Exploring the foster cat experience

Photo by Furball Force Animal Rescue

How would you describe a cat? Some words that come to mind include aloof, mysterious, elegant, and calming, and I suspect you can come up with many more descriptive words. Statistics suggest 34 per cent of men and 37 per cent of women own cats. Over 50 per cent of cat owners are women between 55 and 64, and approximately 70,000 cats call Calgary home. 

Where did all these cats come from? Some cats come from breeders, but many cats find their way home via an animal rescue. 

A typical animal rescue is a non-profit organization that follows a model of animal capture or surrender, time spent in foster care, and adoption. The increase in animal rescue coincides with the interest in understanding the human-animal bond. 

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals influenced by behaviours essential to health and well-being.

There is interest in understanding the human-animal bond and the potential physical and mental health benefits of caring for a companion animal. 

There’s no single answer about how your pet can help you, but animals can serve as a source of comfort, help to build a bridge for social interactions, help to create a sense of purpose, and alleviate feelings of loneliness. 

Looking into your pet’s eyes and seeing a loving look reflected at you has been shown to release oxytocin, a hormone of bonding, love and affection. The chemical release is bi-directional, meaning that oxytocin is released in the pet’s brain as well. 

One of the significant supports of the human-animal bond is animal fostering. Fosters volunteer their home and time to care for an animal; many animals would face an unknown future without foster care. Interested individuals begin the process with an online application. 

Once the application is received, a processor gets in touch, and the applicant and processor determine which animal is the best fit. While we have considerable information about the foster dog experience, we know far less about the individual who fosters cats despite the interest in human-cat companionship. 

Our project

This project aims to increase our understanding of the human-cat foster relationship. We’re looking to recruit individuals interested in becoming cat fosters. We understand that foster care is a commitment and that you may have concerns. Some concerns include no experience caring for an animal, lack of time to commit to animal care, individual health concerns, and attachment concerns.

No prior experience is necessary if you plan to foster a cat. Having cared for animals in the past is helpful but not essential. We provide all the essentials, including food, litter supplies, and other necessities. 

We assist with setting up the physical environment and supporting each foster with resources as needed.

Time commitments vary from person to person; the same applies to animals. Some animals require longer-term fostering while others require short-term. 

Working with availability is critical to ensuring success for you and the animal. 

A commonly voiced concern, particularly among older adults, is health concerns. Some older adults experience mobility and functional ability challenges. 

Fortunately, many assistive devices are available, plus a community support network of volunteers assists on those days when a little extra help is needed. 

Finally, fosters worry about saying goodbye to their animal. Fostering is charitable work; you’re working for someone else, knowing an animal will have a wonderful life helping another human being. 

We understand the emotional investment that fosters undertake and have support in place. We focus on the positive aspect of letting that animal go rather than how much you will miss them. Yes, fostering might break your heart, but it can make your heart swell too.

How can you get involved?

We’re looking for individuals interested in cat fostering. You can begin the process by visiting the website and filling out an application. Or you can contact Marianne to start the process. 

If fostering isn’t suitable for you, you can share your cat experiences with us. We’re interested in learning about any aspects of cat care. 

Our goal

Our goal is to increase our understanding of what it’s like to live with a cat. The fact there are over 70,000 cats in Calgary tells us that cats are essential companion animals. With your assistance, we can enhance our understanding of the human-cat bond, share this information with other rescue organizations, and serve to strengthen this important bond. 

For additional information, contact Marianne Rogerson at 403-708-9639. or email marianner@furballforce.org. Visit our website at: furballforce.org.