I give a lot of credit to the Central Oklahoma Humane Society. They are working hard to reduce the number of kittens born out in the wild through its Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) program, and until that has its intended effect, they are taking in and rescuing as many kittens as they possibly can.
If you've ever been interested in fostering kittens, now is the time! Training of new fosters is an important thing the Humane Society and Humom have been involved with lately. And here is... oh, what's that, Sauerkraut? ...Huh. Sauerkraut says she can hear your thoughts! Here's what Sauerkraut says you're thinking:
1. I would love to foster! But... I don't know how.
That's the easiest obstacle to overcome! There are a lot of resources available to help you learn how to foster young animals. Your local rescue organizations, online resources, books, or training classes hopefully will be available to you nearby. Humom recently presented a class to volunteers about neonatal kitten care, and you can watch it here! Contact the nearest rescue group and ask what they can do to help you get up to speed. Work with someone who has fostered in the past. Find someone you trust who has experience and learn from their time in the role. Don't let "I've never done it before" stop you from one of the most rewarding jobs ever!
Even Sauerkraut started as a Foster Kitten!
2. I would love to foster! But... I don't have the time.
No question, fostering kittens or puppies, or adult cats or dogs, takes time. It's a serious commitment that you have to evaluate carefully before you step into that role. But it is manageable, if you know how to manage it.
Neonatal kittens, or "bottle babies" are the highest time requirement. They need feeding initially sometimes as frequently as every 2-3 hours, around the clock. Once they are weaned, they can usually sleep through the night. If they have their momma with them, then it's simple - just make sure the mom is fed.
But keep in mind, being a full-time foster isn't the only fostering you can do! For our family, one of the things we wish we could find more of are "relief fosters" who can take our kittens for a few days while we're on vacation, for a weekend while we're with family, or even for an overnight so we can attend a special event. ANYTHING you do to help a full-time foster can be a tremendous help!
3. I would love to foster! But... I would never want to give them up.
Laugh all you want, this is a serious concern. And I will tell you from personal experience, it's a danger. When we got our first group of fosters, I was, shall we say, less than thrilled. I was (ahem) a little nervous. I told Humom, "that's fine if you wanna foster, as long as I don't have to touch them!" But, within a few days, they were climbing all over me, and I could not get enough of it. And what happened with that first group of fosters we had? Yeah, we adopted them. Every. Last. One.
And honestly, I couldn't be happier about it. But animal hoarding is a serious concern, and a very real problem in animal welfare. It is important that as an individual and/or family, you will need to commit to the animals in your care that you'll do everything you can to raise them as well as possible, and them turn them over to their very loving forever home.
And hey, if you know the people that adopt them, then you can keep up with them as they grow! Right, Catniss/Nora and Reed Timmer?
4. I would love to foster! But... I couldn't stand to lose one.
It is an unfortunate part of working in animal welfare that you will lose an animal in your care. Especially the very young are vulnerable and susceptible to a wide variety of illnesses. No matter how hard you try, there will be a young one, sometimes more than one in a litter, that you're unable to save.
But without your help, there's no way any of these animals would have lived even long enough to make it into your home. Do what you can to care for them as best you can, but realize that sometimes it is out of our control.
When you do have a foster, as soon as you have a question about the health of your charge, contact the organization you're fostering for and get professional advice about their care - that's the best chance you have for raising them to be healthy and happy adults!
5. I would love to foster! But... wait, no, I would NOT love to foster! I love cats, but that's not for me!
There is a LOT that you can do to help at this time of year besides being a foster parent yourself. You can volunteer as a "relief foster" as mentioned above. You can donate your time at a local rescue, even if it's cleaning cages or sweeping floors - it all helps! You can donate food, litter, or money to your local animal welfare organizations. You can adopt a new pet into your home instead of shopping at a store.
It truly takes a team of dedicated people - paid or volunteer - to manage all the animals that need our help at this time of year. Find out how you feel like you best fit in, and do your part.
Sauerkraut, Humom and I say THANK YOU!
...It's right behind me, isn't it?