Today we appreciate our volunteers by featuring part two of an interview with one of Berkeley Humane's foster care providers.
Berkeley Humane relies heavily on a network of foster providers to socialize and care for its animals before they are adopted. Our dogs and cats spend a significant portion of their time with devoted fosters who welcome them into their homes, where the animal can stretch its legs and learn what it's like to be in a home setting. This helps dogs and cats to avoid the stress of being in a shelter and allows their wonderful personalities to shine through.
This week, we are talking to Phoebe again, a volunteer who has been fostering cats for two years. Here is the second part of her interview (you can find the first part here).
What is the hardest part of fostering? What's the most rewarding?
Hardest: Saying goodbye is definitely challenging. But besides that, I think for me the logistics can be tough at times because I do have other cats and my house is not very big, so divvying up space can require some creativity and flexibility (fosters and resident cats have to be kept separate). I’d say it’s totally worth the challenge, though.
Most rewarding: Watching them develop. For young kittens, getting to see them learn and grow. It’s AMAZING. They start as helpless, blind, deaf little mice then day by day I see them develop senses, and learn how to interact with each other and their environment, and figure out how legs work, and try to run before they’ve really mastered walking, and learn from the squeals of their siblings when biting is too hard or play too rough. And seeing them develop little personalities! For adult cats, getting to know them and, in the case of shyer cats, seeing them come out of their shell. Anybody who has ever had cats knows that they have personalities just as strong and unique as humans, so getting to know them and developing a connection and a routine with them is very rewarding.
How has fostering changed your life?
It’s given me a way to do something I truly enjoy (i.e. playing with kittens!) while getting actively involved in an issue I truly care about. I’ve always cared about animal welfare, but thought I could never volunteer at a shelter because I don’t think I could emotionally handle being faced with the sadness and heartbreak (think: Humane Society of the U.S. commercials). For that reason I never even looked into it. I also always assumed I couldn’t foster because I already have cats and I don’t have a big house. Then one day a few years ago I mentioned all this to a woman I know who fosters and she enlightened me that (a) there are adoption-guaranteed organizations like Berkeley Humane that do not euthanize for space, ever, and that (b) I can foster even though I have my own cats! I decided to go to a training to learn more, but I was still skeptical about not having a big space. What really convinced me to give it a try was when the trainer told me that my bathroom, while not a big space for a cat on a permanent basis, is still a far better environment than a cage at a municipal shelter. Fostering has also introduced me to a whole community of people who really care about animal welfare.
Is fostering time consuming?
It can be. It depends on what type of animals you foster. For example bottle babies require a very different time commitment than adult cats or older kittens. I personally work full time so I’m gone during the day on weekdays, and therefore not able to foster young kittens without a Mama who would require feeding and care every few hours. I don’t personally foster dogs but I would imagine their needs are quite different as well.
For me, fostering does take up a lot of my morning and evening time before and after work. Playing with the foster cats is obviously enjoyable so it’s a fun way to spend my free time. But there is other work involved – for litters of kittens, especially as they get bigger, I find myself spending a lot of time cleaning litter boxes, doing dishes, and doing laundry (kittens can be messy!) Fostering can also involve trips to Berkeley Humane for check-ups or vaccinations. I’m always able to make that work, but it does require some planning on my part.
How does Berkeley Humane support you in your fostering?
Berkeley Humane provides all the supplies for the foster animals. Food, litter, bedding, toys, dishes, litter box. There is also a phone number that can be called for emergency advice after hours, or any time during normal business hours for non-urgent questions. The foster handout/manual contains useful information about a number of topics, including a list of which types of medical issues can and cannot wait 24 hours (I’ve referenced this on more than one occasion. It can be stressful when an animal has a medical concern because they can’t tell you how they feel or what’s wrong… or what they maybe ate that they shouldn’t have while you weren’t looking. So having a reference to help make the right decision if it’s late at night can be very valuable and reassuring.) The current foster care coordinator Kylie Reed is very responsive to calls and emails which really helps me feel supported as a fosterer.
What motivates you to continue fostering?
Knowing I can make a difference in the life of an animal who may not have otherwise had a chance. Their time in foster may be short, but it’s an opportunity to make a frightening time of transition for them as comfortable as possible.
Thank you to Phoebe for all of her valuable work and her willingness to answer our questions on top of it! Stay tuned for more foster care provider interviews!
At Berkeley Humane, we are always looking for foster providers. Berkeley Humane provides all of the necessary food and supplies and is available for support for all of its fosters-- you just add the care, love, and time! Read about becoming a foster carer on our website and fill out an application form!