By NIKKI YOUNK
NORWAY - Animal shelters can provide stray and abandoned pets with a roof over their heads, food and water, attention, and a chance at adoption into a loving home. For most animals, having these needs met is enough.
Nikki Younk/Daily News Photo
Jeanne Gardipee of Norway holds her current foster animal, Kirby. Gardipee has been fostering cats for local animal shelters for nearly eight years.
However, there are others that need just a little extra TLC.
These animals are perfect candidates for fostering.
The fostering process involves "foster parents" caring for shelter animals in their own homes on a temporary basis. Typical foster animals are sick, pregnant, orphaned newborns, or shy.
Once the fostering period is over, the shelter takes back the foster animal.
Diane Luczak, manager of the Almost Home Animal Shelter in Quinnesec, said that there are multiple benefits to fostering. Foster animals can receive care 24 hours a day, instead of only eight hours a day at the shelter. Also, fostering can help socialize shier animals into becoming adoptable pets.
The shelter regularly utilizes about six foster parents in the local area.
When there is an overabundance of cats and kittens, the shelter sometimes uses social media websites to seek out additional foster parents.
"The need comes and goes," said Luczak. "It's greater in kitten season, in the late summer and early fall."
Currently, the shelter only does fostering with cats, since there is a higher turnover rate for dogs.
Someone who knows the fostering process inside and out is Jeanne Gardipee of Norway.
For the past eight years, Gardipee has been fostering special needs cats and kittens for the Almost Home Animal Shelter and the Northwoods Animal Shelter in Iron River.
"We had taken in strays before and found homes for them," she explained. "I just wanted to keep doing it."
Gardipee's first foster animal was Elbe, a cat that refused to eat. Under Gardipee's care, Elbe started eating, returned to the shelter, and got adopted.
"I think it convinced the shelter that this works," she said.
Since then, Gardipee has fostered between 30 and 40 cats. She specializes in cats with upper respiratory illnesses and shy cats.
According to Gardipee, an additional benefit of fostering is that it allows the foster parent to really know an animal's personality. The foster parent can then pass the information along to shelter staff, who can help potential adopters choose the right pet.
"Some people want a lap cat, but if the animal they picked out doesn't turn out to be a lap cat, they'll be disappointed and maybe return it," said Gardipee. "You need to get the right person to the right animal."
"This is the reason you should spend a little time at the shelter with your potential adopted animal," she added. "The shelter even has a room where you can get acquainted."
Gardipee already knows that her current foster animal, a shy young cat named Kirby, would do best with a female owner and a quiet environment.
However, she does not know how long Kirby's foster period will last.
"It's always different," she said. "If it's a pregnant cat, you wait until the kittens are born and ready to go. If it's a sick cat, then you wait until it's better. If it's a shy cat, you wait as long as it takes."
Gardipee has no doubt that she will continue fostering cats.
"I enjoy doing this," she said. "It will save animals."
Nikki Younk's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.