What is fostering?
Fostering is a term used to mean temporarily taking unwanted or homeless rats into your home to look after them, until they find a permanent home. If you have room for an extra cage, time for socialisation, and you like the idea of helping out rescue rats then you may be considering fostering, rather than taking on permanent new additions.
Foster rats may need to be quarantined from your existing rats initially, depending on their origins.
How do I get involved?
You can either foster rats for an existing rescue organisation, or as an individual. If you foster for a rescue you will probably find they will pay your vet bills (although not usually food/bedding), and they will deal with all aspects of rehoming the rats and vetting the new owners. The rescue will also offer lifetime backup to the new owners, and should the home not work out the rats will aways have somewhere to go, even if you are no longer fostering yourself.
If you foster as an individual this is a much greater financial commitment, as you will need to be prepared to meet all possible medical costs yourself. Many people look into fostering a rescue litter, as they like the idea of raising babies, but do be warned that there is always the risk of problems during birth or when the babies are growing up, and this can prove very expensive, as can the feeding bill for up to 20 fast growing babies! If you are fostering a litter you will need at least 2 cages, as the boys and girls will need to be separated at least a week before they are ready to go to their new homes.
There is however, the possibility of help to fund veterinary fees, equipment (this would need to be donated to a rescue after use) etc. The North of England Rat Society have a Rescue Fund and take applications from any individual or organisation involved in rat rescue anywhere in the UK. For further details of how to claim contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Should you wish to make a donation you may do so via a personal cheque or PayPal. For further details of how to donate please contact email@example.com. Donations of equipment for auction are also always appreciated.
It is important to realise that the fund cannot be relied upon to fully reimburse every application made, and you should not take on fostering or rescue unless you are able to cover costs yourself, at least in principle.
Fostering rats without rescue backup is a much greater level of responsibility, as you need to be prepared to do all the hard work of finding a good home. There is advice on finding homes here, and you would be sensible to consider using a contract with any rat you rehome. If you are not in a position to guarantee to take the rats back should they become unwanted again, then you need to consider contacting an existing rescue and ask whether they will be happy to be listed in your contract, so that you know your foster rats are going to be looked after for life.
"Failing" at fostering
Many people set out as foster carers, only to find they have fallen in love and the rats end up staying. This is obviously great for the rats, as they get to stay in a home they are happy with, but it does mean that your extra time/space/money may now be spoken for, and you may not be able to offer to foster any more rats.
Fostering can be a very rewarding experience, but it does require emotional and practical resources, and is not something to be taken on lightly.
Author: Alison Mercer and Alison Campbell
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