It’s difficult to look around the Atterstrom family’s home without seeing one of their seven pets; they have four cats (Addy, Bobby, Jetty, and their most recent addition, Gill), two dogs (Eli and Libby), and a guinea pig named Elliot. But the family opens their South Dennis home to more than just their own furry friends.
The Atterstroms started fostering for the Animal Rescue League two years ago after friends from Harwich turned them on to the idea. “Animals just bring a nice energy [to the house]. They’re fun to be around,” says Susan Atterstrom, a speech pathologist.
So far, the Atterstroms have fostered 18 kittens in five separate litters; their most recent litter of three kittens weighed just over 13 ounces each when they first got them. Susan says fostering is a great opportunity for the kittens to get extra love and socialization while they gain weight before they’re old enough to be adopted. “They’ll be that much more people-friendly and easy around dogs and other cats and kids,” she says. Susan’s 14-year-old daughter, Caroline, says, “It’s nice to see them when they’re little and then when they grow up.”
It’s difficult for the Atterstroms to return the kittens to the shelter when they’re old enough to be adopted, but they haven’t surrendered all of their fosters. Their cats, Bobby and Jetty, came from the first litter they fostered, and Gill came unexpectedly from their most recent litter. Susan’s husband surprised the family with Gill a couple of nights after returning him and his siblings to the shelter. Susan says they couldn’t be happier with their most recent addition to the family. “He is absolutely just a love,” she says.
The Atterstroms, Mary Jane Byrne, Martha Rockwell, and all of the other foster families prove an important point: with record numbers of animals—particularly cats—in shelters across the state and the country, foster homes are just as important as forever homes. “You can adopt one versus foster 50,” says Marischen. In addition to helping prepare younger animals for adoption, fostering helps adopt out older animals. “Fostering helps [the ARLB] to continue what they do,” says Susan. And that’s what’s most important: helping the ARLB and the MSPCA do what they do best.