Thinking About Fostering A Cat? Here’s What You Need To Know

You might even end up with a new best friend 🥰🐈

foster a cat

Adopting a cat is a big commitment.

You’d really love to have a cat in your home but aren’t sure if you’re fully ready yet — so what do you do?

Luckily, you can foster a cat instead!

The Dodo spoke with Mary Shaughnessy, a founding member of Kitt Crusaders in Los Angeles, who explained what fostering is and why you should totally do it.

What is fostering?

According to Shaughnessy, “Fostering is taking care of a cat or kitten after he is rescued and before he is adopted.”

In other words, you’re getting a temporary taste of what it would be like to actually adopt a cat of your own without the pressure of making a lifelong commitment.

“Basically, it’s like letting your friend crash on your couch before he finds his own place,” Shaughnessy told The Dodo.

Shelters and rescues use fosters for a number of reasons, such as:

  • To reduce overcrowding in their housing
  • To give cats who are recovering from medical procedures a place to stay
  • To help cats who are extremely stressed in a shelter environment
  • To provide socialization for cats who’ve had limited social interactions previously
  • To care for cats if they don’t have a physical place to house them (some rescue groups operate only through fosters and don’t have a physical shelter)

Fostering versus adopting

While fostering and adopting seem similar, the key difference is the amount of time you’re committing.

“[Fostering is] not permanent unless you decide to adopt,” Shaughnessy said.

Plus, the shelter or rescue will usually cover the costs of things like supplies and medical care when you foster, so it’s also less of a financial commitment.

“When you foster a cat or kitten, you have responsibility for caring for him by keeping him safe and healthy, but you do not have the financial responsibilities,” Shaughnessy explained.

Should I foster?

Fostering a cat’s awesome, but there are some things to consider beforehand to make sure you’re ready.

  • Age — Most organizations have an age requirement for adopters to be at least 18 years old.
  • Time — Just like when you adopt a cat, when you foster, you’ll have to spend time daily playing with him, feeding him and cleaning up after him. So you’ll have to make sure you’re able to devote enough time to make sure he’s well cared for.
  • Fostering time period — Fostering usually lasts approximately one week to a few months, so you’ll have to plan ahead to be available during that time period. For example, if you decide to go on a trip during that time, you’ll have to have a backup plan for someone to take care of your foster cat while you’re away, like a boarding facility or another foster parent.
  • Other pets — If you already have other pets, you may have to spend time introducing them since they might not react well to your foster cat right away.
  • Other people — If you have other people or kids living in your house, you have to consider how they’ll get along with the new cat.
  • Saying goodbye — Saying goodbye to your foster cat when he gets adopted can be really hard, but it’ll be worth it to help him find his home.

As long as you’ve thought everything through and prepared yourself and your home for a foster cat, you should definitely foster!

Why you should foster a cat

Not only is it less pressure than being a full-time pet parent, but there are also a ton of other reasons why you should foster a cat.

To prepare yourself to adopt

Fostering lets you learn about the responsibilities of caring for a cat, such as feeding him and cleaning the litter box, before you take the plunge into actually adopting.

To help shelters and rescues

Fostering actually helps out other cats, too. When you take in a foster, a space becomes available at the rescue or shelter so they can rescue another cat.

“Fostering a cat [or] kitten gives that cat a place to go and frees up space at the shelter or rescue group [for another cat],” Shaughnessy explained.

To help socialize cats

Some cats need socialization because they come to the shelter as strays. Going to a foster home before they’re adopted allows them to experience living around people.

Living in a foster home can also help cats learn to live with dogs, other cats and even with kids if they’ve never been around other pets or children before.

“It’s a great way to help cats and kittens get socialized and be cared for before they are adopted,” Shaughnessy said.

It’s good for you

Having a cat around the house can actually improve your mental health. In one study, cats were as effective as a human partner at reducing the frequency of negative moods.

“It’s good for the soul,” Shaughnessy said. “It’s [a] win-win. You get a snuggly buddy to hang out with for a while, and the cat gets a safe place to hang out before they are adopted.”

How to foster a cat

If you’re interested in fostering a cat, do some research on shelters and rescue groups in your area to find one nearby. Then reach out to one to find out if they’re looking for cat fosters.

When you’ve decided on who you want to foster with, you’ll probably have to fill out an application with info about yourself, like your lifestyle and if you have other people or pets living with you (similar to an application you would fill out if you were adopting a pet), so they can match you with the right cat. Some organizations may also have you attend an orientation to learn about the process.

Once you’re approved, you can start fostering.

Rescues versus shelters

Shelters are funded by the government and house animals on-site, while rescues usually operate on donations and are run by volunteers. Most rescues use foster networks to house animals. Because shelters keep animals on their own property, they sometimes have to euthanize them when they run out of space, so rescue groups pull animals who are at risk to find them homes.

Both shelters and rescues can offer foster programs, so you can reach out to either type of facility.

Getting attached to your foster cat

Of course, you might find yourself in a position where you fall so in love with your foster cat that you can’t imagine giving him up.

Here are some tips for how to handle becoming attached to your foster cat:

  • Foster another cat.
  • Help find adopters so you know your foster cat is going to the best home possible.
  • Ask for updates from your foster cat’s adoptive family.

And if the thought of being separated from your new BFF is too devastating, you could always just adopt him yourself!

“If you get attached and decide to adopt, we call that a ‘foster fail,’” Shaughnessy said. “It’s the only kind of ‘fail’ that’s good!”

In fact, it’s so good that it’s actually encouraged.

“Fostering is a fantastic way to find your new best friend,” Shaughnessy explained. “You already know what that cat or kitten is like, and you’ve been through the adjustment period.”

There are a ton of reasons why you should foster a cat — you’ll give your foster cat a place to stay, you’ll help out other cats at the shelter and you’ll learn about the responsibility of owning a cat. And if you get too attached and “fail” at fostering, you’ll end up with a new best friend who’ll be glad you did.

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