Students sought to foster friendly felines

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The Oakville and Milton Humane Society has the purr-fect solution for students seeking companionship, responsibility or endless cuddling: fostering cats.

Brenda Dushko considers students to be ideal foster parents for animals as pets can be great source of companionship without a long-time commitment.

“College life is a time that can be very changeable,” said Dushko, fund and communications manager for the Oakville and Milton Humane Society. Often students are living away from home and their family pet for the first time, and fostering an animal can be a great way to fill that gap rather than of adoption, she said.

“You may be moving back home with your parents who have said, ‘You know what? We love you dearly, but we did not plan on a cat.’ ”

Dushko also points out that school can be a stressful time in a student’s life and a having a foster cat or kitten can help cope with that stress.

“To have that little furry life waiting for you to come home at night . . .  it gives you something to cuddle with,” she said.

A 10-year-long study by the University of Minnesota’s Stroke Center found that owning a cat is a way to reduce stress levels, as well as lowering someone’s risk of heart attack. Dushko also considers fostering to be a great opportunity for students who weren’t previously allowed to own a pet.

Fostering comes at no cost to the volunteer, as the shelter provides food, cat litter and a cage to contain the pet when a foster parent is away from home.

The only restrictions are that fosters must have a separate room to keep foster cats in if they already own other animals. All applicants potential are interviewed to make sure they are a suitable foster.

If a student finds he or she is unable to properly care for the cat they are fostering, Dushko said the shelter will help exchange the animal for one more suited to the foster parent’s needs.

Kathy Crowe, a retired Ford employee, has been a foster parent with the Humane Society for more than seven years. In addition to owning three cats of her own, she has fostered over 80 cats, although the experience of returning them can be painful.

“I have to kind of close my mind to the fact that every one goes back up for adoption,” she said in a telephone interview.

“It doesn’t get any easier, but I recognize it for what it is,” she said.

She knows there are more cats and kittens always being put up for fostering, and therefore always more work to be done.

Crowe also helps out as a cat socializer, a volunteer who plays with different cats at 15-minute intervals to help train them to be around humans. She is also a cat matchmaker, working to pair potential fosters and adopters with the right cat for their household.

“You get attached, but then you have to know you’re going to get some more and that they’re going to go to a good home,” she said.

Although she finds fostering to be a great way for people to get their “kitty-fix,” she usually cries when she brings them back.

“It’s emotional, and then you move on.”

The agency has more than 100 cats available for foster or adoption, and is seeking fosters in anticipation of the annual influx of kittens the shelter gets from March until May.