Casey Schickling, Foster Care Coordinator, the MSPCA at Nevins Farm
July 1, 2010

1) What is foster care?

The foster program is an extension of our shelter. It allows us to care for more animals than we would be able to otherwise. We are able to work with animals that need more time to grow or heal before going up for adoption.

2) What type of animal could be a candidate for foster care?

The most common foster candidates are kittens that are under two months of age that need to gain weight and socialization. We also send kittens and cats that need to be on medications for upper respiratory infections or other medical concerns. We sometimes see puppies or small animals that benefit from the foster program. Any animal whose chances of adoption could be improved by having extra time away from the shelter is considered for foster care.

3) What behavioral changes do you see in animals when they’re given a chance to get away from the shelter for a bit?

Animals that come back to foster may take a day or two to re-adjust to the shelter environment, but general are much more social. They often solicit attention from the public, and this increases their chance for adoption.

4) How many volunteer foster families are there in your program?

We currently have 127 foster families. Around 110 of those families foster cats and kittens.

5) What is the most unique case of foster care you’ve ever encountered?

While every foster animal comes from a unique situation, one of our most recent success stories is a kitten who came in because he was attacked by a dog in his home. He suffered a lot of trauma and we were concerned that he may not recover. Although he is still in foster, he is recovering so well and we are all very impressed by how well he is doing.

6) What is kitten season?

Kitten season begins around May-June and continues into December. Although we do see kittens all year round, we have a significant increase during this time and look for a lot of support from our foster families during these months.

7) What does foster care for kittens involve?

Typically, fostering kittens includes making sure they have a clean area with fresh food and water daily. They need to be socialized every day (played with and petted…tough work I know!) and make sure they are healthy, and showing no signs of a cold. They come into the shelter about every 2 weeks for a general health check and to update their vaccinations.

8) How old are kittens when they are no longer dependent on their mother?

Ideally, kittens should be 6-8 weeks before going to foster care on their own. However, even at this age some kittens still need more time with their mom if they are not eating well on their own. If kittens come in with a mom, we usually send the mom to foster care with them. If kittens are really little and do not have a mom we would send them to one of our foster homes who specialize in bottle fed kittens, needing 24 hour a day care.

9) How does kitten season upset the daily routines at the shelter?

There are so many families looking for kittens at this time of the year. With so many kittens that we house here that leaves less space for our adults cats. It also takes away some of our adopters for adult cats, if someone coming in looking for an adult cat adopts a kitten, that is one less home for our cats.

10) What steps does the MSPCA take to reduce cat overpopulation?

We spay and neuter all of our animals, including kittens before they leave the shelter!

11) What can kids do to help the shelter’s efforts to reduce cat overpopulation?

Kids can encourage people to spay and neuter their animals!

12) I know you do many other jobs at the shelter. How does coordinating foster care compare in difficulty?

I am also a full time animal care and adoption counselor. Coordinating the foster program is pretty different than adoption counseling. I work with a unique group of awesome volunteers that are very good at what they do. We depend on them in order for the program to run successfully. After all, without them there would be no program.