What’s a foster parent? They’re more than someone who has a lot of love to share with an animal who’s not ready for adoption. They’re someone who is willing to track daily weights, diet changes, administer medicine, act quickly (day or night) if their foster animal is ill, and has the emotional strength to bring their foster animal back to the shelter and off to a forever home. Certainly “love” is the most important component of the job, but fostering requires so much more. Fosters are our eyes and ears when an animal is not at the shelter. Their feedback is critical to providing the care, medically and behaviorally, that the animal needs once back at the shelter.

There are several types of foster families for Marin Humane. The majority of fosters take care of kittens during “kitten season.” These fosters usually have to give medication to their kitties. In addition, they are responsible for not only keeping the kittens clean and healthy, but for exposing them to many sights, sounds, people and activities. This socialization is key in getting them ready for a “real world” type of home. The length of a kitten foster is between two to six weeks.

A second type of foster family is cat or dog behavior fosters. These foster families have received additional training on behavior modification. The most common behavior issue we encounter is shyness but we also need behavior fosters for litterbox training, handling, and socialization. For shy animals, the goal is to get the cat or dog to become more confident so when they return to the shelter, they’re able to cope with the busy surroundings and eventually, new home environment. Sometimes it can take a month or two to see improvement. It’s very gratifying to see the difference that time in a foster home can make in an animal’s demeanor back at the shelter. Behavior fosters are also dedicated to working with semi-feral kittens (aka “skitty kitties”) to see if they can be socialized and handled sufficiently to be available for adoption.

Marin Humane is also fortunate to have foster families willing to take on medical cases. These can include animals recovering from a specific type of surgery, ringworm (a fungus) treatment, non-contagious skin issues, and more recently, a kitten that was found with burns on her body that will need several months in a foster home to recover.

We’re also happy to report that it’s not just dogs and cats that are fostered. Numerous baby bunnies, baby guinea pigs, young chicks, shy rats, and even the occasional reptile go to foster!

We are very thankful to our foster volunteers for all they do, day in and day out, for the shelter animals. Two years ago 649 animals were in our foster care program and this past year, 686 animals enjoyed time with a foster family. Our foster families are simply amazing – they’ve provided a second chance to animals that need it the most.

By Suzanne Gollin, Foster Care Coordinator