Help for a furry friend

Foster families needed before ‘kitten season’ gets under way

By: Kristyne E. Demske | C&G Newspapers | Published February 23, 2011

 Nicole Bica shows off 6-month-old Matilda at the Hazel Park Animal Shelter. Bica volunteers with Pet Adoption Alternative of Warren, which is looking for families to foster kittens this season.

Nicole Bica shows off 6-month-old Matilda at the Hazel Park Animal Shelter. Bica volunteers with Pet Adoption Alternative of Warren, which is looking for families to foster kittens this season.

Photo by David Schreiber

Although spring is nearly a month away, “kitten season” is gearing up this month, meaning that local shelters may soon be filled to the brim with fuzzy faces needing good homes?.

But until they can find their forever family, help is needed to nurture the babies in their first few weeks, making sure they get the care they need to become good pets.

“Every spring, there is a big influx of kittens because of kitten season,” said Michelle Dimaria of Warren, president of Pet Adoption Alternative of Warren, a no-kill animal rescue group. “(It) starts end of February, and we start getting a lot of calls from people that are finding cats and kittens that are living under their porches and decks.”

That’s why the group is looking for new foster homes and volunteers to help care for the animals.

“The cats need someplace to stay where they can get their medical care and get monitored, anywhere from three to four weeks … before they go up for adoption,” Dimaria said. “We, obviously, are looking for people that like animals.”

She said potential foster caretakers must be 18 or older. Any pets they have must get along with other animals or space must be available for the foster animals to be kept separate.

“They don’t have to be home all the time or anything,” she said. “It’s good if we can get people who are able to take them to vet appointments, so we don’t have to pick them up and drive them to the vets.”

Foster applications can be requested by e-mailing paawarren@aol.com, calling (586) 565-0350 or visiting the group’s website, www.paawarren.org.

Kevin Hatman, public relations coordinator at the Michigan Humane Society, said that nearly 2,000 animals from its three shelters each year end up in foster homes, as well.

“Last year, Michigan Humane Society actually hit 100 percent adoption of all of our healthy animals,” he said. “We’re trying to maintain that by getting more of our treatable animals adopted out, (and) the foster program is really (a) big component of that.”

He said foster families help the animals get comfortable in a home environment, where they can socialize and get “more of the direct care that they might need, whether that be medical or anything else.”

Hatman said that anyone interested in fostering any kind of animal for the Michigan Humane Society can go to its website, www.michiganhumane.org, and sign up for foster orientation. He said potential foster families take a “little bit” of training, and foster coordinators come inspect the home to make sure it’s a good fit.

“We try to work with people; we understand that people have very busy schedules,” he said. “We’re not going to say, ‘No, you absolutely have to take this animal.’ We’re going to try to work with you.”

Euthanization is “always the last option” for the Michigan Humane Society, and Hatman said that the foster program helps the shelter avoid that when possible, as does its partnerships with other facilities. He said fostering also helps keep more shelter animals healthy, because if one animal comes down with something contagious, like an upper respiratory infection, it can be placed in a foster home before the infection spreads to the rest of the population.

Dimaria said the kitten population typically grows in seasons — one beginning in February and one in the fall, but “this year, there’s been no end. It seems like kitten season lasted all summer.”

Cat overpopulation is a very real problem, Hatman said, because felines can have three litters in a year and can get pregnant the day after they give birth. If all the offspring of one pair of unsterilized animals are also left fertile, they can produce hundreds of thousands of additional offspring in about seven years.

“That’s why it’s so important to do spaying and neutering and get the word out,” he said. “Every animal that’s adopted here in the Michigan Humane Society is spayed or neutered.”

Both Hatman and Dimaria said that people fostering the animals aren’t responsible for the day-to-day costs or medical bills of the animals.

“We’re taking care of all that,” Hatman said. All the families are asked to provide, he said, is “some scratching behind the ears.”

“The rescue covers all the costs for the vet appointments and the vaccines,” Dimaria said of Pet Adoption Alternative. “We also provide all the supplies, as far as food and litter, toys and beds.” There is “no cash outlay.”

She said foster homes are also needed for puppies and dogs because Pet Adoption Alternative works with animal shelters in Madison Heights and Hazel Park to get animals out of those facilities and into foster homes, where the animal won’t face the threat of euthanization.

The group shows animals up for adoption at the Petco store in Troy on weekends and usually finds homes for about 250 animals each year. There are about 70 active members in the rescue group.

“We definitely are always in need of foster homes, and then we also need other volunteers to work with the animals at the shelters and do other things like take care of the animals at the Petco in Troy,” she said.