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Seattle Animal Shelter provides comfort and joy to pets with its “fospice” program

By Katie Johnson

If you’ve ever thought about becoming a pet foster parent, consider becoming a fospice parent. The fospice (foster-hospice) program is for pets that come into the Seattle Animal Shelter’s care that are nearing the end of their lives. Volunteer foster parents provide a home, and the shelter provides the medical care necessary to keep the animals comfortable. I talked with Christiane Woten, a dedicated fospice parent, to learn more about the program and about her experience.

Why did you become a fospice parent?

I saw an email about this beautiful little cat, Susie, who was still in stable health but was not considered adoptable due to her age and illnesses. This was before our official fospice program started, but there was a lot of shelter support for someone to take Susie home.

How is being a fospice parent different from being a foster parent?

It is not that different! The biggest difference is that you are not responsible for promoting your cat for adoption. And it is possible that fospice can turn into a long-term commitment. I had Susie for nine months, and it has been almost 10 months with Ginger. Which goes to show that it can be very difficult to determine how much time a sick animal really has!

How do you acquire any necessary medications or supplies?

Ginger is on medication that I get from the shelter. Susie ate a prescription food that I got from the shelter. Fospice animals are seen by the shelter vet, so there is no cost to me.

How long do animals usually stay with you?

Ginger was very sick in the shelter, and everyone believed she had a very short time. However, once out of the stress of the shelter environment, in a safe home, and eating food that did not make her sick, she has completely rallied. She’s even put on weight!

Fearless and friendly Susie spent nine happy months in her fospice home.

Who has been your most memorable fospice pet?

I will have to say my first fospice, Susie. Not only was she a stunningly beautiful cat, she was fearless and friendly. She would meet me at the front door at night and want me to pick her up and carry her around. Anytime anyone sat down she was in their lap.

What do you love about being a fospice parent?

Animals matter until the very end of their natural lives. Both Susie and Ginger were surrenders; their families gave them up to the shelter when they were old and sick. In many places, cats like them would immediately be euthanized. I am so grateful that SAS gives them another chance. I love old kitties. They have just as unique personalities as younger cats. Ginger still loves to play with wand and feather toys. Susie liked to go out on the balcony and watch the birds. I find it immensely rewarding to foster old kitties until the end. When Susie’s time came she had spent nine happy months in a home, and I was with her at the very end, the way it should be for all pets.

What would you like someone who is thinking of becoming a fospice parent to know?

Please just consider trying it. The shelter always needs more fospice homes. Some animals may need more actual care than others (fluids, shots, pills, etc.) but not necessarily. You may end up having the animal a lot longer than you think, so be prepared for that. And recognize that eventually you will lose them, but at least they had a good life until the end.

To apply to become a foster parent at Seattle Animal Shelter, visit the Foster Care section on the SAS website.