Fostering is a critical component of animal rescue; a foster home allows rescues to give a cat a
safe home while he/she waits for their forever home. Unfortunately, many people think that
fostering takes too much time and effort.
Before you write fostering off completely, let’s look at how much time fostering actually “costs”.
Let’s look at the human (aka me): I’m a perpetually-short-on-time graduate student living in a
one bedroom apartment. Depending on my work schedule, I’m away anywhere between 8-10
hours a day during the week. My weekends are filled with things like more work, grocery
shopping, errands, and an hour long check in phone call from a worried parent who saw my
Instagram post about reading ramen for the third time this week.
Because of my lifestyle, I opt to foster mostly adults. Other volunteers in the same situation
make fostering kittens work (maybe I can bribe one of them to write a post to tell you in great
detail with many photos on what fostering kittens is like?).
To make my own life interesting, I opt to foster the “challenge” kitties. These are kitties that have
not spent enough time around a human to know we will not hurt them, so they take a little bit
extra time and effort to come around and be “adoption ready”.
The day before I welcome a few foster kitty, I spend some time cleaning my apartment and
setting up a safe space for him/her. I vacuum the space and wipe down the counter, make sure
I have a cleaned set of food and water bowls and a litter box ready to go for my new foster kitty.
I put down a fresh towel in a box and call it day. Time spent: 1.5 hours.
The first day the kitty comes, I don’t expect him/her to cuddle up with me immediately. It’s a new
space for them and priority is making sure they feel safe. I usually grab my book or my
computer, a pillow, and spend an hour in the room doing whatever I want and studiously
ignoring the cat as he/she either explores or hides. At the end of the hour, I approach for a bit of
positive interaction – a play session, some treats, and maybe a pet or two if the cat lets me.
Time spent: 1.5 – 2 hrs/day
I make sure to put down fresh food and scoop the litter box every day. And for the first few days,
I spend a few extra minutes noting how much food my kitty ate and whether there is anything
abnormal about his/her pee and poop. I also make sure I spend some time engaging with my
kitty, trying to get him/her used to being around people. Time spent: 1.5 hrs/day (less if your
foster cat is already socialized)
And that’s about the ‘extra’ effort I will put in. The rest of the time, I go about my business as
usual – watching too many YouTube videos, laughing too loud at Twitter memes, and frantically
text my BFFs about the newest music release. And somewhere in between, I go to work and
groan at the amount of things I have not accomplished…
But what about vet visits? Well, one of the benefits of fostering an adult cat is that they typically
require less vet visits (unless they are sick). On average, I spend maybe 1 hour at the vet for
each of my healthy adult fosters (and that includes the time it takes to get to the vet).
While fostering and socializing takes time, there is plenty of potential for multitasking. You can
absolutely pet the kitty and still clear your Netflix queue. Have a party scheduled? No worries,
just make sure the kitty has a safe place to go to, put down food/water/litter and go about
hosting your friends. Or heck, host a “cuddle-the-cat” party – we hear it’s particularly popular if
the cat is a kitten. And if you have roommates/housemates who are down to share
responsibility, everyone can chip in and it’s even easier.
Once my kitty becomes “adoption ready”, I spend a few minutes putting together a promotion
package. With luck, I have been taking photos since the kitty has arrived so it’s just a matter of
selecting the ones that look good, writing a few sentences about the kitty, and sending it off to
the foster team. Time spent: 30 minutes
The last thing you do as a foster family is to host a meet and greet for any potential adopters.
This is a chance for an interested family to come meet the you and the kitty so you can talk. My
meet and greets last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
Take it from someone who thought she’d never be able to foster because of her work schedule –
it may take a few trials and errors to find the kitty that works for your lifestyle, but there is a cat
out there who could use your help.
Let’s say my adult foster takes 2 months to adopt. Mathematically, this means I’ll have spent 2
(month) x31 (days per month) x1.5 (daily care)+1.5 (meet and greet + time spent putting
together promotion material) +1.5 (vet visit + transportation time) = 96 hours dedicated to
his/her care. Which seems like a lot until I realize that those 100 hours is weighed against the
(hopefully!) many years that my foster will get to live as someone’s beloved pet. And that is
absolutely worth every one of those hours.