We hope these FAQs clear up any lingering doubts and inspire you to save lives by enquiring about fostering today.
What do you mean by 'foster carers save lives'?
Space is a constant issue for CatCuddles and all animal charities. There are always ten times the number of cats in need of our help than there are spaces to house those cats until adoption, and often these cats are abandoned, at risk of euthanasia or homelessness, or in generally bad or desperate situations. Every foster home equals one more space, and by extension, one more cat saved. So quite literally, foster carers save lives!
My cat doesn't like other cats - can I still foster?
At CatCuddles, we generally don't advise mixing existing cats with foster cats. What we suggest instead is fostering the cat in just one room of your home, with the door kept closed and everything the cat needs - litter tray, bowls, bedding, toys - provided inside. This method minimizes the level of disruption to your own cat, who may at first be a little perturbed by the scent of another cat nearby, but will usually adapt within a few days, once it becomes apparent that the new cat poses no threat. The majority of our foster carers have cats of their own.
We ask that all existing cats in our foster homes are neutered and vaccinated.
Won't the foster cat get bored?
The idea of the fostering room is to simulate the kind of space a cat would have in an animal shelter or cattery. Though not designed for the long term, for the average time it takes for a cat to find a loving new home (two to three months), it's absolutely fine, as long as the environment is kept clean and sanitary, and the cat has plenty of toys, bedding and attention and stimulation from his or her foster carer. Of course, we would love every cat fostered with us to have the full run of a house, but this is simply not practical or possible, and when the alternative is the cat being homeless, a short stay in a comfortable fostering room, with a kind-hearted volunteer, is a very small price to pay for the chance at a new life.
So, do I need a spare room?
A spare room is absolutely ideal, particularly if spacious, easy to clean and un-cluttered. However if you don't have cats or dogs of your own, you can be far more flexible about the kind of space you dedicate to your foster cat. Some foster carers have also successfully adapted their home offices or bedrooms for fostering; if in doubt, just send us a picture of the room and we will advise you on it's suitability.
Do I need a form of transport and why?
It's preferable that you have a form of transport, particularly if you live outside of the borough of Greenwich where our volunteer base is currently located, though we will soon be opening a second branch and vet clinic in Palmers Green, North London.
This is because although fostering is a kind of volunteering that is almost entirely done at home, there are likely to be at least one or two occasions when your foster cat will need to visit one of our vets in Greenwich, usually for vaccinations, occasionally for a health check.
You will also need to bring your cat to one of our Greenwich hubs for the adoption to take place, and it's always good to have a car in case your cat has a medical emergency, though thankfully these are rare.
Public transport is usually less than ideal except for very short journeys, and though there are volunteers able to transport foster cats where needed, finding someone available for long, repeated or journeys at short notice can be tricky.
What's the difference between fostering and adopting?
Sometimes the terminology that charities use can be a little confusing. Adoption is taking responsibility for a cat, and all his or her needs, for the duration of that cats' life.
Fostering a cat is taking responsibility for a cat for only a short while, until he or she can find a permanent, adoptive home, and on behalf of a charity, who cover all that cats' veterinary costs and oversee his or her welfare.
How long will my foster cat stay with me?
On average, most cats wait for a new home for around two to three months, sometimes less, sometimes a little more if their needs are complex - it's not possible to predict. However, we only ask carers to foster cats for as long as they are able to.
So it's very important when you begin fostering to let us know what kind of time commitment you can offer, whether it's one to six months, whether you will consider a special needs cat facing a potentially longer stay, and whether you have any holidays coming up. Opening up an alternative space at a weeks notice can be tough if you find yourself suddenly unable to continue fostering a cat, so please be forthright about your limitations from the offset.
Can my foster cat go outside?
The short answer is no. In order to minimize the chances of a cat becoming lost or getting hit by a car, introducing him or her to the outdoors in a new home should be a long and gradual process. Each cat also needs to be carefully matched with the kind of outside space available - for example, a young cat with no experience of the outdoors is unsuitable for a garden near a busy road - and fully up to date with vaccinations before venturing outside, which can take over a month.
Therefore, since foster cats stay with their carers for just a short while, it is not practical nor worth the risk of injury and escape to introduce them to the outdoors, and foster carers must take extreme care to keep doors and windows closed. Again, a brief stay inside is a small sacrifice for a cat who is at risk of homelessness without the charity's help, and when the cat is adopted they can once again enjoy exploring the great outdoors, after a safe and slow introduction.
How often will my foster cat get visitors?
Rarely more than once or twice a week, and a member of the adoptions team will always contact you to arrange a mutually convenient time for the visit, and ask you for your thoughts and feedback on how it went. Visits usually last for 30 minutes to one hour, and consist of the prospective adopter meeting your foster cat, and perhaps asking a question or two about his or her personality and needs. They will then report back to the adoptions team.
What is involved in the adoption process for my foster cat?
The adoption process at CatCuddles is as follows;
- 1) The prospective adopter completes the adoption enquiry form on the CatCuddles website.
