Second Chance Animal Rescue Society (SCARS), like most animal rescues here in Alberta, operates primarily through the efforts of volunteers. These volunteers do everything from walking dogs and cuddling kittens to opening their homes to provide temporary placements for animals. Due to the limited space in rescue facilities, as well as the social, mental, and physical needs of the animals, foster homes are always in high demand. Learn more about fostering pets for SCARS.
By Amanda Matwie
I met SCARS foster Christine Fitz at the beginning of my family’s journey as a cat foster home and I asked her a few questions about how she ended up doing what she does:
How long have you been fostering animals for SCARS?
Seven years this January.
What made you decide to start fostering? What kind of factors went into that decision?
I’d always had cats growing up but wasn’t able to have one during several years of college and renting. When I finally got my own place, I really wanted to get one but didn’t feel I could afford it at the time, plus doing field work every summer made it hard to have my own. Fostering was a great option for me, since I didn’t have to deal with the financial responsibility and could have animals throughout the year while still spending summers in the bush. It was hard to let go of the first few, but I’d always get a new one immediately and found that to be helpful.
Is there a specific case that stands out to you as the most challenging? What about a particularly enjoyable one?
I don’t think there’s been one that stands out as being very difficult, since most behavioural or health-related issues typically resolve within a couple weeks. I think my most enjoyable case was a set of three feral[i] kittens from a hoarding case. They were extremely sick, small, and scared of people. I was able to nurse them back to health and they all became fantastic, loving girls. I spent a lot of time working with them and they were hard to let go of, but I got to watch them come in sick and neglected, and leave into happy, excited families. Without my help, they would have led horrible lives (if they had even lived to adulthood), but now they get to be happy, pampered housecats with amazing families.
What keeps you going when fostering is tough and frustrating?
What keeps me going is a combination of seeing how grateful a lot of these animals are to be in supportive care, the transformation from intake to adoption, and seeing them go home with adopters that are overjoyed to bring them into their families. A lot of these cats will just bury their faces into my hands on their first day in my care, finally removed from whatever horrible circumstance they were in just hours ago. You can tell how grateful they are to be safe, fed, and loved – many have never experienced that before and their relief is very clear. It doesn’t take long before they’re transformed into normal, happy cats. Fostering can be challenging at times, but it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done and I can’t imagine stopping. There really is no better feeling than watching an animal go home with a family you know are so perfect for one another.
What have you learned about yourself and your household as you’ve gone through this process?
I’ve learned a lot about cat behaviour and medicine! By no means do I consider myself anywhere near as knowledgeable as a professional, but I’ve gotten very good at picking up subtle signs of distress or discomfort, have gotten used to common medical routines, and can read a cat very well. It’s allowed me to help out friends with cats that have behavioural issues, which is nice since there’s not nearly the same resources as you can find for dogs. I’ve also learned that my resident cats are living angels and help me with the fosters more than I could have expected. My big guy, in particular, is fantastic with every foster that comes through and they all gravitate to him immediately. He makes my job so much easier and there are a few fosters I can tell he’s sad to see leave.
If you could say one thing to potential foster homes, what would that be?
If I could say one thing to potential fosters, it’s do it! If you don’t have the kind of finances or schedule that would normally allow for a forever pet, fostering is a great way to have an animal in your life without some of the strings that come with ownership. At first it’s painful to say goodbye but it gets easier and for every animal that leaves, another is saved because of you. You might try it and love it so much you do it forever. Even if you try it and decide after one that it’s not for you, there’s still one animal out there that’s alive and happy because of you. It can be difficult at times, but it’s extremely rewarding. And you can do it right in your own home!
Pictured: Christine Fitz, and one of her previous fosters who came into her care “broken physically and mentally” and buried her face into Christine’s hands within the first day, “grateful to finally be safe and secure.”
[i] Feral cats have had little to no human contact, or an extended period of time away from human contact. They’re usually fearful of people and take a long time to trust anyone.
Posted: November 2023