If you followed any of my social media handles over the past two weeks, you would have seen an explosion of little kittens across the pages. For a couple of weeks, I took care of three kittens that were five weeks old and only weighed about one pound. I decided to foster because, simply, I love animals—sometimes more than I love people (I actually have a sign in my apartment that says, “The more I get to know some people the more I like cats”). I am already a vegetarian, in the process of figuring out how to transition to veganism, and so I’m putting my money places other than the meat industry. I can’t adopt all the animals I would like to because of financial, space constraints (a whopping 800 sq ft), and the fact that I already have two cats. But the euthanization rate is so very high and I wanted to do something more: in the U.S., approximately three to four million animals (60–70%) that are turned into shelters are euthanized per year. Then I had the inspired idea to fill out the foster application for my local shelter, turn it in, and cross my fingers. I figured that the worst that could happen is that it would be a gigantic disaster and I would never do it again, so why not give it a shot?
I received a call from the foster care coordinator to come pick up my batch of kittens on Nov. 24, and the next thing I knew I was the temporary caretaker of three little fur babies. Let the good times roll! My adult cats hid under my bed the entire first day—despite the fact that they were literally 12 times bigger than one of the kittens. But by the end of the kittens’ stay, my younger adult cat (Yoda) was running around playing with them, and even picking them up by the scruffs of their necks and dragging them around. My older adult cat (Evie) remained skeptical of their intentions, although she liked to barge in to eat their food. All of that to say, I was pleasantly surprised by how well my adult cats handled the sudden intrusion on their domain.
My primary concern during this whole process was the cleanliness issue. I have an enormous, and irrational, paranoia regarding fleas. But thankfully, the shelter de-flead the kittens before giving them to me. My apartment is very clean, so I was also very concerned that my apartment would start to smell like cat pee and/or poo. I cleaned the litter boxes twice a day and had bleach and carpet cleaner on hand—and my friends reassured me that my apartment did not smell at all. Phew.
Given my experience, I figured some advice might be helpful for those of you out there considering the fostering option.
Here are some questions to ask the shelter:
- What is the average length of time that I would be keeping the animal(s)?
- Do they treat the animal(s) for fleas and heartworms prior to placing them in foster homes?
- If the foster animal gets sick while under my care, who is responsible for dealing with it?
- Will they give me any supplies (food, litter, etc.) to help me out with the fostering process?
- What happens to the animal(s) when I give them back to the shelter? (In my case, fostered animals are immediately put up for adoption and are kept up until they are adopted—thus, they have no chance of being euthanized).
- Will the shelter keep baby animals up on their booster shots while they are under my care?
Some questions to ask yourself:
- Do I have enough time (and patience) to devote to a new animal that might not be very well socialized or potty trained?
- If renting: What is my landlord’s policy on animals?
- If you already have animals: How will my animals react to a new creature in their territory? Are my animals all up-to-date on their vaccines, rabies, and flea-tick treatments? Are my animals spayed/neutered?
- Do I have adequate resources to care for an additional four-legged creature?
All of that to say, I definitely cried when the kittens were big enough to go back to the shelter. While fostering was not a simple decision or process, I am looking forward to when I get the next call for me to pick up another foster animal!
Have you ever fostered animals? What were your experiences? Tweet us @litdarling.
Oh, and how could she forget? She has three cats which she loves to bits and pieces.
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