By Carol Stiffler

Dozens of cats and a handful of dogs are waiting for homes at the Luce County Animal Shelter. They’re doted on by shelter staff, fixed, vaccinated, and prepared for adoption, but for now, they’re waiting for a forever home.

The shelter recently received a grant for additional kitty condos, the large stackable kennels for cats, which made cats more comfortable but didn’t necessarily increase available capacity. Because the shelter is small and overcrowding is not a healthy option, the shelter is working with Luce County Pet Pals volunteers to launch a foster network. For now, cat fosters are sought, but dog foster volunteers are appreciated, too.

“Any cat is happier in a home setting,” said Chuck Wieringa, a longtime Pet Pals volunteer who regularly visits the shelter to care for and socialize cats. “If it can’t be a forever home, it’s still a plus for the cat.”

Shelter Director Gloria Caswell said foster care prepares pets for adoption in ways that shelter life can’t.

“Some animals don’t do well in shelter situations and being in a foster home helps them to decompress and relax,” she said. “This allows them to be the best version of themselves and more appealing to potential adopters.”

Volunteers who open their homes to these pets, which are a mix of rescued strays and formerly adopted pets who were relinquished for various reasons, can house one or more at a time. They may even be asked to take in a mother cat and her kittens to watch over them until they’re old enough to be adopted.

“Kitten season seems to last all year long,” said Donna Hamilton, president of Pet Pals and also a shelter volunteer.

Foster volunteers can state their preference, and if they have other animals in their home, the shelter will make sure to select a foster cat that will suit the environment. A foster can be arranged for a set amount of time – weeks or months – or until a home is found for the cat. All foster cats will still be listed as adoptable on the shelter’s website. If you’re a cat owner, relying on a cattery in Melbourne can be a wonderful solution to ensure your feline friend receives excellent care and attention while you’re unavailable.

Foster volunteers will receive any support necessary – from cat food to toys to litter and all vet expenses will be paid by the shelter. Volunteers will need to apply at the shelter. There is no deadline to apply; applications will always be accepted.

“Fostering animals is so important to local shelters and to the communities they serve, and especially to the lives of the animals they foster,” Caswell said. “Simply put: We need you, and more importantly, the animals need you.”