The most common question I get asked when someone finds out that I foster kittens is “How do you do that? I could never do it, I’d get way too attached and would want to keep all of them!”
So let’s explore that. How DO I foster and not get attached and want keep all of them? First of all, getting attached is not an option. I get fully, 100%, capital A – Attached. To every single one of them. So attached that on the day I take them back to the shelter to be adopted out, I’m usually bawling my eyes out before I even get them loaded in the kennel. Then I bawl while I drive to the shelter, take a few seconds to my pull myself together in the car to take them in, bite my lip and use every ounce of strength I have to NOT cry as I hand them over, and then sob on my way home. In fact, the pain of having to let go doesn’t really ease up until two or three days after they’ve left my house.
So why even put myself through that pain? Why choose to get my heart ripped out of my chest every few months? Well for starters… Hello?? Have you seen their faces??
But really, the reason I chose to foster is two-fold. I briefly touched on this in my last post but shelters are in dire need of help. The last group of kittens I brought back, they had to put all 5 in one of their smaller cages because they had very little room left. Adoptions take place every day, but for every adoption another animal arrives in their place. So if I can take 4-7 cats off of their hands for a few weeks, that greatly helps the shelter. They don’t run out of food as fast, they have fewer litters to change, and they don’t have to cram a bunch of cats into the same kennel together. All around, fostering eases the burden that shelter staff take on.
The second reason I foster is for the animals. Kittens are not fully weaned from their mom until they are 8 weeks old. At 6 weeks, they are just starting the weaning process and will begin to munch on mom’s dry food or lick at her wet food. But they still consistently nurse. I bring them back to the shelter at 6 weeks so the staff can work on weaning the babies and getting them separated from mom. They do this over the course of the following two weeks and by then, everyone is ready to be adopted into their own forever homes. But up until then, the babies are extremely vulnerable. Most of the time they come to me with runny eyes and sneezes, which are signs of a very common, non-life threatening, upper respiratory infection. But if they are left to grow up in the shelter, they are more susceptible to other, more serious infections and diseases. Is that because the shelter staff is lazy and/or doesn’t care about the animals? That’s a big fat NO! They don’t want any animals to have any medical issues at all but they can’t control what animals get brought in or what issues they might bring with them.
Older cats have had time to build up their immunity and can (most of the time) stave off simple infections, diseases, and viruses. But the little babies can’t just yet. Bringing them into my home takes them out of that environment and puts them in a safer, warmer, and more sterile environment that they can then THRIVE in.
Aside from just their medical health, it’s also really good for their mental and physical health. If you’ve ever strolled from cage to cage in a shelter (either dog or cat), you will notice two kinds of behaviors. There’s the constant barking/meowing (“please get me out of here!!”) or there’s the mopey and lethargic (very stressed out and sad). Neither behaviors are good, nor should they be any indication of the animal’s true personality. So giving kittens (and puppies) the chance to experience their first taste of life in a loving and safe home, where they get plenty of attention and exercise, is my number one reason to foster! That’s what truly drives me to do this. I have the ability, I have the space and I have the love in my heart to bring some little guys and gals in (sometimes with their mama and sometimes not) and provide them the best start possible.
“But don’t you just want to keep all of them??” Uh…YES. I love them to death and would be ecstatic to have them all stay with me. But if I gave into that, I’d have 21 cats and kittens right now. Even for someone who loves cats, that’s WAY too many cats! But really, if I keep even one from every group I get, I slowly close the door to being able to help any others. The more I keep, the less I can take in. And I’m just not willing to close my doors just yet.
So maybe now you’re reconsidering giving fostering a try but you’re thinking that you don’t have enough space or time. Well did you know you can foster in a studio apartment? Did you know you can foster in just a bedroom? Basically, there is no space too small to foster! As long as you can provide the kittens or puppies or grown cat or senior dog a safe and loving environment and can provide their basic needs, then you have plenty of space! But what about time? Maybe you work a full time job, maybe you are a student, maybe you’re a stay at home mom. No matter what your status, the shelter has the right animal for you. If you express to them your interest in fostering and explain your day to day, they usually have an animal that would be better suited at your house than in the kennel.
Here’s an example. You have a one-bedroom pet-friendly apartment and you work full time, occasionally you work overtime, but you’re generally out of the house quite often. A senior animal would be perfect in your home! The house would be quiet and peaceful, they’re potty trained, and they pretty much just sleep all day long.
Another example. You are a part time student and have a part time job but you still live at home or have a studio apartment. A mom cat with newborn babies would flourish with you! Mom takes care of feeding and potty time for the babies so when you are home all you’ll need to do is just feed her, scoop the litter, and give her attention and affection!
So as you can see, you probably didn’t realize just how perfect of a foster parent you could actually be! In all seriousness, I do hope you consider opening your heart and your home to some furry babies. And I hope you don’t let the inevitable attachment hold you back from fostering. It is so SO worth it.
If you have any questions or want to get more information/advice on fostering, feel free to write me on Instagram @firststepfoster or you can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If fostering just isn’t your thing, Maury County Animal Services is always looking for volunteers to walk the dogs or play with the cats!
Maury County Animal Shelter
1233 Mapleash Ave,