The Randolph County Animal Shelter houses a large number of kittens and cats looking for their forever homes, but it's also searching for foster homes for many of these furry felines.
Those requiring foster care include kittens and elderly cats because they are especially susceptible to illnesses while in the shelter.
Randolph County Animal Shelter Board Member, cat lover and cat shelter coordinator Carrie Shupp said foster homes are vital to the cats and kittens at the shelter, and she encourages people to help with foster care.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Many kittens and older cats at the Randolph County Animal Shelter are in need of permanent homes, but local residents can also help care for the animals by providing foster homes. Foster kittens living with shelter coordinator Carrie Shupp spend some time bonding Friday at her home.
"Foster care is so important because kittens, in particular, do not do well in a shelter," Shupp said. "We are looking for people to provide two different kinds of foster care - regular and specialized. Regular foster care for kittens who are weaned, eating solid food and are litter-trained. They need time to grow big enough to be spayed or neutered. Specialized foster homes are those where the fosters are willing to bottle feed younger kittens."
Shupp said foster home training does not require experience, and there is training provided through the program.
"You don't have to be an expert, just willing to learn," Shupp said.
"The younger kittens need specialized care - a home where they can be bottle-fed every two hours, including through the night. They require a lot of attention- it's like having a newborn at your home."
Shupp said 14-day-old Aries is in foster care with her and two other homes.
"Aries was found on a farm and there was no mother to be found," Shupp said. "I work, so I foster Aries on the weekends. Another foster keeps him through the week. So you can see, you don't need to be available around the clock to be a foster home."
Shupp said the good thing about foster care is, foster parents aren't in it alone.
"Our fosters have contact with one another and contact with me," she said. "If they have any questions or concerns, they have the ability to contact someone, and they have our support. We do provide mentoring and lots of support."
Help with foods, supplies and litter is available to those who foster.
"Some people provide supplies for the animals they foster," Shupp said. "We don't expect that, but it is an option. If you cannot afford the supplies, they will be provided for you. Some fosters have the time and the love, but they do not have the money - we can set you up. That is why we need donations and continued support to provide the work we do."
Another big need is foster homes that are willing to accept pregnant mother cats.
"We would love to find fosters who are willing to take cats through their pregnancy and while they are nursing," Shupp said. "Newborn kittens and nursing mothers do not do well in the shelter. Kittens do not do well, and nursing mothers are susceptible to illnesses because their immune systems are weakened while they are feeding their babies."
Shupp said it is evident that kittens' immune systems are not strong when you visit any shelter.
"You see the kittens at the shelter with sore eyes and some people think they are not being taken care of properly, but that's not true," Shupp said. "Their immune system is just not strong enough. That's why fostering is so important and why we must grow our foster program. I can't take them all."
One requirement of foster homes is that the kittens and cats stay inside the home.
"We do not allow the kittens to go outside while they are being fostered," Shupp said. "Fostering is needed until the kittens are large enough to be spayed or neutered. Fostering also helps with adoption because the kittens are used to being in a home and are not just acclimated to living in a confined space."
Shupp said she can transition her fosters to their adoptive homes.
"People who are looking to adopt kittens can come here through the shelter," Shupp said. "That way, they can get down on the floor and play with them and see how they are with other kittens and cats and learn their temperaments."
Shupp said the shelter is also looking for folks to volunteer at the shelter with the cats and kittens.
"It would be great to have folks willing to come to the shelter and play with the kittens and cats," Shupp said. "The animals are in need of socialization, and many opportunities exist for working with the cats and kittens as well."
A fundraiser to benefit the Randolph County Animal Shelter is slated for 4 to 9 p.m. Aug. 13 at Bob Evans. Area residents can help by presenting a flier, which will be available at the door; fifteen percent of proceeds from that evening will be donated to the shelter.
Anyone interested in volunteering for foster care, adopting or donating should contact the Randolph County Animal Shelter at 195 Weese St. in Elkins or call 304-636-7844.