PAWS Seeking Foster Families for Cats, Kittens, Dogs

An example of a PAWS cat in need of a foster family, Tess is “healthy and bright eyed, but desperately in need of a home environment,” shares Sandra Lambert. (Submitted photo)

By Lura Jackson

Providing a safe, comfortable place for an animal to reside – even if only temporarily – is an invaluable service that foster families can offer to shelters such as PAWS in Calais. Animals that are sheltered in a caring environment receive constant socialization, making them more ready and able to be adopted. PAWS currently has a high need of foster homes in our area that would be willing to take in cats and kittens, as well an occasional dog.

Foster families take in animals from the shelter at their discretion, for a length of time that is dependent entirely on the animal in need. It may be a few weeks – which can make a major difference in the development of a young kitten – or an extended situation of care for a cat that is being stabilized from a chronic illness such as diabetes. PAWS provides all food, medication, bedding, litter boxes and any other supplies needed, as well as covering vet visits when needed.

While foster families handle the obvious elements of care for their animal – including giving it food, medications as needed, socialization, and so on – one of their most important functions is simply getting to know the animal, explains Sandra Lambert, President of PAWS. “The primary role is to get to know the foster cat and be able to describe their temperament, personality, likes and dislikes to help PAWS match that cat with the right forever home.”

Another critical function of the foster family is in setting up the animals directly with prospective adopters in the community, said Cheryl Zwingman-Bagley, Foster Care Coordinator and PAWS Vice President. “It’s a really important role they play in talking them up in the community and in being ambassadors of our shelter.” Zwingman-Bagley herself arranged adoptions for four of the fifteen cats she sheltered last year.

Zwingman-Bagley derives great joy from her own role as a foster parent, she shares. “I foster kittens and their mothers because I love watching them grow and develop their personalities. It is better than watching television, the antics and craziness that kittens engage in constantly is funny and heartwarming.”

Foster families do not have any particular composition, Zwingman-Bagley said, describing the various situations that fosters came forward in last year. One was a family that visits Eastport for a month each year; they have a teenage daughter that was really pushing for the experience and purchased supplies with her own money to accomplish it. “She really got prepped and ready. They fostered two kittens that needed socialization. They were weaned but needed time to become themselves and develop their personalities so we could get them ready to be adopted,” Zwingman-Bagley said.

Another family with a teenage girl took in a cat that had just given birth. “She took a mother and five kittens, and raised them from one week old to ten weeks old – almost old enough to be fixed.” Zwingman-Bagley emphasized that taking in a foster animal can be a great learning experience for a family with children or teenagers.

It isn’t just kittens in need of a place to grow up that are looking for foster homes. Sometimes cats or dogs require specialized care that may extend the length of time they’re fostered, Zwingman-Bagley said. “If it was a chronically ill cat that needed extensive care, such as going to multiple vet visits and having their medications adjusted to get them stabilized, that might be longer. We had a woman who helped to stabilize one of our cats with diabetes. It gets them to a point where anyone can take them, as long as they’re willing to give them their daily medication.”

Becoming a foster home involves contacting PAWS and filling out an application. A home visit is required for particular animals to ensure a safe setting. Once a foster home is established, the foster family can reach out to PAWS at any time with concerns, Lambert said. “A trained volunteer of PAWS is always available to troubleshoot any issues the foster parent is having with their foster.”

If you’re considering becoming a foster family for a PAWS animal, Lambert offers a description of the cats that will most benefit from your participation. “Cats who come into the shelter traumatized, injured, ill, or just too young to care for themselves are all priorities for foster care. Sometimes we have a particularly shy cat who needs to build trust with humans and that is best done in a home environment. Cats with injuries or illness can get more attention and loving care than can be accomplished in the shelter environment.”

At present, there are three active foster homes in our area, Lambert said, each of which together is providing a loving environment for “a dog with behavioral challenges, a young litter of kittens whose mother was killed, and a solo kitten who is frightened and in need of socialization.”


To express interest in becoming a foster family for PAWS, call the shelter at 207-454-7662.