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Two Foster Families in the Spotlight

Paul and Christine

Paul was happy with the two cats his family started with after their dogs and a rabbit died. But his wife Christine “couldn’t stop,” once she started fostering cats, he laughs.

About 14 years and “thousands” of foster kittens and cats later, Herndon resident Christine is a foster superstar. She’s had nearly 80 cats in cages at her house at one time after cats were rescued from foreclosed homes or farms and were awaiting other foster homes. She’s adopted four of them over the years.

Welcome to the world of pet fostering, where it’s easy to get attached, but a risk rescue groups and foster families say is worth taking. Groups such as 4Paws, where they volunteer, say every new foster home is a chance for them to rescue another pet from shelters ready to euthanize them or from other risky situations. It also gives the groups a chance to learn more about the animals’ health and behavior so they can best describe and match them with prospective adopters.

Paul and Christine own two cats are former fosters, a common scenario. 4Paws President Barbara Lipson said adopting one of their foster pets often makes it easier for foster families to give up kittens and cats when they find permanent homes.

“They always have that furry reminder of why they are volunteering for 4paws and of all the good they are doing by fostering,” said Lipson.

Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation, which has a ranch in Sumerduck, Va., hosts five adoptions fairs a weekend at Petsmart locations in Northern Virginia and finds homes for dozens of pets a week. Christina Perez-Bass, the group’s foster coordinator, said its 94 foster homes are critical to its success.

“It helps us socialize the dogs and find their real personalities,” said Perez-Bass. “And it’s fantastic for the dogs to have another place to belong.”

The five fosters at their house include Buff Baby, an outgoing plus-size tan cat with Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV); Goodness, a gray and white cat they rescued after she was nearly split in half by a Pit Bull; and, Princess Tilly, a long-haired gray cat that gets a shave each summer that leaves her looking like a lion. Princess Tilly is so friendly they bring her to local schools when she gives talks about animal rescue.

Tom & Dianna

Tom and his wife Dianna, of Vienna, have fostered about 300 cats since 1998. That includes two black cats named Rita and Hunter, which have been living in the guest room for a year. Despite the long-term residency, Tom said the couple still considers the duo foster cats.

Welcome to the world of pet fostering, where it’s easy to get attached, but a risk rescue groups and foster families say is worth taking. Groups such as 4Paws, where they volunteer, say every new foster home is a chance for them to rescue a pet from shelters ready to euthanize them or off the streets. It also gives the groups a chance to learn more about the animals’ health and behavior so they can best describe and match them with prospective adopters.

Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation, which has a ranch in Sumerduck, Va., hosts five adoptions fairs a weekend at Petsmart locations in Northern Virginia and finds homes for dozens of pets a week. Christina Perez-Bass, the group’s foster coordinator, said Lost Dog’s 94 foster homes are critical to its success.

“It helps us socialize the dogs and find their real personality,” said Perez-Bass. “And it’s fantastic for the dogs to have another place to belong.”

They already own a dog and cat that started out as foster pets and a cat they adopted after its owner, a neighbor, died. So they remain hopeful the lovable, plus-size Hunter will get adopted at one of 4Paws’ adoption fairs at local Petco stores. Rita, who is quite shy and can only walk on three legs, is a bit less likely to find a home, they worry. They once fostered two kittens with leukemia for the two years they survived.

“We tend to get the ones that stay awhile,” said Tom with a smile.

4Paws President Barbara Lipson said adopting one of their foster pets often makes it easier for foster “parents” to give up kittens and cats when they find permanent homes.

“They always have that furry reminder of why they are volunteering for 4paws and of all the good they are doing by fostering,” said Lipson. “If adopting a cat makes it easier for them to continue fostering then I'm all for it.”

4Paws’ Extends Thanks on Behalf of 100+ Cats…

JohnClaire, Marylyn and John have standing dates at Petco. One day per week, each volunteer visits the 4Paws cats at the Alexandria Petco to offer the cats their daily TLC, food and clean cage. It’s no easy task. They must manage to refresh water bowls and sweep the cages while not allowing the cats to escape for a run around the store.

But it’s not all cleaning. The store volunteers also hold the cats and give them lots of petting and chin scratches. Some cats even like to walk around the store on a leash.

While at the store, the volunteers also talk with people about the cats, their personalities, and the adoption process. Often, this personal attention and the opportunity to pet and hold a store cat are all it takes to reassure a prospective adopter that this is the right cat for their family.

MarylynWhile it is a big commitment, these volunteers have continued to care for 4Paws cats for several years now. John says that when his personal and work life gets a little busy he considers taking a break from volunteering but he never has. Instead, he asks for help from the substitute store volunteers to fill in when he is unable to come. As such, he’s been a consistent volunteer at the Alexandria store for several years.

Marylyn started volunteering with her daughter in 2001 as a part of a school service project. While he daughter’s school project has ended, Marylyn continues to stop by the Petco to care for the store cats. Marylyn says one time per week might seem like a lot but when she comes by the store and see how appreciative the cats are for her attention it “cleanses the soul.” Claire

Also a long time volunteer, Claire started volunteering by fostering cats in 1998. After fostering kitties, Claire began caring for 4Paws cats in the store. Since that time, she’s continued to stop by the store at least one day per week and now even visits the cats two days per week. With such frequent visits, she really gets to know the cats quickly!

As a result of all of their time and energy, 113 cats have been rescued from the streets and placed into permanent loving homes. Thank you, Claire, Marylyn and John for what you have done and continue to do for cats who would otherwise still be hungry and on the street.

48 Cats Later…
A volunteer with 4Paws since 2001, Carol and her family have fostered and sent 48 cats and kittens to their new homes. In addition to serving as a foster parent, Carol has been 4Paws’ event planner — coordinating parties for the volunteers as well as organizing and hosting 4Paws' first yard sale. Of course, all of this is made much easier with the help of her daughter, Alex, and her husband, Wayne. It’s a family effort!

Carol also participates in educational seminars for children to teach them the appropriate handling and treatment of animals. Accompanied by other volunteers as well as Daphne (the family’s 4Paws adoptee—a beautiful tuxedo cat), Carol demonstrates the proper way to approach, handle and groom cats. While Carol and other 4Paws volunteers talk to the kids, Daphne likes to sniff out the tuna sandwiches in the kids’ back packs

“How Can You Give Them Up?”
When others learn that Carol fosters cats, the most frequent inquiry she gets is “How can you give them up?” Carol explains that when you see the huge number of cats needing homes out there and you meet the wonderful adopters, it’s easy. “All they need is time,” Carol says. The cats and kittens need a few weeks in a safe and loving home until that permanent forever home comes along.

Closure
Delivering the adopted cats to their new homes is something in which Carol and her daughter, Alex, take delight. It also provides a sense of closure when they can see the home where the cat will be living and meet the family. It also helps to maintain a “Baby Album” featuring photos of all the cats and kittens that they have fostered. Alex says the best is when the adoptive families send photos. Carol proudly states that she has never disliked any of the adoptive families.

Decline in Donations—Decline in Rescued Cats
Carol says that the most disturbing thing she has noticed in the past few years is the decline in donations. “It’s sad to see the effect on the cats. With fewer donations we are forced to decrease the number of cats we can rescue. If we can’t pay the vet bills then we can’t rescue them.”

No Task Too Small
Carol believes that whether you help set up cages, wash bedding, make phone calls or foster cats, it’s all helpful and keeps 4Paws operating and saving feline lives. Completely run by volunteers, the group is heavily dependent on the time and resources of its volunteers. No task is too small!