After a successful application process, Bintou Sonko and Myckynzie
Shroeder were ready to foster cats in need of homes. The only problem —
there were none available. Then, one day in the middle of lecture, they
finally got the call. Two 3- to 5-week-old kittens needed a foster home,
and the shelter could bring them over right after a vet visit. Later
that day, Sonko and Shroeder welcomed Luna and Leo into their home,
joining the growing community of college foster parents.
While students don’t necessarily have more time on their hands, they are
spending more time in their apartments. To make it through remote
classes, some students are fostering displaced pets in need of a home.
Although new pets add to the workload of full-time students, they also
bring new energy. Weinberg second-years Sonko and Shroeder are both on
the pre-med track, which they say is demanding, so keeping track of the
kittens while they are in class or studying is their biggest challenge.
“I haven't really grown up with pets,” Sonko says. “So having to always
be like, ‘Well, what are they doing? Where are they? Did I lose one?
What are they eating?’ It just kind of makes me on edge, but I feel like
it's worth it.”
For students, fostering can be more attractive than adoption because
shelters typically pay for the necessary supplies. Sonko and Shroeder’s
foster kittens require medicine to treat their eye infections, which is
usually an extra expense, but Skokie-based Community Animal Rescue
Effort covered the cost.
For SESP fourth-years Elizabeth Curtis and their boyfriend Kyle Lewis,
fostering a cat wasn’t a fast decision. They warmed up to the idea after
four to five months, waiting until they would eventually move in
together. Shortly after Curtis learned they wouldn’t have to give up
their beloved plants to cat-proof the apartment, they started fostering
Baldwin from the Evanston Animal Shelter. So far, fostering a cat has
given them a place to focus their energy away from feeling stuck in
their apartment during online classes, Curtis says.
Finding a cat with a compatible personality was a challenge. Baldwin
didn’t like being pet or carried, and would bite them if they touched
her. While she bonded well with them through playtime and cat to human
conversations, the biting and extra care she took was difficult to
manage, so they took her back to the shelter and began looking for a
more cuddly cat.
Soon after, they found Gilda, a 4- or 5-year-old tortoiseshell American
shorthair, who they’ve bonded fairly well with. For the first few days,
Gilda hid under the bed, so Curtis knew the cat felt at home when she
started spending more time on the couches.
“I think the best thing has definitely been the added responsibility and
the added relationship of bonding with the cat and learning about them,”
Curtis says. “Every cat has their own personality and their own
boundaries that can be very different from cat to cat.”
While cats may be seen as more apartment-friendly pets, some students
are fostering dogs. Medill third-year Amirah Ford is fostering
11-year-old Ozzy, a senior greyhound mix dog from the Evanston Animal
Ford decided to start fostering Ozzy to boost morale among her
roommates. “Everyone in her house could use an extra dose of serotonin,”
she says. Fostering allows her to travel home for breaks without having
to make accommodations for her dog. Also, in the event students are sent
home because of a COVID-19 outbreak, Ford would be able to give him
When Ozzy first arrived, he struggled with separation anxiety and his
ears did not perk up. Now Ford considers him her buddy, and his ears
perk up more often than not, she says. She cooks Ozzy cinnamon brown
sugar carrots and salmon to mix with his dry food because he won’t eat
it any other way. Ford enjoys fostering Ozzy because he brings joy to
her friends and he has become a member of her friend group, she says.
Whether it be companionship, additional responsibility or a place to
test new recipes, pets are providing students with a new focus. While
these foster parents are giving pets a home, it seems like the animals
are also giving them something in return — support during a difficult
“It’s like a little living pick-me-up to help distract from everything,”