Two years ago, Leslie Coleman decided to foster a small kitten that had to be bottle-fed.
The kitten had to be fed about every two hours, but Coleman and her family loved it. Ultimately, the family failed at fostering – Coleman’s daughter kept the kitten.
But ever since then, Coleman, who fosters pets for the PAWS Shelter of Central Texas in Kyle, has cared for five litters of kittens that were too young to be on their own until they were adopted.
It’s part of a PAWS foster program, which began about four years ago. The program provides temporary homes for pets until they’re adopted, or can be placed in an adoption program.
Coleman is currently taking care of three kittens that came to her when they were only four weeks old.
“If you like cats or dogs, it’s very rewarding,” Coleman said. “You get them when they’re young, you get to play with them for a few weeks or months and then you send them off to somebody else.”
Most of the pets in foster homes are kittens and puppies who are too young to be placed in the shelter.
Fosters temporarily provide them with shelter and love for two weeks, on average, or longer.
“These fosters are literally saving a life,” said Sonni Standefer, office manager and kennel manager. “I have to have confirmed fosters for [animals]before I tell the other shelters that I can take them.”
If a foster can take four kittens, for example, PAWS can pull four kittens from the San Marcos Animal Shelter.
PAWS provides food, veterinary services and other pet needs, Standefer said.
“We provide everything that they need,” Standefer said. “Every one of the fosters has my cell phone number if they have emergencies overnight.”
Fostering can be a way for people considering getting their first pet, including college students and young adults, to determine if they’re ready for the long-term commitment.
Fostering can also benefit parents wanting to teach their children about caring for pets, or single-pet homes who want a companion for their pet, but might not have the time or money for a second animal, Standefer said.
“A lot of our fosters do have dogs that are lonely, so getting [foster]puppies will help that dog get some play time and it will also help the puppy learn how to dog properly.” -Sonni Standefer, office manager and kennel manager
Kathy Jo Lowrie began volunteering at PAWS and fostering dogs about two and a half years ago.
Lowrie adopted one of the first dogs she fostered, who now helps her care for the puppies she fosters.
“As far as fostering, she is puppy-crazy,” Lowrie said. “When I get puppies she helps me take care of them. She plays with them and cuddles with them.”
Lowrie is currently fostering Apple Juice, a one-year-old dog who just had a litter of six puppies.
While the puppies will soon be adopted, Apple Juice will stay with Lowrie for two more months while receiving heartworm treatment.
Fostering is so rewarding, most people who decide to foster a pet continue doing so, Standefer said.
Interested individuals can apply to be a foster on the PAWS Shelter’s website. Standefer and PAWS staff talk with potential fosters about their living situation to ensure it’s a good environment for pets.
Approved fosters are added to a Facebook group where Standefer posts photos of pets who need a temporary home so fosters can take in a pet, or a few, if they’re available.
After staying with a foster for the needed time, pets are taken to an off-site adoption event to be adopted into a permanent, loving home.
“That’s the hardest part – letting them go,” Lowrie said. “You’re up there [at the off-site adoption], just waiting for someone to take your baby away. That’s hard but you know they’re going to a good family, and that opens up a spot to foster another one.”