When selecting a place to house the cats in your program, each rescue group must consider many factors, including geography, personnel, finances, etc., which can vary considerably from one rescue group to another. These factors may dictate many of the details of how the rescue program will operate as well as its scope and limitations. Where you will house the cat is a major decision. Will you use your own home, fosters, a boarding facility, a grooming facility, or a pet store?
Foster homes remain the most commonly used method of temporarily housing rescue cats. Finding good foster care requires making inquiries with your veterinarian, shelters, pet stores, and cat fanciers and by asking for foster volunteers on breed lists and other cat related lists as well as regional lists. It is possible to find a network of caring individuals who are willing to foster the cat until a permanent home can be found.
Foster screening is of utmost importance. You need to know that the cat will be well cared for, will be provided adequate veterinary care, and will not be put into a situation where they might be seized and back in a shelter due to pet limit laws or other factors. You also need to know that the foster has the ability to isolate incoming cats, for the protection of their own pets, and the knowledge (which you may help provide) to implement isolation protocols so as not to spread any disease.
For this purpose, you will need a foster screening form (see example) and veterinary reference form (see example), and you may well want to do home visits (see example of home visit check list). You also want to be sure your foster doesn't place the cat without consulting you and/or move or make decisions regarding the cat without your input. As a result, you will need a foster contract (see example).
Some rescues pay all their foster home's veterinary bills for cats they place with them, with the proviso that they must be pre-approved by the rescue except in extreme emergencies. In that case, the rescues usually keep the adoption fee to help pay for the vetting. Other rescues do not pay additional vetting expenses beyond FIV/FELV testing, vaccination, if not done by the rescue, worming, treatment for fleas or mites and spay/neuter - those usually allow the foster to share in the adoption fees to help cover those expenses.
You will need to provide your foster homes with the name and address of the veterinarian you want used, emergency telephone numbers to reach a representative of your rescue who has the authority to make decisions and approve funding, if needed, a copy of your policies and procedures for them to follow, and copies of your adoption applications and adoption contracts, and copies of all paperwork relating to the cat, including prior veterinary reports.
Foster homes need monitoring and supervision... and, above all, they need support and repeated acknowledgement of the great service they are doing for the cats.
Grooming Facilities & Pet Stores
Grooming facilities, pet stores, boarding facilities are options that have been used by some groups. These options have pros and cons. Please make sure that all parameters are clearly defined and understood by all parties.
The advantage to the rescue group is you have a place where the cat can be easily viewed by the public, and someone to care for the cat (and provide longhaired cats with grooming if a grooming salon is chosen) while you do the advertising, screening and paperwork. The facility benefits as well, because the owners purchase items for their new pet and may eventually need boarding and possibly grooming services; therefore the facility gains a customer as well as selling supplies.
The disadvantages are, if you are working with a boarding or grooming facility:
Your Own Home or Other Building
You may, of course, use your home for your rescue, or as one of the foster homes in your network. The usual concerns and benefits that apply to any foster home apply in that case. In addition, if your rescue is in a state that requires licensing and inspection of rescues as shelters, you will be opening your home to inspection by authorities.
Of course, if you have the funding to do so, you may choose to use another building as a shelter for the cats. If so, you may want to consult the HSUS Animal Shelter Library for tips on how best to set up a shelter. While written for breeders, the excellent information provided in "Planning and Designing a Cattery" on the CFA website is also helpful in setting up a rescue facility in your home.
Again, cats who were initially relinquished due to inappropriate urination or other behavioral problems cannot be assessed and retrained in most shelter buildings. They could be assessed and retrained in a home environment. A separate building also limits the amount of attention that the cats will get when you or the staff are not there. However, if used as an initial isolation building, with subsequent transfer of the cats to fosters, a separate building may work well without these drawbacks.
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