Fostering a cat or dog?
Patty, 6 year old rescue, lounges after a long day of barking & running
Fostering a cat or dog during Covid 19? We’ve come to rely on our four legged friends as in house stress busters, shrinks and confidants. Faced with the dread of social and mental isolation, it makes sense that people flock to shelters. We talk to our cats and dogs, horses and donkeys… because they listen, they’re the best sounding boards because they do not interrupt.
There is an upside to your fear of being isolated*, a shelter worker/ owner has one less reason to worry! If they cannot shut down, it gives workers the opportunity to provide care to new entrants and to ageing residents who need special care. Supply chains are hit globally, procuring large quantities of food for man and beast are now troublesome. Empty shelters save lives- reduce movement, caretakers are able to stay home, as human interaction minimises. On the surface, it feels like a win – win situation, that is until we return to our daily routine, whatever the “new normal” brings.
Fostering is a full time job, please understand you are not bringing home a temporary roommate. This is an animal with personality and needs. Globally, major disruptions to our daily routine, is met with panic, and a sense of loss. We’ve lost control over our freedom of movement, daily actions and reasons for waking up each morning.
A measured response has been replaced by human beings grabbing at inconsequential controllable actions like stock piling toilet paper. It is reasonable to assume you like us, ran out to stockpile puppies and kittens– we speak the same language!
Pets are emotional support crutches, they are companion, carer and confidant in the uncharted choppy waters we find ourselves.
Inexperienced foster parents are easy prey for a cat or dog. Cats and dogs are incredibly intelligent and learn quickly how to take advantage of inexperience. A lot like kids, boundaries are the key to good parenting. Or we end up with a generation of cats and dogs like the ‘kids’ who believe they are immune to COVID 19. Coronavirus is a harsh teacher for our kids and we can only hope they come out of this stronger.
Make sure to take instructions from the shelter for the animal you foster, ask about any and all health problems the dog may have. Check with the shelter if the cat or dog has been inoculated. The animal may have a history of aggression, abandonment or abuse which often displays itself once they leave a shelter environment. A myriad of sights sounds and smells will trigger a flight or fight response from a shelter cat or dog. Ensure you and your foster are safe by asking questions and heed instructions. A good shelter will ALWAYS be available to answer your questions and help you and your foster transition.
What a incredible problem to have, for a shelter to run out of available cats and dogs to foster is the equivalent of winning a lottery. A dark side of this silver lining will be a deluge of returned animals once “normal” life resumes. The returns will be as swift as their removal.
India among other poor nations with street animal populations face the unique situation of a lock down which permits people to step out and feed an animal. When the government in India announced the lock down, minds raced, many feeders including us frantically searched for answers to this question- Can we feed our street dogs during a lock down?
Dog and cat carers across the length and breadth of India coordinate, share resources and information. The Indian police forces in a number of states have been at the fore of assisting to ensure street animals are fed. On our part as ‘feeders’ it behooves us to follow rules, ask for clarification and accommodate feeding activities. India is building a foster culture, but we’re old hands at street animal feeding and rescue!
How can you help a shelter or street dog when you cannot foster?
1. Buy and donate pet food, in these circumstances, dry pet food is the best option.
2. Coordinate via phone or email feeding times and schedules
3. Become a collection center for food and supplies
4. Foster a dog or cat (we’re going to give you a few pointers)
and your town/ city/ district rules allow you to walk to them to help out, or take over their work of feeding homeless neighbourhood dogs
Brooks HL, Rushton K, Lovell K, et al. The power of support from companion animals for people living with mental health problems: a systematic review and narrative synthesis of the evidence. BMC Psychiatry. 2018;18(1):31. Published 2018 Feb 5. doi:10.1186/s12888-018-1613-2