In the Fargo-Moorhead area, there are many ways to help shelter animals: spreading awareness, donating money or items, walking dogs or giving cats a lap to sit on. And for those who wish to help overcrowded shelters, save animals from being euthanized, or give special-needs pets some extra attention, Homeward Animal Shelter and CATS Cradle Shelter both offer opportunities to become foster parents.
Foster parents provide temporary homes to cats and dogs who require more individual attention, or are easily stressed out in a shelter environment. Animals under eight weeks old are too young to be adopted, and may be vulnerable to diseases commonly found in shelters; thus they need caretakers who can raise and bottle-feed them until they’re old enough, or who can take in nursing mothers.
Amber Fredericks, a local CATS Cradle foster parent, currently fosters six kittens. In addition to feeding, sheltering, and taking them to the vet, her priority is to socialize them so they’re more likely to be adopted.
“The batch of kittens I have now didn’t have a lot of human contact,” she explains, “so I am working extra hard to get these little guys used to humans. I try to go into their room every hour or two and pick each one up for some extra love.”
Some cats and dogs remain in their foster homes until they’re adopted; others just stay for a predetermined time. If an animal is taken in because they’re sick or injured, they often go back to the shelter once they’re healthy again. In any case, if the foster parent is no longer able to keep them, they can always contact the shelter and arrange to bring them back.
“I would love to keep them all until they are adopted,” Fredericks admits, “but they will go back to CATS Cradle when they are old enough and healthy enough to be around all the other cats.”
Of course, there’s always the chance that someone will fall in love and adopt their foster pet, which is a common occurrence. The shelter should be immediately notified if the foster parent decides to adopt, so they can remove the animal from the available pets list.
“I have thought about keeping one of them,” Fredericks says, “because he’s so shy and sadly that means he is less likely to be adopted. I am working extra hard with him so he can have the opportunity to find a forever home. I would love to keep all the kitties, but the most important thing is that I keep fostering. CATS Cradle is always in need of new fosters!”
Fostering doesn’t cost anything, as shelters will pay for vet care and provide food, beds, and other necessities. For many, the major challenge is the emotional toll: when the time is up, foster parents must say goodbye. Although parting with a dog or cat you’ve become attached to is not easy, there are always more shelter animals in need, and Fredericks highly recommends becoming a foster parent.
“It is much more rewarding than I had expected. Having these kitties makes you realize how much they really need you. Some of the foster kitties don’t have a momma cat to care for them. They need a lot of extra attention and love before they find their forever homes. The best thing about fostering is playing with kitties all day long! Who wouldn’t love that!”
– Särah Nour