When Terri and her son RoRo moved from the west coast to the east coast, a lot changed. They traded palm trees for pine trees and powdered sand beaches for Maine’s rocky coastline. Despite the many differences had, there was one part of pre-New England life that Terri wished she had back for her son’s sake.
Before becoming a mom, her household was home to cats and birds. Over time, things changed, and eventually, pets were no longer part of the picture. As a single mom, she didn’t feel like it made sense to commit to owning pets again. Since she’d owned them before, she was well accustomed to the responsibilities that came with responsible pet ownership. However, she still knew she wanted her son around animals.
So, when Terri learned about PAWS Pals Camps, a humane education camp offered to kids age 8-12 years old, she jumped at the opportunity. It was the perfect way for her son to learn about and spend time with animals without personal commitment. What she hadn’t anticipated was how much her son would grow to love the animals at the shelter. It was clear that he needed more than a week-long camp.
Not too long after, Terri learned PAWS had a foster program. "It was the perfect compromise," she shared during an interview with PAWS. "So, I guess you could say I got into fostering because of a little boy who needed to be around cats and a mother who had been around cats for 20 years and wasn't ready to commit."
Since beginning their fostering journey, Terri and RoRo have fostered four pregnant cats and 17 kittens. "We decided on pregnant moms because we wanted to go through the whole birth experience," she said. "We're currently fostering a gorgeous blue-eyed cat named Duchess and her four kittens. It can be quite a lot of work but it's balanced out by how much fun it is."
As for the work, Terri admits that fostering is not for the faint of heart. She recalled some difficult litters, one in particular that she became very worried about. "The kittens were falling and flopping more than what seemed normal," she said. "I brought them to PAWS and the shelter vet was able to confirm they had cerebellar hypoplasia."
Cerebellar hypoplasia (CH) is a developmental condition relating to the portion of the brain that controls fine motor skills, balance, and coordination. "We decided to stick it out with them and see if they would be able to feed themselves and I'm so glad we did," Terri explained. "They ended up being amazing kittens and they got adopted right away by someone who had a lot of experience taking care of cats with CH."
PAWS foster families provide a safe, temporary home for rescued pets to rest, recuperate, and prepare to meet their forever families. The animals in foster care benefit greatly from living in a home environment where they receive love and attention. For some rescued pets, it may be their first time living in a home. "People love seeing pictures of the animals we foster on Facebook and my son's friends love coming over to cuddle with the kittens. A lot of people don't realize that fostering is an option, they only know about adopting. I would love to see more people foster. If you think about it, there are animal shelters everywhere you go. So it's like, no matter where you might move, it's an option that'll always be there for you because there is always a need," Terri pointed out. "I love that my son and I do this together and I love that it's a skill set he'll be able to carry into adulthood with him wherever he goes."
In addition to pregnant or nursing mothers and kittens, foster homes are needed for puppies when they first
arrive at PAWS from high-kill shelters in the south, as well as some adult animals that do better outside the shelter environment or just require time to recover from surgical procedures or heal from an injury somewhere peaceful. Other times, animals come to PAWS in the end stages of their lives and just need a loving place to live out their days. Staff at PAWS make sure to be flexible when working with foster families to find an animal and a timeline that works best for everyone.
Fosters can take place anywhere from a few days to many months, depending on the animal. PAWS provides all necessary food, medications, and medical care at no cost to foster families. "You just provide the labor and love. How could you say no to that?" Terri expressed. "Everybody wins when you foster. I love that we're always surrounded by purring and chewing, and wrestling, and little noises."
For more information on the foster program at PAWS or to learn how to apply to be a foster family, visit https://www.pawsadoption.org/foster-a-pet. If you’re unable to foster but still wish to help, donations help the shelter in a big way. Donate online any time at https://www.pawsadoption.org/donate.