We interviewed Alice Sarmiento, writer and kitten foster parent, on how she successfully fosters kitties.
1) How many pets do you have at the moment (foster or otherwise)? Please identify by name, age, and species (or specific breed when applicable).
I’m caring for 11 animals. Three live with me (Bush, Cheney, Little Penguin); four with my dad (Hobo, Little Hobo, Penguin, and Moses); and four with my mom (Sandwich, Florentine, Paul Stanley, and Ginger the dog). That’s 7 adult cats and one dog: domestic short-haired cats of unidentifiable mixed breeds, same goes for the dog. Two cats are going to be adopted out in a week by my aunt.
2) When and why did you first decide to foster a pet? How many pets have you fostered since then?
I began fostering in 2011 after a stray I found died of intestinal prolapse. I was supposed to donate her carrier to PAWS, then ended up taking home two kittens to foster: Sandwich and Maya. Maya has been adopted out through the shelter, while I adopted Sandwich.
3) Many foster pets are abandoned pets or rescues from inhumane conditions (abusive owners, natural disasters, etc.). What challenges or special needs have you encountered in fostering these pets? How different are these needs from those of non-foster pets?
Many of the animals who are fostered require attention (medical and emotional) they can’t get living in a large shelter population. Fostering is a form of rehab for most; for others, it’s a way to alleviate the overburdened, volunteer-driven shelter system.
4) Do your foster and non-foster pets get along? Do your non-foster pets get jealous of the attention you give your foster pets? If so, how do you manage this?
They’re still animals, so of course there’s a period of adjustment when other cats are introduced into the clowder. Sometimes I isolate the newly fostered ones in an open carrier or separate room, to let them know there’s a safe space for them, then allow them to come out whenever they’re ready.
5) As foster pet parents, what development goals do you set when caring for and training your pets? How do you know when your foster pet is ready for adoption? How long do foster pets stay in your care?
I make sure they’re spayed or castrated and their vaccines and deworming are complete before they’re adopted out to new pet owners, as in people who’ve never had cats. I know they’re ready once a vet clears them. Sometimes they have problems socializing, and that means they need to stay with me longer. Stress can be fatal to a cat’s health.
6) Is caring for a foster pet more expensive than caring for a non-foster pet?
It can be, because as kittens you get them at a period when they need to go through bi-weekly deworming and vaccinations. If you foster through a shelter or NGO, the shelter takes care of the expenses―but it also means depleting their resources. Proper care is always expensive, but there’s no other option, and fostering is just part of my belief that since cats didn’t have anything to do with the urban conditions we’ve made so inhospitable to them, we have to at least make things easier. It’s a matter of pitching in to create a more humane environment that benefits everyone in the end.
7) Have you adopted one of your foster pets?
Three. I’ve adopted three.
8) Are you able to keep tabs on your former foster pets? If so, how are they doing now?
Some of them, especially the ones adopted by my friends. The ones I fostered through PAWS, (I have to trust) are in good hands because of how rigorously they screen adopters.
9) Why should prospective pet parents consider fostering a pet?
Get a pet if you can take care of it. It teaches responsibility and compassion and you learn to trust other people to love what you love.
10) Do you have any advice for people considering fostering pets?
Get a vet you can trust and communicate openly with about your pets.
This appeared without a byline as “Success Stories” in Animal Scene’s March 2015 issue.