FACT’s Foster Program
Ferrets that are not candidates for adoption due to health or other special needs are placed into FACT’s Foster Program. This program is supported by donors around the world. Following is information about the program for potential foster parents.
For Potential Foster Parents*
FACT’s Foster Program places one of FACT’s ill and/or elderly ferrets in your home. We consider these animals, who may thus far have lived in neglect and who have now been abandoned, to be our special charges. Our commitment is to make whatever time they may have left as pleasant and healthy as we are able. We are searching for a loving and permanent home in which they can live out their days. This information will help you decide if you will be able to work with us to accomplish these goals.
The Foster Program continues to evolve as situations arise, but we anticipate the core to remain the same.
What are the benefits of the Foster Program to the ferret?
The biggest benefit to the ferret is their very life. In most humane agencies, elderly or sick animals are euthanized. Few are willing to adopt them, and their medical upkeep is prohibitive. While FACT does not euthanize animals unless their medical condition makes it necessary to spare them suffering, we can only accept a limited number of ferrets. Every ferret that finds a Foster Home allows us to save another. For most, their only crime is that they are unwanted by their owner. With care, these animals can have an excellent quality of life.
No matter how good the shelter – and the FACT shelter is one of the nicest anywhere – it is still a shelter. We house a significant number of animals (anywhere between 20-40). Realistically, it simply is not possible to give each animal as much individual care and attention as they deserve. Neglected animals may particularly crave human companionship and many elderly animals adore cuddling. Our statistics so far show that animals in private Foster homes – even those we integrate with ours and foster ourselves – live an average of 6 months longer than those living inside the shelter rooms. As a Foster Parent, you not only impact the ferret’s quality of life, but the length of their life as well.
What are the benefits to you?
What is unconditional love worth? These gentle survivors can give you more love and affection than an animal you raised from a kit. They may be “only animals,” but that doesn’t mean they can’t feel. Gratitude is a powerful feeling for both the giver and the recipient. Don’t undervalue the lift in your own spirits and self-esteem by knowing you are offering a great kindness to an innocent creature in need. Have you ever pined for the elusive “lap ferret?” While some oldtimers seem to run about as much as a youngster, they are the MOST likely to love sitting on your lap while you watch TV, nap, or read. Elderly ferrets can have the sweetest, most gentle disposition of any ferret. Their little personality quirks can be totally endearing.
More tangibly, as a continuing participant in the Foster Program, FACT offers assistance with the medical costs so often associated with caring for elderly animals. Many people love ferrets and have the time and attention to devote to an elderly animal, but cannot afford to support them entirely on their own. One ill animal can require hundreds of dollars of medical care or a surgery costing $1,000 or more. We cannot promise to pay every medical bill for your Foster Ferret. Vet prices can vary enormously and individual caretakers vary widely in their veterinary usage. What we can offer is to try to assist with most medical costs. If you choose to use a personal vet or if you live outside reasonable driving distance of the veterinarians that give FACT a discount, a medical subsidy is offered. Any amount you pay over and above FACT’s share is a donation to FACT and you can receive a receipt for tax purposes.
How is the Foster Program funded?
Funds are primarily provided through the generosity of individuals who become Foster Grandparents. For a $5 per month gift, they sponsor a particular ferret in the Program. Funds are pooled and used for the benefit of all the animals. The Grandparents receive a small, framed photo of their “adoptee,” and as long as they continue to contribute, a bi-monthly newsletter, Ferret Poop,with short updates on each ferret in the program. These generous individuals across the country are the foundation of the Foster Program – without their kind support, we could not possibly afford to support these elderly indigents.
What are the other things to consider?
These are older animals. Although many have no current medical problems, that can change at any moment. A Foster could quickly change from being a happily hopping “6 year old going on 6 month old” to someone requiring daily medicine and regular special feedings. An animal with advanced insulinoma, for example, may require feeding every 6-8 hours. Will you be able to assure that someone will be home to feed them on that tight schedule? Fostering is not a commitment to be undertaken lightly. Be absolutely sure that you will be able to provide the extra time and care they may require in the future. We are looking for a permanent home. Although some lifestyle upheavals are unexpected, please consider any planned major changes in your life.
The care given to Fosters in a good home can help extend their life considerably. But even with the best of care, you may not have your little friend with you for a long time. We have seen ferrets live with a Foster Parent for 3-4 years. We have also seen ferrets pass away within 3-4 months. Emotionally, you need to be prepared and able to cope with the certainty of their eventual death.
