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  • Writer's pictureZia Mowbray

Types of Foster Care

Recently, we published a two-part blog series on what volunteers do at our shelter. This detailed exactly the tasks volunteers do on shifts, and how they can differ depending on the animals’ needs, time of day and other circumstances. Today we wanted to shift our focus to another way you can help shelters: foster care. 


Foster care is crucial to the wellbeing of shelter animals, allowing them to have their needs met without the limitations shelters provide. Don’t get us wrong, no-kill shelters are incredible short-term solutions for pets, but foster care is essential for animals with different needs, such as newborns, animals that require consistent medication, or even just animals that don’t feel comfortable at a shelter with lots of other pets. 


Foster care can come in many different forms, but we wanted to focus on the main two seen at our shelter: long and short term foster care.



Cat cuddling her foster carer, Pets for Life Billinudgel Byron Bay Australia


Short term foster care:


  • Can be for a few days to a weeks

  • Allows animals to have more attention than at a shelter

  • Flexible requirements based on pet being fostered

  • Ends when the animal gets adopted, or until they can go back to the shelter


Long term foster care:


  • Can be for a few months to years

  • Is for unadoptable animals that usually have consistent needs

  • Allows animals to form reciprocated and fulfilling connections

  • Ends when the pet passes, or until you can no longer foster them


To try and summarise it: long term foster care basically simulates adoption to the best of everyone's abilities, whereas short term foster care is more like pet sitting for a friend. And if you’re wondering why long term foster care only simulates adoption, it’s because, technically, the animal isn’t able to be adopted. Above, we mentioned unadoptable animals, which are the pets found in long term foster care. These animals aren’t vicious or unloveable, they are merely considered unadoptable because of their circumstances, such as age or terminal health conditions. 


For example, we have several cats that are either in, or need, long term foster care. Some have physical health conditions or disorders that will require treatment for the rest of their lives, whereas others are merely 10+ years old. These animals are still filled with so much love to give, but the sad truth is we don’t know how long they’ll stay with us, hence why they can’t be adopted. It’s just not fair to those adopting them.


Thankfully, people still see the potential in these animals and take them in as their own. They give them a safe space to run and play in, warm laps and kind hands to settle in, and allow these pets to feel cherished for the rest of their days, no matter how many they have left.


One bittersweet story of a cat in long term foster care at our shelter recently came to an end in December 2023. Carrie, a beautiful 16-year-old deaf cat, had kidney disease, a terminal illness that prevented her from being able to be rehomed, along with her ripe age. We took Carrie in from the pound in October of 2023, and luckily she was able to share a few beautiful weeks with one of our amazing long term foster carers before passing away. Carrie managed a couple of months, but it could have been another couple of years before she passed away, even with the kidney disease. 


This is why it’s so important to have long-term foster carers who look after these cats until the end of their lives, however long that may be. But sadly there aren’t too many who are willing to take in an unadoptable cat, so for the several beautiful souls in our care that will never be able to find their forever home, and the countless others at different shelters, they are forced to stay in the shelter until someone opens their home and heart, or it's too late.


If you have read this far and are interested in helping out cats like Carrie near the Byron Shire area, or know someone who’s heart is big enough to help and love something that has a few extra needs, please contact Jean on 0403 533 589. If you are from another area, we urge you to reach out to your local shelters and let them know they have your help when they need it. Your help will be life changing to these little ones.



White cat sitting in a home in long term foster care, pets for life animal shelter australia
Pictured: Beautiful Carrie

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