I was at a conference and just happen to overhear a fascinating conversation on pet foster pawrents a few rows over: "My cousin fosters cats. He has had foster pets for years and takes in all sorts of rescues: homeless, abandoned, special needs, abused. His mom did this, too; it runs in the family. I don't know how he does it! Some of those cats are just too precious to let go! And, yet, he manages to find the perfect home for them every time."
I practically climbed over four people in business attire to meet my new friend and get more information about her cousin. I reached out to this cousin and asked if I could pick his brain on what it really takes to foster pets. What I learned was quite a doozy. I'll let Seth Greenleaf speak for himself.
A Pet Foster Parent's Story
"I’m a theater producer and a passionate animal rights advocate. Since we were kids, my mother volunteered at shelters, and we grew up helping her rescue, rehab, and foster. I began doing trap and release in my area in South Florida, where we have a large feral population. I work with the younger ones to see if I can help them become adoptable. For the others, I get up to date on their shots and try to keep them healthy in their colonies through spaying and neutering. When you do animal rescuing/fostering, you're not looking for a pet. You're trying to help as many animals as you can get well and hopefully find their forever homes. You're typically limited by the animals you can take in and certainly limited by how many you can keep, either by means or circumstances. I travel for work and can be away six months of the year or more. Therefore, it's not feasible or fair for me to have anything but very independent outdoor cats as pets. Most fosterers are limited by space. They usually have a few pets and enough space to focus on one, maybe two rescues at a time. If they tried to keep them, there would be no more rescuing, which is a much higher purpose than the joy we receive from any particular rescue. We form bonds to help socialize and relax them and to make them easier to adopt. They love us, and we love them, but we know it's about their next step and not about keeping them. So, when people say, "You should keep him," "This is meant to be," "You can't give him away," and "He loves you so much, you have to keep him!" it makes us feel bad. Every version of this statement, while well-intentioned, is upsetting. While doing a challenging task, it sounds like we're not doing the one thing we should be (keeping them), when in fact, we're doing the hardest thing, which is letting them go. If you ever do this kind of work, you'll understand exactly what I'm saying. If you never foster pets, it's ok. I'm not the least bit upset and I know the comments come from the very best place. Just know that it's the only thing rescuers and fosterers don't like hearing, so if you want to support them for their work, just be encouraging. If you REALLY want to support their work, adopt one of their rescues. If you’re interested in fostering a pet, reach out to a shelter in your area. They are often overrun with animals and find it very difficult to give individual attention to teach things like house-breaking and socializing to adoptable rescue animals. Nearly all animals can learn to love and connect with humans over time. Some cases are tougher than others, but there’s usually someone who can use the amount of help you can offer. Thank you for pitching in."
- Seth Greenleaf, cat foster dad
So, there you have it. It certainly takes a particular type of person to bring in the abandoned, abused, weak, and sick pets. You nurse these animals back to health and show them that there are good people in the world. Then find the perfect home for them and... just let them go.
When you foster pets, it changes the life of an animal for the better, but it's so hard to let go of something you worked so hard to help.
Suppose you find that fostering isn't for you. In that case, you can volunteer at shelters, donate to local rescues, adopt a pet from a foster pawrent, or simply offer to help out in any way you can. Any aid you can provide to an animal in need will never go unrewarded.
Need a couple of gift ideas for a pet foster parent?
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