The plight of the Foster Care Provider
By Foster Dad John
The first thing people typically think about when they hear that someone is fostering kittens, puppies, etc., is “cute fuzzy babies!” It’s hard not to feel like rainbows & flowers when you’re looking at a tiny creature that only recently came into this world, still unable to care for itself.
For the Foster Care Provider, we feel the same way, but we also face a world where the skies occasionally darken. It’s not easy fostering animals - you dedicate many hours of your own time, pouring a tiny bit of your very soul into each tiny creature, only to say goodbye to them a couple of months or so later as they are adopted into what we hope to be a good home. Then there are times that the foster is too sick or weak and, despite our best efforts, passes from this world, and we grieve.
Sometimes, we’re told to distance ourselves to prevent being hurt - but that’s not possible, and we couldn’t even if we tried. People foster because they want to make a difference for an animal, to give them a better chance at finding a home to live their lives with love & contentment. To best prepare the fosters for such a future, we must spend time interacting with them, showing them that it’s okay to trust and love people - which wouldn’t be possible if we kept our distance.
No matter the outcome, they come into our lives long enough for us to fall in love, and then they’re gone. Adoption Day is always bittersweet & emotionally exhausting. Based on what you’ve read so far, you might be wondering if it’s worth it? Ultimately, you will have to determine that for yourself but for me, watching & caring for my fosters has been a rewarding & satisfying experience. Watching them reach milestones such as opening their eyes, discovering their feet, taking their first wobbly steps to seemingly fly overnight – each step of their development brings a sense of joy that is a miracle to observe.
And then there are the shy or feral kittens who have had little to no experience with humans. You can’t help but beam with pride as they overcome their fear and show their trust in you in tiny increments – there’s really nothing quite like it!
The difficult part after you find yourself free of fosters is looking into your own heart & soul to ask yourself a very important question: “Can I do it again?” Even experienced fosters with years of experience ask themselves the question every time. Sometimes it’s an easy YES! with nary an effort given in thought, but if it was a difficult experience (even with no health issues and successful adoptions), don’t be afraid to say no or at least say you need a break while you recover. I find that it’s best to take at least a week between fosters just to wind down. The important thing is to consider your own mental health first.
There’s one question that you can be sure you’ll get asked: “How can you give them up?!” Frankly, because you decided to do that when you agreed to foster. Don’t be afraid to be a little frank in your response, but kind. The question isn’t meant to hurt because nobody wants to give them up, but that’s what we’re here to do – raise them until they’re ready and then find them a good home. Rinse & repeat. I’ve responded like that in the past; other times, if I feel I’m being asked too often, I’ll reply along the lines of “Because then I won’t be able to foster any longer.”
But don’t feel like you can’t adopt your own fosters, just be sure it’ll be a good match for your home and not because they’re super cute and fuzzy and stuff. I’ve adopted two of my fosters, Trillian from my 42nd group of fosters and Harley from the 68th group. Will I adopt another foster if I could? In my current situation – no – because it would not be a good fit with my existing cats or the home. Even if the kitten is super cute and fuzzy! You can ask any experienced foster if there are any “who got away,” and they’ll likely get a teary eye and respond yes, but they know they made the correct choice.
I recommend giving it a shot if you have a spare bedroom or no other pets (or a super laid-back cat). A spare bedroom is the best option because you can better control their environment. If you have carpet, I strongly recommend getting some junk/scrap carpet or rugs to lay on top of it with a tarp in between. Kittens don’t come potty trained and don’t always take to their training litter boxes right away. Reach out to your local animal shelters to see what resources are available.
Even if you decide that fostering isn’t right for you, you can support fosters and shelters by contacting them for their Amazon Wish list. With kitten season ramping up, now is the time they need help with kitten formula, kitten food, etc. You can also support fosters and shelters by adopting from your local shelter.
If you are a foster, tell us below about your experience with fostering.