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I really loved being a foster mom for dogs, cats and kittens.

I recommend it, although it’s not for the faint-hearted. It has its risks – like falling in love with one of your charges and having to make room for another permanent member of your fur tribe. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing, it’s just that you’re kind of on the back-foot since it sort of happens without you seeming to have any say in it at all.

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Fostering is ideal and incredibly rewarding if:

+ your cat or dog has died and you miss them but are not quite ready for another cat or dog

+ you are not able to commit long-term to a pet but would love to have animals in your home

+ you have a space in your home and the time for an injured dog or cat who needs nursing (away from your existing tribe if necessary). If you are thinking of raising kittens or puppies (and this is only for a maximum of 6 weeks per litter usually) you will need a room you can give over to a kitten or puppy nursery.

+ you are aware that while you are only looking after them temporarily and ultimately you have to let them go, you are doing something truly invaluable for the animals you foster that will hold them in good stead for their whole lives.

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I have fostered both dogs and cats, but far more cats: queens and their kittens and orphaned kittens. If you have a spare room you can give over to temporary kitten nursery, go for it. The difference you are making to the queen cat is huge, even if she seems indifferent. Not least because she is able to have time out from her babies now and again which helps her be a better cat mom.

However, the difference you are making to those kittens is gigantic since they experience a home life rather than a shelter and are able to bond gently with people in a home environment, have a huge area to play in (as opposed to a cage). This means, as well as their overall enhanced mental and emotional health, it is easier for them to get a good forever home once they are put up for adoption because they are friendly, well-balanced and – fanfare – house trained.

Shelters, local cat and dog rescue groups and even vets are always grateful when people offer to be a foster mom or dad. They provide you with full veterinary support and food. (Although you may want to get the food yourself to help out more and save the shelter money.) And they will understand and empathize when you bring the kittens or puppies back to be put up for adoption and you can’t speak and tears are rolling down your face.

Yes, it is emotional. You will likely not ever see them again and yet they have been such a big part of your life over a short period of time. But I can’t tell you how proud of yourself you will feel and you’ll have a real sense of fulfilment having helped your foster animals be stronger, healthier and better directly because of your care.

When I took my (note the ‘my’! foster animals always ‘belong’ to the shelter or group who have allowed you to care for them) kittens back I would reassure myself by thinking that the 4-6 weeks each litter of kittens stayed with me would have a hugely positive impact on their possibly 20 years + life. So I would focus on being the person that helped them find their forever home. And that is a real gift to them – every bit as valuable if not more so than if you had given them a forever home.

So many people would say to me ‘fostering must be so hard – how do you manage to give them back?’ Well, that’s just dumb when you think about it. You manage to give them back because you are not arrogant enough to think you are the only person in the world that could give that cat or dog a home and that you are a foster carer.

I can say arrogant here because I have done this myself. I once had a beautiful silver tabby queen who I took back with her kittens to be put up for adoption. I forced myself not to adopt her myself. It was really hard! I told myself I would wait 3 days to see if someone might adopt her and if not, I would do so.

I called on the third day and wouldn’t ya know it? She had just the hour before been taken to her forever home! And yes, I was assured, the young lady who took her was lovely. So I learned about arrogance there – thank you “Queenie” as I had called her.

Foster carers by definition love and care for animals short term in order to help them long term. Please, if you are considering fostering, contact your local group today and have a chat with someone there. I will share some of my experiences of fostering in later posts.

* This beautiful photograph “Shelter Dog No.5” by Susan Sabo is available to purchase in her Etsy shop: Susan Sabo Photography.

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