ashland.news
June 14, 2024

Catty Corner: Foster a cat this summer and save a life (or many)

Fostering during kitten season saves lives and helps cats and kittens find good permanent homes. Photo courtesy of C.A.T.S.
June 10, 2024

Local rescues are seeking foster families for cats and kittens

By Midge Raymond 

With Jackson County Animal Services no longer accepting stray or surrendered cats and kittens, local cat rescues are desperate for foster families during an especially busy kitten season. The good news? You can help. Fostering costs nothing but time, and it’s easy, fun and rewarding. 

What is fostering, exactly? 

Fostering a cat (or two, or a litter of kittens) means taking them into your home for a period of time before they are adopted to their forever homes. Rescue organizations need fosters for myriad reasons — cats may be ill and need a home environment in which to recover, or they may be awaiting their spay/neuter appointments. Young kittens may need bottle feeding or socialization or, for organizations that provide onsite shelter, there are simply too many cats, or stressed cats need a break.

Fostering is ideal for those who don’t want a long-term commitment, or for people whose homes may be too small for a lifelong pet. “A lot of folks don’t want to adopt but have the energy and time and space to foster,” says Terri Frazier, cat foster program coordinator for Friends of the Animals. “It’s really the best of all worlds.”

“Fosters allow us to have more cats in our program than we have room for at our shelter,” says Sandra Fowler, office manager for Committed Alliance to Strays (C.A.T.S.).

Adorable stray kittens often need socialization before becoming ready for adoption. Photo courtesy of Adrienne Reynolds
What types of cats need fostering the most right now?

One of C.A.T.S.’ biggest needs is fosters to care for “bottle babies” — kittens who are too young to eat on their own and need to be fed around the clock. “Bottle babies need a lot of time, just like human babies,” Fowler says. “We can teach you how to care for them.”

Estrella Cervantes, operations manager at the nonprofit shelter SoHumane in Medford, is also seeking fosters for kittens and bottle babies, as well as for adult cats “who are having a hard time, who are just not acclimating to the shelter.” 

And Amanda Linnehan, president and executive director of Feral Cats Advocacy, is currently looking for brave foster families — “people comfortable with working kittens through the hissy phase, or people that are comfortable giving medication because almost all the kittens we get are sick.” 

Will foster families have help along the way?

All rescues provide hands-on training for foster families, as well as all the supplies you need, from food to medical care to bedding to toys. “Anything that’s a barrier to getting a cat into foster — we’re going to try to remove that barrier,” says Cervantes. Often, she finds, potential fosters worry about the cost. “It seems when I talk to people about fostering, they think, ‘What’s the catch?’ There isn’t one. We will give you anything you need — medications, medical care, training. If you tell me you need a baby gate, I’ll get you a baby gate. That’s all provided — you just take care of them. There is no cost. And you get to name your kittens, too. I feel like that’s a fun little perk.” 

As a foster, your own pets will need to be welcoming to temporary new siblings and should also be healthy, sterilized and up-to-date on all vaccines. And you’ll need a little extra space. “Potential fosters should have a small area in their home, such as an office, bathroom or quiet, neutral, calm room where the cat or kittens can become acclimated and cared for in a controlled environment,” says Adrienne Reynolds, founder of the nonprofit rescue The Crowned Cat. “The room should be escape-proof and not contain any hazards.”

Among the perks of fostering kittens: You get to name them, and you can get more kittens once your fosters are adopted. Photo courtesy of Adrienne Reynolds

Once the cats are comfortable, however, it’s good to introduce foster felines to other nonhuman members of the household. “After a while, we love if fosters have dogs or other cats that their charges can be around and get used to,” says Fowler. “Being friendly with dogs is a huge adoption plus.” 

How long does fostering take, and how long does it last?

This all depends on the cats or kittens. A foster family may have cats or kittens from three weeks up to three months. 

If you don’t have enough time to devote weeks or months to fostering, “I’m always looking for sub-fosters,” says Frazier of FOTAS. A sub-foster is someone who can step in when a long-term foster family needs someone to temporarily foster their cats or kittens. 

