Ahh, spring, when love is in the air and shelters become overrun with kittens. While an unspayed cat can have about three litters of kittens a year (that’s well over a dozen new cats!), it seems shelters are always overrun with pregnant cats and newborn kittens from March to September. That is a long kitten season! For a no-kill shelter like us, that means we would quickly reach full capacity with kittens alone.

That is where our foster program comes in. Fosters who have experience with mother cats give birth may take in a pregnant cat and give her a safe place to have her babies. New fosters might start with mother cats who have already had their kittens, or they may be bold and try bottle-feeding orphan kittens.

Pregnant momma cats and kittens take up most of our cat foster roster, but we also have a need for patient dog fosters. Our dog fosters especially help with stressed dogs or dogs with medical concerns, helping these dogs relax in a home environment while they wait for adoption while training the dogs to learn new ways to cope with their anxiety.

But what does it actually take to be a foster for the SPCA? What are the costs? How much time do you have to dedicate to it? What if you fall in love with the foster animal and want to adopt them yourself? For the last question, we call that a “foster fail”, and we LOVE foster fails! We may still ask for an adoption fee from our fosters if they decide to adopt, but please read on to see how much we put into making this program as painless as possible.

To be a foster for the SPCA, you must fill out a foster family application form. This form will ask questions to make sure you have room for the fosters in your house, that your lifestyle is conducive to the loving and patient environment that our animals need, and that if you have pets of your own that they and the fosters will get along safely or have a safe space away from each other. Then when your application is approved and on file, once we take in an animal that matches your fostering interests, we will contact you. This may take only days to months depending on our animal intake, but the more reliable fosters we have to count on, the more animals we can take on the responsibility of caring for.

We do not want our fosters to worry about the financial costs of these animals. We will provide fosters with food, toys, bedding, litter boxes and scratching posts, and any other materials you may need for the care of the animal. We also cover all medical expenses, including their vaccines, microchipping, and spay and neuter surgeries, along with providing medicine and arranging vet care as needed. We want our fosters to focus on providing a safe, fear-free environment filled with love to help these animals through whatever trial they are facing.

Foster periods vary depending on your circumstances and what you’re taking on. For mom cats and kittens, it’s usually until the kittens are 8 weeks old. That’s when they’re typically big enough to return to the shelter and be prepped for adoption at 12 weeks old. They typically remain at the shelter after this point, unless they already have a home lined up.

When fostering dogs, the commitment can be longer or shorter, usually depending on how quickly the dog is adopted. We try our best not to upset the progress that these dogs make when they’re in a consistent and safe environment, so our hope is that they stay in one foster home until adoption. If that is not possible because of circumstances, then we typically find a new foster to transition the dog to after it is returned to the shelter.

If we stuffed our facility to the brim, we could accommodate up to 10 dogs and 40 cats. With the help of our dear foster families, we can save more precious lives and avoid the stress of overcrowding. It also gives these animals a chance, often their first, to adapt to life in a loving home, better preparing them for their furever homes once they’re adopted.

Does fostering for us sound perfect to you? Then please fill out an application today! We would love to work alongside you.