Thinking about fostering a feline? Here are some considerations…

26th Oct, 2021

Written by Lynette Nicholson, founder of Nicholson Rescue

Professional photography by Strike a Pose Photography

Being a foster family for an animal in need can make a huge difference. But fostering any animal isn’t for the faint-hearted. As enjoyable and rewarding as it can be, it’s also hard work that requires commitment, energy, resources, a big heart, and a level head.

Nicholson Rescue has been operating for about eight years, and we work with a network of foster parents for our kittens and cats. This article, based on our experience over the years, highlights some of the considerations that need to be taken into account if you’re thinking of fostering.

A rewarding choice

The idea of contributing to a charitable cause and “giving something back” is probably the biggest emotional benefit of fostering. There’s no doubt that caring for an animal will awaken our compassionate and nurturing senses, which can only be beneficial, both for humans and for the animals.

The act of caring for and being responsible for the lives of those that desperately need it allows us to divert our challenges of everyday life into something different and rewarding. Witnessing a foster animal develop and grow – and hopefully blossom – is so fulfilling; knowing that you played a part in this is so worthwhile.

Consider the challenges

Fostering is great when things are going well, the animals are healthy and wonderful forever homes come along quickly, but this isn’t always the case.

Here are some of the challenges and considerations that go with fostering:

  1. Family first.
    I always impress upon new foster parents that their own animals come first. If they have a cranky cat that dislikes other cats and is very sensitive, fostering may not be the way to go. We want to avoid a situation where resident pets are upset so much by new animals in the home that they start having behavioural issues, become sick or – worse still – leave home.
    Also consider the children in the home and their ages. Very young children aren’t always suitable as they may want to pick up and hold young kittens often, which isn’t good for the kittens. And young children and their demands may make fostering quite challenging. Older children can benefit greatly from the fostering process, provided they understand that the situation is temporary and that the cats or kittens will leave for their forever homes.
  2. Do you have the space in your home to foster?
    For cats, we usually need a room or specific area in the home where the kittens or cats will be secure and safe. They should be kept separate from your own animals to minimise any stress.
  3. Are you able to commit your time and some resources to fostering?
    Usually, the foster homes contribute certain items such as cat litter, food, etc., but this would need to be discussed with the organisation for which you’re fostering. They may provide it themselves or have preferences about what type of food should be given.
  4. Are you able to cope with sickness and, sometimes, death in foster animals?
    Although not all animals needing foster care are sickly, neglected, or in bad shape, it is a possibility. The kittens and cats that we take in are often health compromised; it may happen that they become ill and need medical attention. If you partner with a reputable organisation, there will be plans in place for vet visits and treatment. In our case, all foster families need to reside relatively close to us as we use particular vets in the area to which the fosters will need to take the animals. The vet costs are usually covered by the organisation (unless otherwise arranged). Time is often of the essence with a sick kitten, so a foster with time flexibility is needed in order to get the animal urgent medical attention. Sadly, sometimes death is a part of the process, particularly with infant animals. Provided that everything was done to assist the sick animal, foster parents shouldn’t blame themselves.
  5. What happens if you have to go away (e.g. on holiday or for work) while you’re fostering?
    Sometimes it’s not convenient to take the kittens or cats back to the organisation for this period as they may not have space at the time. So you need to think carefully about your plans over the next few months when you decide to foster.
  6. People needing to meet the animals.
    Are you comfortable with having potential adopters visit your home to have a look at the cats or kittens? What is the process? Will a representative from the organisation be there for these visits or would you be happy to do this on your own and give feedback to the rescue organisation?
  7. Lastly, probably the biggest question is: “Will you be able to let the cat or kitten go when a new home is found?”
    This can be a very difficult and emotional time, and it’s best to let the organisation know as soon as possible if you decide to keep one of your fosters and become a “foster failure” (which, of course, is no failure at all). Many of our foster families have become foster failures at some time but then have continued to foster for us.

Getting started

If you’re considering fostering, the first step is to contact a reputable organisation and have a meeting with them to discuss their policies and rules for fostering to ensure that you’re aligned with their ways of working.

A home check will then be done to make sure that you have a suitable environment to foster, and you can discuss all the details around provision of food, cat litter, vet visits, etc.

Wishing you a rewarding foster experience!

[Editor’s note: The article is written by a cat rescue organisation and, as such, refers to cats and kittens. However, the fostering of any animal requires consideration and planning to ensure it’s a success.]


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