Open Your Home and Your Heart: Why You Should Foster Cats

Open Your Home and Your Heart: Why You Should Foster Cats

You know that feeling when you see a kitten and you suddenly feel the need to adopt another cat? Maybe you’re like me and you check the local shelter’s website now and then, scrolling and stopping, scrolling and stopping, imagining what it’d be like to adopt another purr-baby. I like to call this my “crazy cat lady” instinct. Really, I would love to own 5 cats… or maybe 50… But I know that it’s not a practical or responsible option. My lap just isn’t big enough. But I have found one way to quench this need: fostering.

When I bring home a mother cat and her kittens, the purrs, pets, and whiskers magically multiply. And even though it’s temporary, I can live my crazy cat lady fantasy while doing good.

Before opening my home, I had no idea how rewarding and beneficial fostering cats and kittens can be. It doesn’t take much and fostering makes a huge impact on cats, the community cat population, and our environment! 

Need I say more? Well, you know I can’t help myself. So, let’s dive right into the facts of why you should foster cats if you’ve been considering it.

Fostering Makes a Big Difference and Saves Lives

While fostering can change your life, it also saves our feline friends. How much of a difference does it make? 

How Many Cats and Kittens Need Loving Homes?

three kittens in a pile

Cats deserve good homes and people who will love them. And while millions of Americans agree and share their love with almost 100 million house cats across the U.S., there still are about 70 million cats living in communities without regular meals or homes. And these cats never get the chance to enjoy a comfy cat life.

Brace yourself for heartbreaking kitten numbers.

Fostering, Adopting, and Spaying and Neutering Has Made A Huge Impact

It would be silly to just give you the stats of all the cats that need help without acknowledging the difference that is being made by caring cat parents and enthusiasts that adopt, foster, and fix community cats and kitties. So, here’s are the number that will have you feline paw-sitive.

Over the past few years, fewer cats and kittens enter shelters.

Adopting is the most common way for people to acquire a new cat is through adopting from a shelter.

Cats with social skills and with a good reputation that shelter workers can foster parents can vouch for are more likely to get adopted.

How Many Cats Can Fostering Save?

kittens in a cage waiting to be adopted

Shelters do amazing work. Many of you probably even adopted your purr-ball from a shelter. But there just aren’t enough shelters to save every community cat that needs medical attention and a family. 

There are only about 3,500 animal shelters in the U.S. that house cats within a physical, and an additional 10,000 rescues that are strictly foster-based. These numbers tell us that even when these shelters are at maximum capacity, there still are not as many spots as there are purr-boxes in need of homes. When you foster, you create one more spot for cats to land while a rescue finds that cat the right family.

Fostering does more than provide a temporary home, it can reduce the number of cats that get euthanized. And when cats enter shelters, they often don’t leave. Each year about 3 million cats enter shelters, and about 70% never leave. Why? Some shelters euthanize cats if they’ve occupied a spot too long without finding a forever home. Others evaluate a cat’s potential based on medical conditions and veterinary needs. 

When you choose to foster, it allows a cat more time to find a family and can give a cat that been in the shelter for an extended period of time a break. This can reset her personality, reduce her stress, and make her more adoptable.

Community cats that are brought to shelters early enough in their lives get the chance to learn about love and human companionship when fostered. Community cats are the most frequent victims of euthanasia because they’re often fearful and aren’t accustomed to living in a house which makes them less adoptable. If these cats are captured and fostered when they’re still young enough to learn how to interact with people through fostering, they stand a much greater chance of escaping being put to sleep.

Also, cat foster homes allow more cats to receive medical help. When you volunteer to help a cat when she’s recovering from a surgery or just regaining her health, she isn’t seen as a burden on the shelter facility and staff.

Other Great Reasons People Choose to Foster

When you help a cat in need, you’re guaranteed to get a case of the feel-goods. Not only does having a cat around reduce your stress, but kitties make you happier. And when you help a kitty get back on her paws, the good feelings stick around day after day, year after year.

Help Save a Cat, Help Save the Planet 

inside cat watching a bird outside

And the feel-goods aren’t the only reason you should foster. Providing a home for a cat, even if it’s just temporary, helps our environment. How?

  • Community cats kill up to 3.7 billion birds each year. That’s 52.85 birds per stray cat… Well, we can round up to 53 birds per homeless kitty. And when you consider that about one-third of our U.S. bird species are endangered, threatened, or decreasing in rapid numbers, it’s easy to see that keeping cats off the streets helps keep vulnerable bird species alive and thriving.
  • Cats also kill small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Our kitties, when left outside to fend for themselves are clawed killing machines. Brace yourself. Cats are responsible for at least 33 extinctions.
  • When you open your home to a cat, it makes more space in the shelter for community cats that need to be spayed and neutered. This reduces the number of kittens born outdoors while reduces the impact homeless cats have on the ecosystem.
  • Bringing a cat into your home also reduces the spread of toxoplasmosis and other diseases like rabies and feline leukemia.

