The RSPCA is asking Warrnambool and Portland animal lovers to open their hearts and homes to vulnerable animals, announcing the expansion of its foster care program to the south-west.
Warrnambool and Portland foster network coordinator Madison Williams said RSPCA is looking for people who can provide temporary in-home care for animals currently in the Portland and Warrnambool shelters that need some extra love and care.
"It's very exciting that we can now invite south west Victoria residents to support the RSPCA and animals in our community," she said.
"Even without the foster program running here we did a grand total of 95 fosters in Portland and 52 in Warrnambool, so having the program here we're hoping to triple the numbers.
"It's going to have such an amazing impact to animals in the community.
"We currently have 30 foster carers in the area but are hoping to get to 200."
Ms Williams said many of the animals that come through are strays and surrenders.
"We are the pound of Warrnambool City Council and Glenelg Shire Council," she said.
"The main reason we see animals surrendered here in Warrambool in my experience is renting and not being able to take it to the next rental property.
"When they are brought in they will be in quarantine for eight days, a vet will see them, they are behaviour tested, they're given flea treatment, wormed and vaccinated.
"If the vets and the behaviour team say they're ready for adoption they will desex them and put them straight in the adoption program, but others that need a little more time to come out of their shell, to blossom and learn some more manners, will go into foster.
"It's not just cats and kittens that we're doing fostering for, it will be puppies, rabbits, kittens, guinea pigs - all sorts of domestic animals."
She said they are particularly looking for dog foster carers to take dogs that haven't made it on farms.
"We're looking to engage more with the dog-owning community and get more dog foster carers," she said.
"Some come in a little shy, particularly because we're in a rural setting, if they don't make it on a farm they need someone to show them how to be a suburban dog in town and what it's like to be on a lead, to meet children and those sorts of things."
They will have junior fostering for animals that may still be with their mothers and are too young to go through the adoption program; behaviour fostering for animals that may be timid or hesitant, and medical foster for animals who may have head any amputations and need to recover in a home environment.
"They need somewhere that's warm and comforting, unfortunately it's so busy here at the shelter that they don't always get all the extra love they would get at a home," Ms Williams said.
"All the animals that go through the foster program you can tell are more relaxed, more social, which definitely helps when they foster them out."
International Cat Day
Thursday marks International Cat Day, celebrating all felines and their four-legged friendships.
Ms Williams wanted to use the internationally-recognised event to draw attention to the plight faced by animal shelters in the south-west.
"Often all of our cages are filled with up to five kittens, it's insane, and that's where we think the foster care program will help and be an asset to the community because we can take more animals in," Ms Williams said.
"Unfortunately we got a lot (of cats), to the point we're needing to transfer them to other shelters. That's across every location.
"Most of the cats and kittens that come through here are strays, rarely will they be surrenders. When they're strays there's no microchip so there's no way of tracing the owner.
"We will hold on to them for eight days and we do regularly check the Lost and Found register.
"When people's dogs go missing we'll often see them come in, but not so much for cats. I think a lot of people think their cats have run away when they're really just here."
RSPCA Victoria covers all animal care costs, including food, supplies and vet bills and new foster carers will be provided with support and advice from foster care coordinators based in their local community.
RSPCA is aiming to sign on 100 new volunteer foster carers in the Portland and Warrnambool areas by the end of the year.
If you wish to foster, complete a volunteer application form and register your interest to attend an orientation session.
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