Cats, kittens and dogs could be offering people Christmas comfort this year thanks to a new Whangārei SPCA initiative.
The centre is desperately seeking short-term foster homes for cats, kittens and dogs over the holidays and is asking animal lovers to open up their hearts and their homes.
In return for a home the animals will offer company, cuddles and unconditional love for the festive season.
Like many SPCA centres around the country at this time of year, Whangārei's SPCA is filling up with unwanted animals, many needing time and attention before they can be adopted.
There are about 172 cats and kittens and 45 dogs and puppies at the Whangārei centre at the moment, which is slightly below the numbers for same time last year.
Whangārei SPCA manager Francine Shields is calling on the public to provide loving short-term foster homes over the holidays.
"For cats and kittens in SPCA care, spending time in a foster home can have many positive benefits, particularly for those who have had tough lives in the past. Many of the animals in SPCA care have never experienced a happy, loving home environment," Shields said.
"The care, love and socialisation provided in a foster home can be transformative for an animal who has lost trust in people."
Not only can short-term fostering have a positive impact on animals but it can also be a rewarding way for humans to spend the holiday period, especially for older people who may be alone at Christmas.
"For some people, Christmas can be a very lonely time of year," Shields said.
"Short-term fostering of an animal who needs care, love and attention can have huge benefits for both the human and the animal."
While cats are currently the priority for fostering at SPCA's Whangārei centre, dogs are also in need of foster homes.
"Dogs suffer more while being alone. Even with staff at the centre every day, being in a home environment is best for the dogs."
With some dogs having been in SPCA care for almost a year, Shields says that canine fosterers who are experienced with adult dogs are always in demand.
All SPCA foster families are provided with all the bedding, food, equipment such as litter, and medical expenses are covered for the animals in their care.
"All that we ask of our fosterers is that they give the animal the love, time and attention that it needs to learn that the world is not such a scary place."
And she hoped some of the temporary homes could become permanent if a bond is created.
Anyone who is interest can contact the centre through their Whangārei Facebook page or calling 09 438 9161.