Eventually, they will be totally nonchalant about the whole idea of fostering. My cats no longer even bat an eyelash when a foster cat comes into the house.
“I CAN’T AFFORD TO TAKE ANOTHER CAT” — This one is easy! You can get all your food and litter from MRFRS if you like, and MRFRS covers all medical expenses associated with foster cats! This policy may vary across adoption groups, so if you buy your own supplies for fosters, save the receipts so you can take a tax deduction!
“A SHELTER CAT MIGHT GET MY OWN CATS SICK” — If you follow basic health protocols, such as washing your hands between handling cats and wearing an over-shirt when handling the foster cat, you shouldn’t have any problems. A sick cat should be kept in a separate room, and bedding/clothing should be washed with bleach after use. We are also happy to provide you with a bottle of heavy-duty kennel disinfectant for cleaning if you like!
“SOMEONE ELSE WILL SAY YES. THERE ARE PLENTY OF OTHER FOSTER HOMES” — They won’t and there aren’t. It’s that simple. We have lots of folks who will take kittens, but very few who will take adults, and even fewer who will take sick, feral, and/or rabies-quarantine cats. Please help us! Kittens are easy for us to place. But our poor adults need help too.
“I ALREADY HAVE A FOSTER CAT” — All right. Well, this gets you partly off the hook. But wouldn’t your foster kitty like a friend?
While this article is specific to cats and, in some places, to MRFRS, its message applies to most other animals and rescue groups. Of course, every rescue group has different expectations of fosters, but it’s true across the board that fosters are desperately needed and fostering is immensely rewarding.
Want to find a group to foster for? Look on Petfinder to find a rescue group near you and then give ’em a call. You’ll be glad you did — and so will they.