By: Sarah Liu & Jason Berger
The Rewards of Fostering & TNR
As spring and summer approach, it’s the season for flowers, sunshine, and new beginnings. It’s also a time of year many rescue workers dread, due to the increase in litters produced by unspayed cats. Known as “kitten season,” this influx of new life contributes to overcrowding in shelters, sanctuaries, and feral colonies, usually overwhelming already scarce resources. Foster families become especially important and each community should be on the look-out for effective and humane policies to limit the births of homeless kittens. With that in mind, below are a few thoughts and reminders for the practices of fostering and trap-neuter-release.
Many animal shelters and rescue organizations run foster programs for our feline and canine friends. For cats, fostered animals tend to be kittens, pregnant cats, momma cats with litters, senior cats, and cats with special needs.
Foster parents provide temporary shelter and care, and enjoy a convenient alternative to permanently adopting a furr-ever friend. Requirements generally include an orientation session, a spare bedroom or bathroom, and plenty of love and affection. Expenses, including food and veterinary care, are generally covered by the shelter or rescue group.
Carin Rhodes, Volunteer Foster Care Coordinator with King Street Cats, stresses the need for foster families: “Quite frankly, we can only rescue as many kittens as we have foster families – the more foster families we have, the more lives we are able to save.”
Fostering has many rewards. In addition to saving lives, spending time with your kittens and caring for their needs is guaranteed to be an exciting and educational experience. Fostering is also flexible and cost-effective, making it a great opportunity for families with children, seniors, or individuals unable to make a long-term commitment. According to Rhodes, “It’s incredibly edifying to watch your fosters grow and flourish in your home.” Carin described the gratification involved in rescuing thin, scared, or sick kittens, and watching them transform. She says: “At the end of your foster experience, when you watch someone fall in love with them as much as you have loved them and see them go to their forever home, nothing is more rewarding.”
Rewarding? Definitely. But it’s not always easy. Carin reminded us that, while most families experience healthy and loving kittens, the unexpected can arise. For instance, sometimes a kitten gets sick and needs veterinary care. Sometimes a foster family may need to give a kitten medication. Additionally, some kittens are shy, and need extra TLC to overcome their fears. And sometimes, despite the best medical and foster care possible, a kitten passes away. While rare, these situations do occur, and a foster family should be emotionally prepared for the good times and the bad. As Carin reminds us, “There are no perfect kittens, just like there are no perfect children.” Each kitten is different, with its own unique personality, behaviors, and needs.
Carin tells us: “We could not perform our lifesaving mission without our foster families. It is because of our incredible foster families that we were able to rescue 184 kittens and their moms last year. We cannot express how grateful we are for all of our foster families and how great the need is for additional foster families to continue to save cats and kittens in need.”
For details on fostering with King Street Cats, please visit http://www.kingstreetcats.org/info/display?PageID=16319 or e-mail email@example.com
For other information on fostering in the Alexandria area, visit the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria at http://alexandriaanimals.org/fostering.html, or your local rescue group.
TNR – Trap-Neuter-Return
Although fostering is incredibly helpful for those animals that have already been brought into the world, Trap-Neuter-Return is a humane program to help reduce the numbers of homeless kittens born each year.
Trap-Neuter–Return, or ‘TNR,’ is a program by which unowned, free-roaming cats are trapped, sterilized, vaccinated against rabies, and released back into the outdoors.
Why is this necessary? According to some estimates, an unspayed cat can have over 420,000 kittens in the span of just seven years. Even the most conservative estimates, such as http://calculate-this.com/420000-kittens-unspayed-cat-kitten-calculator, predict one unspayed female can have 49,000 surviving offspring after 10 years.
TNR has been endorsed by the ASCPA, The Humane Society of the United States, Alley Cat Allies, and other animal welfare organizations. As indicated by the ASPCA:
“TNR has been shown to be the least costly and the most humane, efficient way of stabilizing community cat populations. TNR helps stabilize the population of community colonies and, over time, reduces them. Nuisance behaviors such as spraying, excessive noisemaking and fighting are largely eliminated and no additional kittens are born.” (https://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/closer-look-community-cats).
Alley Cat Allies has detailed instructions if you are personally interested in becoming active in a Trap-Neuter-Return program. (http://www.alleycat.org/page.aspx?pid=285)
Humane Society of the U.S. endorsement: http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/cats/facts/cat_statement.html
Alley Cat Allies endorsement: http://www.alleycat.org/trap-neuter-return