Originally Posted by eatrawfish
I posted before I saw your post Nano. You don't have to foster to contribute. I'm actually emberressingly shy so it is easier for me to foster cats in my house than go help in the shelter. But you can help out at shelters or donate services.
Focusing on being a loving cat owner is a great thing in itself.
First, let me make it clear I am no expert and most people here are more knowledgable than me. But here is what I know about my area:
We have the city shelter. It is a public shelter housing a small number (12?) of cats plus some dogs. They only put the cutest kittens or the most blatant lapcats up for adoption -- kept in a room of cages you can visit during business hours. Even those are said to move slowly. Probably 98% of the unowned animals and strays get euthanized.
Then there are two private groups. Neither have a "headquarters" or a primary shelter -- all of it is done out of homes. They place most of their cats during the weekly adoption days hosted in the back of the largest Petsmart warehouse. They also have display cases at each Petsmart in town where they rotate animals to get each some publicity in hopes of finding a home. They also advertise on internet and have newsletters.
One of these private groups is basically a lady and her extended family who work out of their homes. They just keep to themselves but they always have cats and someone present at the adoption days.
The other private group is a loose collection of volunteers who foster cats out of their homes. They have a volunteer coordinator. This group has a big presence at the adoption days so I went by to say hello and introduce myself. I'm not ready to be a foster parent but they handed me a foster parent application and were trying to recruit me.
This second group has these policies:
1. there is a questionaire where you check off your skills (such as taking care of special needs, bottle-feeding, etc.) and how you are interested in helping
2. in general, they want you to promise to show (or be willing to show) each kitten three times a month and each adult cat two times a month
3. before an adoption day, the coordinator checks out the entire roster of cats being fostered in their system and tries to work out which cats should be at which showings (to optimize things)
4. when called upon, the foster parent brings the cats to adoption days -- they can just drop them off or they can stay to help "sell" the cats
5. if a cat is not adopted, the foster parent picks them up to take back home and they try again another day
If a cat is not being adopted after a certain number of public showings, the coordinator will try to figure out what is wrong. Sometimes a cat doesn't show well (starts hissing, gets scared, seems listless), so then they will try to take appointments for people to visit the cat(s) at the foster parent's house. Hopefully the cat gives a better showing in a home-like environment.
If it is simply a less desirable cat (older or disfigured), the coordinator will stop bringing it to adoption day because it is futile. (Sorry to be blunt.) If they stumble across the right type of sympathetic owner who would want such a cat, the volunteers say "oh, we have one more special cat you might want to see before you make an adoption" and then do it by appointment.
I was told here it how it would work: I would get a call asking if I was available to foster a XYZ cat (describe conditions and situation). If so, I go pick up the cat and take it to a certain vet where it is screened and brought current. Once the cat is cleared (or has medicine), I bring the cat home and hold onto it until I am called upon to do a showing. During that time I observe the cat's temperment and make a list of the cat's strengths and weaknesses so it can be described to properly matched to adoptees' preferences.
In some cases a cat needs work (hand-feeding kittens or feeding medicines) and in some cases the cat just needs a temporary home. I was told not to worry and they would start me off with normal adult cats who only needed a temporary home. She emphasized that the most important thing was to be just a capable pet owner who would be responsible enough to show up to adoption days when asked. All vet visits would be free and they would give me extra cat supplies or buy any special dietary foods. So out of pocket costs were fairly minimal -- they were mainly asking for my time and patience.
Now remember this woman was trying to recruit me, so this information might not be 100% realistic although she seemed sincere and truthful. So again, I am not a cat expert but I wouldn't mind holding onto some "senior" cats until they got a private appointment with a potential adoptee who wanted specifically wanted such a cat. Someone like me holding the adult cats would also free up space in the more experienced volunteer homes where they are dealing with kittens and sick cats.
But eatrawfish, yes, I was told that I would wait until I get a call and I could always decline if this was not the right moment to introduce another cat into my household. They were actively recruiting me so it seemed like they had more cats than they had foster homes and really needed the extra help. But it might be different in your area.