Unsure if You’re Ready to Adopt? Foster a Cat to Find Out

Fostering can be a great way to get to know a cat before committing to her forever. This can benefit your existing cat, too. Many people want an additional cat but aren’t ready for a lifetime commitment. Fostering allows your resident cat to warm up to and get to know a potential sibling. Keep in mind your foster may need to learn some social skill and most cats need time to get to know each other. Don’t worry. If you’re considering fostering and you’re worried about introductions, I have a few tips for you that can help.

After the loss of a cat, it can be hard to figure out if you’re ready for a new best friend. Fostering can be a great way to help cats in-need while you continue to heal.

Teach Your Kids the Lesson of Kindness & More By Fostering Cats or Kittens

two little girls holding their cat

Fostering teaches kids kindness, compassion, and responsibility. Children can also learn other lessons about math when calculating a kitten’s milk intake, age, and weight gain. And, of course, if you’re fostering kittens, your children will learn about their biological development.

Why Do Cats Need Foster Homes?

Cats need homes and care. But why do they need foster parents like you? While some cats need help coming out of their shells and learning the ropes of a house, there are other reasons foster homes are the best option for some cats in need.

Foster homes benefit cats looking for permanent families by reducing the stress and negative effects of shelters. Shelters are loud, lonely, and chaotic. Giving a cat a calm and caring home helps cats shine when they meet a potential family. And it gives a cat that would receive minimal attention affection.

Some cats need a helping hand after giving birth to a litter of fuzzy, adorable kittens. Shelter workers stay busy as it is. When a mother cat comes into the shelter, their work multiplies. Plus, a noisy shelter isn’t the best place for a mother cat to rest and recuperate after giving birth.

What Do You Need to Do to Foster?

cream cat raising its paw

Research local shelters and rescues. Find one that is nearby enough and has a need for fosters. Then call them, stop by, or fill out their foster form to move forward.

Most rescues vet their fosters. You’ll want to prepare:

  • References checks
  • Home checks
  • Permission from your landlord if you rent
  • Veterinary records for your resident cat

Most importantly, you need patience and compassion. You don’t have to be perfect to provide a cat with a better future. You just need time, affection, and the will to make a difference.

How to Prepare to Foster a Cat: Preparing Your Home and Your Cat

After you’re approved to foster a cat, the rescue you’re fostering through will contact you with a potential foster cat. They’ll give you a call, describe the cat and her situation before you have to commit. Be sure you ask about veterinary appointments, supplies, and adoption events. You can also ask how long they expect this kitty to be with you.

You should make yourself aware of how often your foster will need to visit the vet and where the vet is. I’ve never come across a rescue that doesn’t cover the vet bills, but verify this, just in case.

Most rescues will provide you with food, litter, and medicine along with instructions for your foster. Some will also gift your foster with toys, bedding, and treats.

Some rescues and shelters hold adoption events. If your foster baby is ready for a home, these events increase her chances of finding her new family. These events are also a great way to meet other foster parents and establish a support system when you have questions about your foster cat.

If you’ve wondered if you’re going to get a wild cat that won’t come out from under a cabinet or will climb your curtains, don’t worry. While some shelters do place community cats in homes, they usually end up in homes where the foster parent is experienced and qualified to help those cats. Shelters and rescues want you to be successful and will place a cat with you that you can handle and support you with advice and information.

If you don’t think the potential foster kitty is right, don’t feel too shy to say so. This will save everyone time and energy.

Prepare Your Home and Resident Cat for a Foster Cat

two cats meeting for the first time

After your foster cat is ready for pick up, you’ll want to ready your home for her arrival. Cats take time to adjust. Especially after traumatic events like entering a shelter. Your foster cat will appreciate some peace and quiet in a room away from your resident cat.

You will want to have a litter box ready in this room along with a bed, water and food bowls, a scratching post, and some toys. Remove any potential hazards like cords your cat might mistake for a snake and play with or items that might fall off a surface if your cat decides to jump onto the shelf or nightstand.

Don’t jump to conclusions if your cat seems skittish, she’ll likely warm up within a few days. Treats help.

It’s best to cats meet through a door before seeing each other’s cute whiskery faces. It can help if you place food bowls on each side of the door. After a few days, if your foster seems ready to explore, you can open her door and let her come out in her own time when she’s ready.

Take pictures of your cat to send your rescue and post her on your social media accounts with hashtags to help her get some attention. And give your rescue as much information about your foster’s personality as you can.

Wrapping it up

Knowing a cat that was down on her luck has a happy home is a feeling that lasts and lasts. You have the opportunity to change the world for a cat while creating a more sustainable future for vulnerable species. So, get busy looking into local cat rescues waiting for fosters like you to open your heart and your home.

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