- 2 ) A member of the adoptions team gives the prospective adopter a call, and if they are a good candidate for adoption and a good fit for your foster cat, organises a visit. The adoptions team member will contact you to find a mutually convenient time for this visit.
- 3) If the visit goes well and the prospective adopter wishes to proceed to the next stage, a home visit is organised, and your foster cat is marked as 'Reserved' on the CatCuddles Adoption page.
- 4) If the home visit is successful, a date is scheduled for adoption at one of our hubs, either in SE2 or Palmers Green (when it opens!). You will either asked to transport your foster cat, or another volunteer will collect him or her if this is not possible. We will ensure that your foster cat is vaccinated, microchipped, neutered (if of age) and up to date with flea and worming treatments prior to the adoption.
What if I want to adopt my foster cat?
The occasional 'failed fosterer' is inevitable for any animal charity that relies on the services of fostering volunteers. Though we try to discourage this phenomenon, as having too many adopted cats in the home can sometimes restrict an individuals' ability to foster - and therefore save many lives - we have no rule against carers adopting their foster cats. As long as the home environment, attitude and lifestyle of the fosterer is suitable for the cat in question, then they are viable candidate for adoption, but it's important to make your feelings known as soon as possible, to avoid causing disappointment to another prospective adopter.
Can I post photos of my foster cat on social media?
Yes! We actively encourage this as it helps to generate adoption interest in foster cats from the public, and your pictures can also be used for your cats' adoption profile on our website. We also ask that you update us on your foster cat's progress, so sharing photos on our Facebook Community Group is a great way to inform both the public and the CatCuddles volunteer team at the same time.
One of our fostering volunteers, Laura, has written a blog about her experiences to encourage others to volunteer, and this is something we're also happy to support.
How much time will I need?
This really depends on your foster cat. If you are someone who works full time, you may not be suitable for young kittens or a cat that needs lots of stimulation and attention, but an older, independent cat will cope just fine with your schedule. You do however, need to be able to accommodate occasional adoption visitors for your cat, and facilitate the odd visit to the vet if needed.
Do I need to be experienced?
If you have owned a cat at least once in your life, this is usually sufficient experience to foster a friendly cat or kitten without special or complex needs. If you haven't, but have done lots of research and are happy to have lots of guidance, then we will still consider you a potential candidate for a low-maintenance cat. A responsible attitude and big heart are key.
If you are experienced, having worked or volunteered with cats in some capacity, then this is just wonderful, and we hope you will consider fostering shy cats or semi-feral kittens who need lots of handling and socialization.
Do I get to pick my foster cat?
We tend to match foster cats with carers based on each cats' individual needs and personality. For example, a foster carer who works full time would not be best suited for a cat in need of lots of stimulation and attention, and a litter of energetic kittens may not be suited to someone with only a small room to offer. We are interested in your preferences however, particularly on whether you are open to fostering kittens, pairs of cats, long-term stay cats or cats on daily medication.
Is it hard to say goodbye?
Adoption day is often bittersweet for foster carers, with them experiencing many conflicting emotions. Happiness that their cat has found a loving new home, pride that they have played a pivotal part in making that happen, and sadness at having to say goodbye to a cat they have loved and cared for. It's tough, but ultimately rewarding, especially when happy updates from a cats' adopter flood in - we always ask for these.
What kind of support will I have?
CatCuddles will provide bowls, bedding, toys, flea and worming treatments, all veterinary treatment, food and litter for your foster cat. We will either ask that you collect these supplies prior to taking on your foster cat or arrange for them to be dropped to you by a transport volunteer, and will request that you keep us updated either by text, email or through facebook on your foster cats' progress or when you are in need of anything, even if this is just advice.
An absolutely invaluable tool for fostering and indeed all volunteers is also our private volunteer group on facebook. Though we understand that not everyone has Facebook, we will encourage you to make a profile if just for the purposes of using the group, as it will enable you to connect with the entire volunteer team, including other experienced foster carers - if you need advice or help with anything, just post on this group!
What if my foster cat gets ill?
With so many cats in the charity's care, of course it's inevitable that one or two will occasionally become ill. The cost of veterinary treatment for all foster cats is covered by the charity, and if your cat is unwell we will ask that you take him or her to one of our collaborating vets in Greenwich for assessment. Though this may not always be the vet most local to you, we prefer to stick to vets who we know and trust, and who we often have payment plans in place with, as vet bills pose a significant challenge for charities!
Will I get updates on my foster cat once he or she is adopted?
We always ask that adopters update us on how their CatCuddles' cat is settling in, and encourage them to join the CatCuddles Community Group on facebook, which consists of volunteers, adopters and general cat lovers, to share photos of their kitty and let us know if they need any help or advice.
What if I have a friend who wants to adopt my foster cat?
Anyone interested in adopting a CatCuddles cat is asked to complete the adoption enquiry form on our website, and go through the regular process of adoption. Of course, good character references for any potential adopter are always a bonus!