Fostering Cats Versus Sheltering Cats

This is a quick note to raise a question about whether the cat shelter system in America should be shifted towards a universal fostering system. In a cat or animal shelter the cats live together in a confined space. If cats are fostered they live with individual people in their homes and/or enclosures attached to the home. The cats do not live together or if they do their numbers are much reduced. When you place a lot of cats together you create perhaps the most pressing problem of cat shelters namely the spread of infectious disease.

chester fostered cat
Poster by Ruth aka Kattaddorra. Chester was fostered by Marion at Cats Protection
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The majority of sick pet cats taken into veterinary surgeons suffer from non-infectious diseases. In respect of rescue facilities, the incidence of infectious diseases is likely to be greater. I’m sure that there are many cases of cats taken to shelters who were healthy when they entered it but perhaps ended up being euthanised because they became unhealthy during their stay at the shelter. That clearly undermines the shelter process.

In addition, the environment of a cat shelter will probably be harsher than the more homely environment of a person fostering cats. There will be less noise in a foster home. There is likely to be more space in a foster home and the environment will most likely be more pleasant.

I suppose that the greater difficulty in making arrangements to view a cat by a potential adopter is a downside of the foster system but perhaps someone can clarify that for me. It does seem to be quite a minor downside compared to the benefits. It makes me wonder why I don’t see more discussion on the Internet about cat fostering in America. Nearly all the time I read about the cat shelter system and I’m viewing pictures of cats in cages in shelters and I wonder why there is not a greater emphasis on fostering.

In the UK the largest cat rescue organisation, Cats Protection, is based on fostering.

I’m aware that there are many people who foster cats in America but might it not be a good idea to extend the network of people in foster care while simultaneously reducing the number of shelters? Perhaps there are not enough volunteers.

There may be other unforeseen benefits of the foster system compared to the shelter system. A person fostering a cat presumably has ultimate authority over the care of that cat and the cat’s placement with a new caretaker. Fosterers are no doubt under the rules and regulations of their organisation and management but in effect the fosterer seems to have great autonomy and decision-making at the sharp end of the operation.

With the cat shelter system you will get, as I understand it, a management structure and the manager will be the person who ultimately takes responsibility for decision-making, in which case more cats are under the care and control of one person. As a result, that single person, the manager of the cat shelter, needs to be an excellent person. If is not a lot of cats are potentially jeopardised.

Whereas in the foster system if there is a person fostering cats who is unsuitable and making poor decisions, there are fewer cats in his or her charge whose welfare might be jeopardised.

I may have this argument wrong. It just crossed my mind that fostering, if it can be arranged, is better than putting cats into a single facility.

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3 thoughts on “Fostering Cats Versus Sheltering Cats”

  1. I think all cats would be better off being fostered rather than in a Shelter in a cage.
    I suppose in the USA it would take a large organisation like our Cats Protection to set it up, because they supply the cabins to the fosterers, which means that many who couldn’t afford to buy one are still able to foster if they don’t have a spare room.
    Volunteers at each branch fund raise to buy the food and we have cat food collection bins in various places.
    Also people like Babz does for our area, collecting food and bedding at work, given by people who can’t help in other ways.
    No one gets paid and rarely asks for expenses but of course a hard core of volunteers is needed and as you said Michael there may not be enough of them for this system to work in the USA.

    • id love to do fostering, . I hope to once the local spca has set up to volounteer which i hope to do sometime soon.

  2. I can only comment of fostering in my area.

    There are organizations that have many, many cats in foster homes. It’s really ideal compared to shelters.
    Potential fosterers are very well screened; but, a part of the screening has to do with the fosterers’ financial status.

    Because these organizations survive solely on donations, they have a hard time recruiting fosterers. It’s, primarily, because most of the day to day needs of the cats have to be financed by the fosterers themselves.


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