I've been fostering cats during the pandemic. Here's why you should consider fostering with an animal shelter.
- I started fostering
catsthrough the ASPCA during the pandemic.
- I fell in love with the process of helping fearful
animalsblossom into cuddly companions.
Months of work led up to this moment. Sliding bowls of cat food under the couch where she hid, terrified. Disguising anxiety medication in a variety of treats. Following video tutorials for cat behavior treatments.
All of my efforts paid off when my 9-year-old foster cat Little Bit finally sank down next to me on the couch, rested her head in my lap, and began to purr.
Like many people in the early days of the pandemic, I began looking into adopting a pet. I decided to start by fostering cats before making the long-term commitment to adopt one, and ended up falling in love with the process of helping fearful animals blossom into cuddly companions in preparation for their forever homes.
Here's why I recommend volunteering with an
Fostering benefits the animal, the shelter, and the volunteer
"Spending time in foster enables shelter animals to receive dedicated care in a safe and loving home environment and to acclimate to new experiences — both are important steps towards eventual adoption," Eileen Hanavan, director of volunteer and foster engagement at the ASPCA Adoption Center, told Insider. "Foster caregivers help animals adapt to routines in a home setting and meet new people; these opportunities can directly support an animal in their future transition into an adoptive home."
Fostering doesn't just help the animal — the shelter and foster volunteer benefit, as well. As someone who works from home, I've enjoyed having furry officemates who keep me company and occasionally crash my video calls.
"Fostering helps shelters conserve their space and resources for animals in critical need, and provides people with comfort, companionship, the opportunity to learn and the chance to make a difference in an animal's life," Hanavan said.
Depending on the shelter, expenses like food and medical care may be covered for foster animals
I've been fostering through the New York City branch of the ASPCA, which covered all food, supplies, toys, medications for all of my foster cats, and even my transportation to and from the shelter if I had a foster animal with me.
I've also benefitted greatly from the support of the ASPCA's team of behavior specialists, who provide guidance on how to work with undersocialized animals to help them slowly open up and transform into loving
Not all foster animals are afraid of people — some may have medical issues, or simply need a break from the shelter.
"Keep an open mind, as animals need foster care for many reasons; they may be ready for adoption, or not quite yet due to their individual needs," Hanavan said. "Be prepared to follow instructions provided by the shelter and ask questions that will support your fostering experience and your foster animal's care."
Fostering is fulfilling, even though saying goodbye is bittersweet
The most common question I get about fostering is "Isn't it so hard to say goodbye once they get adopted?"
Yes, it is. When I handed over my first foster cat, Carson, to his new family, shelter employees kindly let me take as long as I needed to say farewell and offered me a box of tissues.
Letting go has gotten easier as I've become a more experienced foster. It's always a little bit sad, but it's also comforting to know I've played a role in helping these animals live happier, healthier lives with owners who love them.
If you're interested in fostering, Hanavan recommends contacting your local shelter
"Each community has different needs, so getting in contact with your local shelter is the best way to find out what kind of support they need most," Hanavan said. "In addition to fostering, we encourage the public to learn more about senior cats who are available for adoption at ASPCA.org/Adopt, as older animals are often overlooked in shelters and are just as deserving of a loving home as their younger counterparts."
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