As you scan your community Facebook or Nextdoor pages, you see many animals in need of a “forever” home. Will Feral, our family cat, adopted us in January 2018 at around eight months old. We eventually lured him inside the house with rotisserie chicken. After numerous visits to the vet, we decided to keep him rather than send him to a no-kill shelter. As the administrators of the Tiny Kittens rescue center describes this kind of transition, Will Feral turned in his “feral card.”
Will, now nearly two years old, as far as we know, has never been around other animals in any positive way. A few months ago, a local shelter heard about Will’s story and asked us to be short-term foster parents to cats. We certainly had a lot to learn about fostering, and Will, as we saw, had a lot to learn as well.
The goal of fostering is for the experience to turn out well for the foster parents, the rescue organization, and, most of all, for the cat. To be successful, all parties need to be clear about their expectations and responsibilities.
Petfinder.com suggests some questions to ask the rescue group or shelter before you agree to foster. They advise not to be alarmed if the group doesn’t have answers to all the questions you ask because each organization has its own procedures.
Questions about the cat:
- How did he come to be with the shelter or rescue group and how long has he been there?
- Why does he need a foster home now?
- Does he have any medical concerns or need medication?
- Has he been neutered (or spayed, if the cat is female)? If not, when will he be?
- Is he up to date on his vaccinations and has he been tested for diseases such as FELV and FIV?
- Since conditions such as upper respiratory infections cannot be tested for, how long should I keep him separated from my own pets?
- Does he have any behavioral issues or concerns? How are they dealt with?
- Do you know how he is with kids, cats, dogs and/or strangers? Can my children or pets meet him before I commit to fostering him?
- Do you know how he does when left alone?
- Is he litter box trained?
Questions about the fostering process:
- How long will I be expected to foster this cat? If it’s until a suitable home is found, how long do you expect that to take?
- What happens if I can no longer care for the cat?
- Who pays for medical bills if they arise? Does that include treatments for my pets if they catch something from my foster cat?
- What should I do if there’s a medical emergency?
- Who is responsible for communicating with potential adopters, screening them and introducing the cat to them?
- Will I be required to bring him to adoption events and, if so, where/when?
- Will you provide food, litter, supplies (such as a litter box), medications, etc., or will I be expected to?
- If I have a problem, whom can I contact? If I leave a message, how quickly will that person get back to me?
- Could my foster cat be deemed unadoptable and, if so, what happens then?
- Can I adopt him if I choose?
After three successful foster experiences with the Lancaster Animal Shelter and Lancaster’s PetSense, Oshie, the seven-month-old brother of Bob and Marley whom we fostered and were immediately adoptable, has a longer road to travel. All he has ever known is a shelter kennel. It is taking time and patience to convince him to be a family companion, but he is getting there. Although Oshie is getting more comfortable around us, he immediately bonded with Will who, for all practical purposes, is doing the heavy lifting with this foster.
If you are looking for a short-term commitment and want to do something you are going to feel great about, consider fostering kittens or cats. But if you ask the right questions before you jump in, you and your foster will have a much better outcome.