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Amalthea was one of a group of eight underage kittens brought Aug. 7 to Animal Care & Control in Anne Arundel County. She grew up to adoptable size at a shelter foster’s home along with her three sisters.
Amalthea was one of a group of eight underage kittens brought Aug. 7 to Animal Care & Control in Anne Arundel County. She grew up to adoptable size at a shelter foster’s home along with her three sisters. (Anne Arundel County Animal Care & Control)

Why should anyone foster for an animal shelter? The answer is simple: You’ll love it. Of course, there are a few prerequisites. You should love your foster pets and have a little time to devote to them. And you should love seeing them move on to their forever homes, knowing you helped them along the way.

Fostering pets reduces stress and improves your mental health. Animals add so much love, laughter and satisfaction to your days; it’s much more of a reward than a demand. When a shy cat finally comes out of hiding to snuggle, a weak kitten starts to gain weight, or a stressed-out dog relaxes and plays happily, it’s like the sun coming out from behind a cloud and brightening the day. I’ve heard people say they can’t foster because they’d get too attached. But that’s partly why we do it. I’d love to have a houseful of pets, but that’s not legal or advisable. By fostering, I can help many animals recover from whatever brought them to the shelter as well as regain their confidence and their trust in people.

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I’m incredibly gratified when an animal is ready for adoption. Moreover, I can explain to potential adopters what an animal is like in a home environment. Sending homeless animals on to their forever families is the story’s happy ending. The Maryland SPCA, where I foster, cares for over 3,000 cats and dogs every year. Some of their animals need extra time to recover from illnesses or wounds or are waiting for medical procedures. Others need TLC to recover from abuse or neglect. Some just need to gain weight or get big enough to be spayed or neutered. For most of them, a home is more comfortable than the shelter.

The foster program temporarily houses 1,600-plus animals per year in volunteer foster homes. Thanks to more than 400 volunteer foster families, shelter pets get to relax, recover and show their true personalities. Most foster pets return to the shelter once they’re ready to be adopted, while others may be adopted directly from their foster homes and never enter the shelter. It’s a force multiplier for the shelters and a best-case outcome for the animals. Fostering is free. The shelter provides all of the animals’ food, veterinary care, and supplies. All you have to provide is the space and the love. You’ll be rewarded handsomely with puppy eyes, wagging tails and happy purrs.

In today’s world, there are many problems we can’t address personally. It can be frustrating and discouraging to see great need and not know how to help. Fostering is one simple way to make the world a better place by reducing an animal’s suffering. It’s extremely satisfying to help an animal recover from misfortune and find his or her happy ending with a new family.

Christine McSherry, Baltimore

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