Fostering cats and dogs: why it’s a great idea

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Most people think that they have two options when it comes to taking care of cats or dogs in need. Either you can donate to a reputable organisation or shelter or you can adopt the animal from the get-go.  Both options are noble and greatly help the system that is greatly overwhelmed by the continuously rising numbers of stray cats (primarily) and dogs. Unfortunately, in Romania there is no official way of actually doing either of these two options, as the “shelters” that exist mainly for dogs are overall a disgrace. The very appealing third option is that of fostering cats and dogs.

What does fostering cats and dogs mean?

Similarly to fostering a child through an adoption agency, you can work with overwhelmed shelters in need of volunteers to foster cats or dogs.  It’s usually done for vulnerable animals that have certain medical or psychological requirements that can’t be met adequately in the shelter. As such, you take the animal home and you care for it as if it were your own, until they recover or grow up old enough.  That’s when they become undeniably adoptable and have high chances of finding their forever home.  Depending on the shelter or organisation, the progress of the animal might be posted on social media in hopes of raising the chance of finding an owner for the animal.

As such, you basically care for an animal for the amount of time they need help and then help find the animal a family.  Of course, that means you can take up the responsibility of fostering by yourself. Another good option is finding strays in need of help and then fostering them. Depending on where you live, this might be your only option.  However, this means that you can’t get any potential help from a shelter or organisation, but the result is the same.

What kind of animals benefit from fostering?

Some foster parents specialise in kittens and puppies – they are often very vulnerable and end up being euthanized most of the times. Some people even go above and beyond for the most vulnerable group of them all: neonatal kittens. It is a somewhat isolated case, as most places have no resources for incredibly underdeveloped kittens. A wonderful example of a person dedicating their time and effort to fostering neonatal kittens and otherwise vulnerable, sick kittens is Hannah Shaw, called the “Kitten Lady” on YouTube.

It isn’t an easy job and you may have to deal with a lot of heartbreak. Even with the best of care, a lot of kittens simply die. It can happen with puppies as well. The Parvovirus is very dangerous and has to be identified as early as possible, as it is a common cause of death in puppies. It can afflict kittens as well. Nature is very cruel.

Others prefer animals at the other end of the spectrum: senior cats and dogs. It’s truly a tragedy to see a senior cat or dog being abandoned.  Sometimes it’s on purpose, sometimes the owner simply passed away and there was no one to care for the animal. Senior cats and dogs have specific needs that come with age. Because of that they end up euthanized very often in shelters, so some people choose to foster in hopes of saving some from that fate. It might end up in a foster failure – after all, not a lot of people adopt older pets. They, too, deserve love and affection to the very end.

Sometimes formerly abused pets or recently rescued animals need immediate constant care to be able to recover. For example, organisations or shelter may not have enough staff to care for a malnourished dog that’s just been rescued from a horrendous situation. That’s where fostering cats and dogs may come in. Otherwise the dog would’ve been put down. Educated and instructed by professionals, a foster parent can do wonders. Fostering cats and dogs is amazing for this very reason.

Are there any downsides to fostering cats and dogs?

Formerly unskilled people can learn a lot just to be able to offer care to their foster animals.  Of course, you need time, patience and resources to pull this off.  That means that sometimes you have to rely on your own money and resources in order to care for an animal. The shelter may not provide everything you need and if you are on your own dealing with a stray, the case is obvious.  So, unless you’re in a good or stable financial position, I’d advise against going down this route.

It can be frustrating if you’re not making progress with an animal. If there are no serious physical issues, it might be very difficult to train a dog or a cat that is behaving badly. They might have endured trauma, which isn’t easy to overcome. On top of that, they might be showing improvement when they are around you, their main caregiver, but all progress goes out the window once a stranger comes into the equation. That means that they are primarily attached to you and further adoption is not possible. It’s not always a problem – people bond with their foster pets all the time and end up adopting them.

If you attempt caring for a vulnerable group of animals, such as neonatal kittens or the runts of litters, you might end up devastated. No matter how short the time spent with the foster animal is, the bond is still there. There is a high mortality rate among kittens and puppies, even when things go completely right. If you aren’t ready to deal with potential death, do not foster kittens or puppies. The same can be said about sick adult pets that need temporary care before being ready for adoption. Things can go wrong and unfortunately it can be unpredictable.

All in all, fostering cats and dogs is a great idea. You get to interact with all sorts of wonderful animals. You can help many animals in a shorter span of time. If the cons and pros are balanced properly in anyone’s current living situation, I would completely advise anyone that is capable to go down this route. You will not regret helping the lives of so many animals!

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