Another important aspect to consider is that these animals remain perpetually under the ownership and control of FACT. They are shelter animals placed in your home. They do not become “your” ferrets to transfer, give away, make independent major medical decisions about, or put to sleep without our knowledge and consent (unless in a case of medical emergency, of course.) We expect to be involved in decisions about their medical care. We may require you obtain a second medical opinion regarding treatment or potential surgeries. When you are dealing with a shelter animal, finances are always a consideration. We cannot authorize an expensive expenditure for one animal if it threatens the availability of funds to care for the others in the program. If you personally choose to donate to pay for the cost of a medical procedure we cannot afford and which we agree would be beneficial, you have the option of doing so. Our responsibility is to all of the animals for whom we care, not only the one in your personal care.
As mentioned above, people’s feelings about their vet and their visits to a vet can vary widely. Some are perfectly happy with an inexpensive clinic, others insist on bringing their pets to a veterinary hospital which performs a full checkup for every distemper shot. Some rush their ferrets to the doctor for every sniffle; others may be so reluctant or unaware of the animal’s condition that they wait until it is too late to obtain medical assistance. (Be aware that our Foster contract is worded very strongly if there is any suggestion of neglect or mistreatment of any Foster Ferret. We take their care and comfort very seriously.) There is a happy medium and you, as a knowledgeable, experienced, and fiscally responsible Foster Parent, will be entrusted to maintain it. The aim is to provide solid, basic medical care for animals that would not receive any care without the Foster Program. If unsure about the need for veterinary care, caretakers are urged to consult with us.
Are there any other requirements?
Foster Parents must remain FACT associate members as long as they continue to care for their Foster Ferret. We not only want to be aware of their whereabouts at all times, but also ensure you are regularly receiving ferret health and organization info via our associate newsletter, Paw Printz. By remaining an associate of FACT, we hope to reinforce to you how hard FACT works to raise the funds to help care for your Foster Ferret. We want you to also have a stake in organization finances. A good first step in becoming a Foster Parent is to become a FACT associate member, if you are not already one.
For their participation in the Program, Foster Grandparents receive a bi-monthly newsletter, Ferret Poop. You will also receive a copy. You are asked to provide a brief (1-2 paragraph) update on your Foster Ferret every two months. We do not believe this is an outrageous request to give something back to the people who give so much to our FACT ferrets. EVERY Foster Ferret has a Grandparent out there who loves to hear how their “Grandchild” is doing. Nowhere else will you ever have such a willing and eager audience for your cute ferret stories! While issue space may not allow for every photo of your Foster, we’re happy to receive updated pictures.
Before you are accepted as a Foster Home, we need to know exactly how you house your own as well as the Foster Ferret. Our goal is to have them spend as little time in a cage as possible. Many of these little guys may have spent years sitting alone in a dirty cage and it is emotionally and physically healthier for them to live loose in your home or at least free in a separate room as much as possible. They may need to be segregated from your own younger ferrets. While some adore youngsters, others find their energies drained by babies. Still others dislike all other ferrets.
Old or ill ferrets are rarely suitable for households with very young children. All ferrets are easy to injure if they are dropped are roughly handled, and elderly ones are particularly frail.
Your lifestyle is an important factor in your ability to give a Foster Ferret the attention they need. Homes with someone present all day can make the most wonderful Foster Parents, but it’s not required. If your workplace is flexible and understanding, a late night or early morning rush to the vet won’t be a problem. The ability to be attentive to changes in the Foster’s habits can make the difference between catching a symptom early or too late, so it’s vital you learn about common ferret illnesses. Your personal tolerance for messiness is also important. Elderly animals are often unsteady and miss their litterbox, and you need to be prepared and willing to cope.
Some final thoughts:
Is the prospect of Fostering an elderly ferret starting to sound overwhelming? We’re not trying to totally scare you away, but it’s only fair to make sure you consider all the disadvantages and difficulties that can occur before you begin. Fostering is not a commitment to take on without serious thought and planning. But if you love ferrets, and you’re willing to accept the restrictions, there’s nothing quite like a sweet “Thank You” kiss from a gentle animal that loves you. Please contact us if you have further questions or wish to set up an interview.
*Note: Fostering is generally only available to homes geographically close to the FACT shelter. While exceptions have been made, we find it is very difficult to manage a ferret’s veterinary care at a distance.