“Sub-fostering is a great way to go if you don’t have a lot of time,” Frazier says. “The kittens are older and easier to care for; they’re more socialized. Sub-fostering can be anywhere from a day or two to a week or 10 days.”

Regarding the daily time commitment, fosters should expect to spend “at least two to three hours per day caring for the cat or kitten in their care,” says Reynolds. Cats and kittens not only need fresh food and water and clean litter boxes, they also need enrichment and socialization — especially kittens. “Playing, stimulation and socialization are paramount when fostering kittens.” 

Most rescues need fosters for their “bottle babies,” kittens who need round-the-clock care. Photo courtesy of Adrienne Reynolds

Bottle babies need 24-hour care, Fowler says, and even weaned kittens shouldn’t be left alone for long. “They need several feedings of soft food throughout the day and need to be checked on frequently since their immune systems are not highly developed and they can get sick easily.” 

Adult cats, on the other hand, need companionship most of all. “They need someone to be around them for at least an hour or two a day,” says Fowler. “It’s a good time to sit quietly and read a book or work on knitting.”  

So, what’s the catch?

If there is a downside to being a cat foster, it may be what’s jokingly known as “foster failure,” in which fosters end up adopting the cats or kittens in their care. Some fosters also find it challenging to say goodbye, or may fear getting too attached. But as Cervantes says, “Goodbye is the goal. We want them to get ready for adoption; otherwise we can’t bring in more. If we have fosters who have a hard time with it, we line up another litter for them, and it eases the sting a little bit. And we also tell them when the cats get adopted and send pictures, and that helps. It’s absolutely hard to let go, and that’s okay.”

As Frazier sees it, there’s no downside to fostering kittens. “Fosters have kittens at the cutest stage of life and get to pass them on and get more.”

Become a foster with one of these rescue organizations

Committed Alliance to Strays (C.A.T.S.)
Friends of the Animals (FOTAS)
The Crowned Cat
SoHumane
Feral Cats Advocacy 

If you’re still undecided, the C.A.T.S. website links to Petfinder’s eight reasons you should foster a pet, even when you think you can’t. And Frazier emphasizes that even during kitten season, fosters don’t need to take in a whole litter. She usually places kittens in pairs, and often a single kitten shows up who is in need of a foster.

All rescues have an application process (see box for links), which varies depending on the organization. (Special note to dog lovers: FOTAS and SoHumane are also looking for dog fosters.) To find the right fit, The Crowned Cat considers the needs of the cats as well as compatibility with the foster family. “Our goal in each situation is for all participants, felines included, to enjoy a positive, fulfilling, trusting experience that will teach the cat how to reside in a domestic setting,” says Reynolds.

SoHumane hosts one-on-one orientations for new foster families up to three days a week, with the capacity to add up to nine new foster families per week. 

And rescues provide not only training but plenty of ongoing support. At FOTAS, every foster family has a mentor, from Ashland to Central Point. “We cover the whole valley,” says Frazier, who processes FOTAS cat foster applications within a couple of days of receiving them. 

At SoHumane, “We have an emergency hotline, so if a foster has an emergency at 3 a.m. they can reach someone,” says Cervantes. “Thankfully it doesn’t get used often, but it’s there if they need it.” 

Most of all, when you foster cats, you are saving lives. “You will be rewarded knowing you’re saving a life and assisting your local rescues in their efforts to help the thousands of suffering animals in our community,” says Reynolds. “Fostering provides a vacancy at the rescue organization, allowing us to continue our mission to help those without a voice, in need of love, food, safety, medical care and, finally, a successful adoption.” 

Ashland resident Midge Raymond is co-founder of Ashland Creek Press and author of the novels “Floreana” and “My Last Continent” and co-author of “Devils Island.” Email suggestions and questions for Catty Corner to her at CattyCornerAshland@gmail.com.

Picture of Midge Raymond

Midge Raymond

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