I love the idea of fostering but have absolutely no experience, so I decided to ask my friend Doh to tell us more about it. Doh fosters through PAWS is the Seattle area. I would love to get a list going of different places people may foster from across the globe. Do you know of one? We would also love to hear about your experiences!
I have long been of the opinion/fact that the world would be a better place if kittens and puppies stayed kittens and puppies forever. Frolicking babies of any species is enough to melt the coldest heart. I mean, c’mon. How could anyone ever be unhappy when surrounded by so much cuteness? Alas, those darling little balls of fluff grow up – into the sweet cats and dogs we spend many years loving, don’t get me wrong – and the world is a mess. So much for my fantasy of world peace via baby animals.
Well, you can’t force other people to be happy (dang it) but you can make a happy bubble for yourself with perpetual kittenhood with a simple program your local shelter may participate in: fostering. WAIT! I know what you’re going to say because I’m psychic. I’ll bet you $50 I’m right. Don’t even say it out loud, just write it on a piece of paper before you read any further. [To send me my fifty dollars, contact the blog owner for my address.] For added suspense, I’m not going to tell you what you were going to say just yet.
KITTEN PREJUDICE ALERT: I foster kittens (and an occasional cat), so I’m going to write about fostering kittens, but the information is roughly the same for puppies, adult cats, elderly dogs, bunnies, ferrets… any animal at your local shelter. So if you don’t want to foster kittens, that’s okay, you can still read this blog post! Every time you see the word “kittens,” just mentally substitute in your preferred species/age/situation. Carry on!
So, lemme tell ya’, it’s 24/7 adorableness at my house. If you like adorableness – which you do, if you’re human – you should try it.
The details of fostering depend on your local shelter’s program. The basic idea is that the foster family takes good care of the kittens for some length of time, and then the animals get adopted by her or his permanent family. Speaking very generally, the shelter provides veterinary care and medication and finds the adopters, and the foster family provides food, toys/supplies, and socialization a.k.a. cuddles. The goal and length of time depends on the particular situation of the animal. I tend to take healthy kittens that just need a place to grow until they’re big enough for their neuter surgery at 8 weeks of age, but I have taken others (sickly babes, adult cats needing a break from the shelter, etc.) depending on my availability.
I foster because my two awesome adult cats were fostered. Somewhere out there are two foster families I’d like to thank. Since I can’t do that, instead I prepare other kittens for their permanent homes by trimming their itty-bitty claws and teaching them good kitty manners. When the opportunity arises, I also introduce them to a variety of situations – dogs, kids, other adults, loud noises, and so on – so they will be highly adoptable and successful in their forever homes.
The types of animals you foster are up to you. When you foster, and for how long, and under which conditions, are also up to you. If you’ve got a soft spot for animals that need some rehabilitation, there are animals for you. If you prefer only black fur to match your wardrobe, you can be that specific. Maybe you want a dog that will force you to take long walks in the dead of winter. Maybe you travel too much for a lifetime commitment to a companion of your own, but when you’re home you crave a warm, furry belly to rub. I don’t know. But I do know that there are hundreds of animals in shelters who need a boost so they can become adoptable, and that’s what fostering offers them.
You don’t have to foster constantly; you can do it when you feel like it and have the time. You don’t even need a lot of space, sometimes just a bathroom will do. However, before you commit to fostering, do consider if this is the right time in your life. Make sure you can afford any extra expenses and extra demands on your time. If you have companion animals of your own, carefully evaluate the effect that bringing in fosters would have on their well-being, and get them up-to-date on vaccinations and health exams.
Now I’ll tell you what you were going to say earlier. And the truth is, I’m not psychic, it’s just what everyone says. I used to say it, too, because for an animal lover, it’s the #1 concern (but I’ll still be right and you’ll still owe me 50 bucks). You were going to exclaim some variation of: “BUT I COULD NEVER GIVE THEM UP!” I know. I understand the concern. And I promise, you don’t love animals more than I do; if I can part with them, so can you. I’ll let you in on a secret: you typically don’t get quite as attached to your foster animals as you do to the ones you know you get to keep. It’s a mental safeguard, I guess. Plus, the knowledge that you are making them highly adoptable and prepared for their forever home will carry you through the (admittedly difficult) return process.
Yes, I have gotten very attached to some of the kittens and I have, on occasion, cried when returning them. What can I say? Sometimes you just bond. But rather than dwelling on the goodbye, instead I think about the next one(s). I think about all the animals in shelters who would love to spend some time with me and could use my help to get themselves adopted. I think about all the happy families out there who have terrific animal companions because someone fostered them. I think about my own terrific cats, and how grateful I am someone gave them a great start.
Maybe one of your fosters really will be THE ONE. What a great way to meet your best furry friend! I’ll pass on the one bit of advice I was given by the foster program coordinator: never adopt your first foster. After that, you’re in a better place to be discerning and find the perfect fit, or to just enjoy perpetual kittenhood.