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9 Reasons Why Yours Should Become a Cat Foster Family

You'll make a difference to one cat -- and you'll pay it forward for many more.

 |  May 29th 2014  |   5 Contributions


A father and son were walking along a beach shortly after the high tide began to ebb. The receding water left behind thousands of helpless starfish drying out in the hot sun. The boy stopped, picked up a starfish, and flung it into the ocean. A few minutes later he tossed another in the water, and then later another.

“Son, what are you doing?” his father asked.

“I’m saving starfish.”

The man gestured to the beach: “There are thousands of them. What difference could you possibly make?”

The boy picked up a starfish. He ran his fingers across the rough surface and then threw it into the water. The starfish landed with a small splash and the boy smiled broadly.

“It made a world of difference to that one,” he said.

This year, millions of cats in the U.S. will find themselves in animal shelters. It’s overwhelming to think in terms of such vast numbers and the resulting suffering. While you may not be able to help every homeless pet, just saving one lonely, frightened cat from death in an animal shelter would mean the world to that kitty.

A cat in a shelter by Shutterstock.

Partnering with an animal shelter or rescue group and offering a needy cat short-term sanctuary is a lifesaver. So what if you only foster a couple or even just one kitty in your entire lifetime? Remember, it means the world to that cat. Contact a rescue group or animal shelter in your area and offer to open your home to an abandoned kitty.  

With that in mind, here are 10 reasons why you should foster homeless cats.

1. You get to add "hero" to your resume

You can rightfully brag that you’re a bona fide life-saving hero. Maybe you didn’t drag a person out of a burning building, but if you foster homeless kitties you have, in fact, saved a life. That should make you feel all warm and gooey inside. 

Fostering saves millions of kitties every year. Animal shelters around the country have limited space and consequently the kitties in their care often have limited time. When you invite a homeless kitty into your home, it opens up a cage allowing the shelter to rescue in another needy cat. Two lives for the price of one. Any shopper knows that’s a great deal!

Also, when you check out at the pet supply store with a basket full of cat food and litter, the associate will think, “What a hero,” instead of, “What a nut case.”

2. It's a trial run for people who can't make a long-term commitment

Do you have difficulty saying the word “commitment” out loud? You could have a series of one-month stands. Fostering is temporary.

People who break into a cold sweat when they hear the words “marriage” or “engagement” can enjoy kitty companions without that 15-to-20-year commitment. Seniors can offer foster homes to kitties rather than leaving behind a young pet when the person crosses the Rainbow Bridge. 

3. It's speed-dating, only slower

By fostering you get to live with a number of kitties. You’ll get to see him with his whiskers down, so to speak, at his best and his worst. You’ll know him intimately before you make that lifelong commitment. You’ll also learn whether or not your family and other pets are ready for a new family member. If he’s not a good fit, don’t worry. You’re not stuck forever with a pet who’s not your cup of catnip. 

Catster writer Angie Bailey's teenagers and cats -- just independent enough and full of snark.

You’ll also get to see if kids actually keep their promise and step up to care for the new kitten. With a foster cat, you can put them to the test without the lifelong commitment. You’ll get to see if they’ll honor their promise after the new to wears off.

4. Fostering is perfect for penny pinchers

If you’re on a fixed income or are concerned about future veterinary expenses, then fostering gives you companionship without cost. Make sure you get an agreement that spells out exactly what the rescue pays. They usually require you to go to specific vet. And don’t forget to get all vet visits approved. It’s also a way people can donate to their favorite rescue without opening their checkbook.

Some shelters even provide cat food and litter. Expenses to ask about include vet care, food, litter, flea/heartworm control.

5. You get a LIFETIME SUPPLY OF KITTENS

Seriously. Kitten rubs a girl’s face by Shutterstock.

Would you like a perpetual supply of baby cats? Do you occasionally need a kitten fix? Do you lose interested in kitties when they become cats? Because you can pick the age of kitties you want to foster, you can always have kittens around. Once they get adopted, you can start over with a fresh batch of babies.

6. You get guilt-free live-birth demonstrations

You can show your kids the miracle of life without adding to the population of unwanted pets by fostering a pregnant queen. Don’t forget to get your other pets spayed and neutered.

7. Rescue groups can't save lives without foster homes

Many rescue groups have no brick and mortar shelters. They depend on foster families to care for their little charges. Without foster homes, they can’t save lives.

8. You'll be springing a homeless cat from solitary confinement on death row

“My house is too small,” I hear you say. Not to worry. Even your minuscule guest bathroom is better than a small cage in feline hell. Once your foster kitty gets used to his bathroom, you can introduce him to your furry family and the rest of the house. Even a one-room efficiency is better than a noisy cage surrounded by frightened animals and scary smells.

9. Some animals need a halfway house

Your kitty halfway house helps wonderful, adoptable kitties who don’t do well in a shelter setting. Being trapped in a cage surrounded by barking dogs, nightmarish smells and strange people can cause even the most outgoing cat to cower in the back of the cage.  Foster homes give shy or fearful cats have a chance to come out of their shells. 

This looks like a good place to hang out before getting a permanent home. Photo by chanzi

Fosters can share the kitty’s whole personality (including likes, fears and favorite toys) that will help a prospective family decide whether or not he will fit into their household. Families can work with shy kitties and help them learn to trust people

Also, foster kitties experience everyday sights, sounds, smells and activities of a typical home, such as: the phone ringing, the vacuum, a dish breaking, and the TV, making it easier for the kitty to seamlessly move into a new home. 

Other kitties may need TLC a shelter can’t give them: bottle babies, pregnant kitties, sick kitties, sick pregnant kitties, kitties recovering from an injury or surgery and kitties who need help with behavior problems. Without the proper staff, many shelters euthanize these special needs cats.

Read more about fostering:

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About the author: Dusty Rainbolt, ACCBC, is the vice president of the Cat Writers’ Association, editor-in-chief of AdoptAShelter.com and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She’s the award-winning author of eight fiction and non-fiction books including her most recent paranormal mystery, Death Under the Crescent Moon. 

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