Caregivers Needed!

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If you want a pet but can’t afford it, foster care may be for you. If you love animals and have time on your hands, foster care may be for you.

If you don’t know what kind of animal you want, foster care may be for you. If you have spent a lifetime loving different pets and know how to care for them, now is the time to give back and care for an animal that needs you. Foster care for pets covers a lot of bases and there are all kinds of caregivers.

Who needs foster care?
Some of the animals that need foster care are those that have been rescued and sent to shelters. Often these are abandoned or orphaned kittens and puppies that need nothing more than a loving environment to gain weight and confidence. Shelters are not the best place for kittens or puppies because they are susceptible to diseases, and the young need special care.

Kittens and puppies can gain weight rapidly. When they reach two pounds and eight weeks of age, the babies are ready to be spayed or neutered. The kittens and puppies may need no more than three weeks of foster care in a home environment. Both cats and dogs may need a loving home and caregivers after surgery or other illness. In these cases, stays with a foster family may last six weeks or longer.

Pets given up by their families for a myriad of reasons may need foster care because they become stressed in a shelter environment. Likewise, animals that need to be evaluated in the home environment are sent to foster caregivers who will care for them and observe how they react to family members and cope when they are left alone. With this information, the adoption agency can better match the pets and families planning to adopt a shelter pet.

Prospective service animals are others that need a loving home. These animals have their mission in life. They need a normal home environment until they are ready for specific training as service animals.

Who are the carers?
Caregivers can be anyone who genuinely loves animals and has the ability to care for them. This includes a single person, couples, families with children and the elderly. You may work full time or be a stay-at-home worker, a retired person or even someone who is very busy. The most important qualifications you need are to be able to care for the pet and to be able to safely transport it to the vet when needed, especially if you are caring for an ill animal. Your yard may be fenced or not, but the pet must be able to stay indoors.

Most agencies screen the carers to be sure that the animals they are placing go to a safe environment. A vet may visit your home to see that other animals in your home are healthy.

Is it expensive to care for the pet?
The best course of action is to ask. Many, but not all, agencies, supply all necessary items needed by the pet: its food, bedding, bowls, litter and a litter box for cats, a carrier for small animals and a lead for larger ones. Toys are provided. However, nothing says you can’t supplement the equipment if you desire, and who can resist those toys in the pet store?

Do I get to choose which pets to care for?
No, not really. You can state your preference for a cat or a dog, but breed and sex are determined by the animals available and your experience in caring for them.

The Hard Part
Sometimes, the carers want to adopt the animals for whom they have cared. Whether you are allowed to adopt the animal depends on many factors, but you can certainly let it be known that you would like to adopt the animal.

Some animals may not be ready for adoption. They may need additional medical care such as neutering or further behavioral training to deal with their anxiety. Remember, some of these animals, such as service dogs, are not for adoption but are just beginning their training. Your job is to get them ready.

The Rewards
People who enjoy caring for animals respond well to the foster care paradigm. You get to see animals at their weakest moment. Rescued animals arrive exhausted, scared, ill, or undernourished. Foster caregivers have the pleasure of seeing them relax and get comfortable in non-threatening surroundings. Only then does the animal’s true personality emerge. Usually, the animals let you know how grateful they are for a place to rest and relax. As soon as they are ready, they move onto an adoption list, and you prepare yourself for your next guest. ■

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