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Three feline foster journeys, three ways

03 November 2022

With kitten season underway, SPCA is on the lookout for foster families now more than ever. We spoke to three very different individuals currently providing temporary foster homes to animals in need, to demonstrate how, despite some people’s ideas, fostering can fit around a variety of lifestyles.

Three feline foster journeys, three ways

Ethan, student foster parent in Dunedin

Now in his second year of fostering, Otago University student Ethan is a prime example of how fostering can fit around all sorts of lifestyles.

“I always had a pet cat growing up, but when I moved to Dunedin as a student, I was in a small apartment and I didn’t want to adopt permanently here, as it wouldn’t really be fair on the cat,” he says. Missing feline friendship in his life though, he thought about other ways he could still have cats in his life, and that’s when fostering came to mind.

“Fostering is a great idea for people who live in apartments and can’t commit long-term to an animal, but still want animals in their day-to-day life! For people who aren’t planning on remaining in the same place for an extended period of time, fostering is a happy compromise. Animals get a loving home, and you get furry company!”

In his foster journey so far, Ethan has looked after six solo cats, all of whom needed some form of rehabilitation, often for longer periods. While many people get into fostering for kitten cuddles, SPCA sees a lot of older cats come through our doors in dire need of help. Fosters like Ethan are vital for providing a safe, stress-free place for them to recover after surgery or treatment, before they’re able to be adopted.

“I’ve had cats that need socialisation, one that just needed to learn what a loving environment was, and Chunkie (pictured) who had been hit by a car as a stray and needed his leg amputated. He stayed at mine while he recovered,” he says. We’d say it looks like Chunkie was happy with the arrangement!

Ethan says the most rewarding part, for him, is seeing how far cats come along while under his care. “One cat I had, Ellie, had to stay in a crate covered with blankets when I first got her, and after a couple of months was so comfortable, and rolling over for belly rubs. It’s so fulfilling.”

SPCA cat fostered by a university student
Chunkie, SPCA cat fostered by university student Ethan while recovery from surgery

Anni, household with children and existing pets in Oamaru

One of the most common misconceptions around fostering is that anyone with existing pets is unable to do it. While having a separate space for your foster animal is important, foster placements in homes with existing pets can be a huge benefit to helping socialise animals, and get them ready for their forever home.

Anni recently put her hands up to foster through her local SPCA Centre in Oamaru, saying her family decided to become involved “to fill our kitten cup!” Anni lives right next to State Highway 1, and was too worried about having a cat full-time that would be able to go outdoors. Fostering is a great solution to have cats and kittens in the household without having to worry about the risks that come with them going outside.

As well as the benefits to a foster animal by becoming familiar with other animals and children, Anni sees the benefits on her side too. “Fostering got our kids and our dog, Nikau, familiar with felines, which is great. We all got amazing cuddles, and the foster cats enrich our lives hugely.”

Foster kitten in household with dog and kids
Two of Anni's previous foster kittens picture with her son and pet dog

Meegan, renting foster parent in Wellington

A lot of landlords state no animals on rental agreements, but here at SPCA, we see so many animals go into temporary rental homes, with both the renter foster parents and the animals having a positive experience. Meegan is one just one of those, who despite renting, has recently signed up to foster felines, with a lot of success.

“I signed myself and my partner up to foster while we’re renting, and I recommend it to everyone I meet! There are so many benefits,” she tells us. “For us, the main one has been the flexibility. Being able to choose when we want to take on a foster cat depending on what’s going on in our lives. Also the fact that SPCA pays for everything, so we don’t have to commit financially to owning a cat. I also think that fostering is a great test if you’re considering adopting, to check it fits in with your lifestyle.”

It’s not 100% fun and roses though – Meegan does confess the hardest part is taking them back at the end of their foster time. “Some have been hard to give back because we’ve bonded with them so much. But it’s made easier to do by knowing that there will always be more felines needing our help. As I write to you now, I’m sitting with a lovely mum cat and her two adorably tiny 3-week-old kittens. I never would have had this pleasure of watching them grow up if I hadn’t given fostering a go.”

Are you renting, with a clause that there are no pets allowed? Why not have a chat to your landlord about the possibility of fostering? Many foster parents keep their animals confined to one room, which minimising risk to the landlord’s property. Furthermore, with it being a temporary arrangement, you could suggest doing one foster placement, and reassessing after to discuss whether the landlord would be happy for fostering to continue. It’s worth a shot!

SPCA cats happy in their foster home
Two SPCA felines very happy in their foster home with Meegan and her partner

Do you want to become a cat or dog foster parent? We are always on the lookout for people who can help foster a pet before they’re ready for rehoming. Browse our foster listings here, selecting your nearest Centre location, and fill out the form to hear from your local SPCA team and discuss next steps.

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