If you can’t make the long-term commitment of adopting a pet, fostering may be the next best option. Unlike volunteering, fostering welcomes an animal into your home for up to one month to provide them a safe, temporary environment until they find their forever home. While under your roof, you are responsible for taking care of that animal from daily feedings and walking to any medical treatments/appointments as if they were your own pet.
There are a number of benefits to fostering. Personally, being around animals can bring joy and improve mental health, and fostering may be a rewarding way to give back to your community. For your local shelter, fostering helps free up valuable space and allows the animal to get socialized, which will ultimately help them get adopted faster.
Intrigued? Want to learn more? Like what should you prepare for? What is the length of commitment? Let’s talk about fostering, what it is, and how to integrate it into your life, whether for a trial period or a lifetime commitment.
Anyone above the age of 18 may become a foster upon approval of an application. It’s essential to check with all household members—roommates, spouses, or children—ahead of time to ensure they’re open and excited about having a foster pet in the house and will abide by the rules set by the shelter. You also always want to get approval from your landlord before welcoming a pet (if applicable).
Things You’ll Want to Consider:
The more pet-friendly the environment, the more successful the foster home. If your house has light-colored rugs, expensive furniture, or lots of valuable/breakable items, it may not be ideal. There also needs to be an outdoor place for exercise with a fully fenced yard.
Many foster animals come from less-than-ideal situations: some are very young, some are recovering from surgery, and others just need a little extra love and socialization. As you can imagine, a foster animal requires attention and patience, and all of these amount to one thing: time. Some foster placements require up to two months of care, so be sure that the commitment is not a strain on your current schedule. Adults who work from home are ideal candidates, as some animals have separation anxiety.
If you already have pets in the home, you’ll need to take them into consideration prior to bringing home another animal. Your foster dog needs to be in a separate space if you have other animals, especially during an introductory period. Typically, a minimum 14-day quarantine period is recommended. Although our veterinary staff gives all fosters a superficial examination, there is always the possibility that your foster may become ill after placement due to an undetectable ailment.
Some foster parents choose to keep their pets separate, not only for medical reasons but also for emotional reasons. It’s possible that your existing pets may not enjoy strangers in their domain, which might cause them to act aggressively. Only you can judge the situation and deem whether total separation is necessary.
As a foster parent, you are responsible for supplying the basics to your foster animal, including food and water, potty training pads (if needed), crates, and toys. These items do not have to be new! Most foster parents often wash and recycle bedding and toys between placements.
In addition to preparedness for the special needs or issues some animals may have, you will need a fair amount of patience for young puppies and kittens, elderly animals, or victims of neglect and/or abuse. Part of being a foster is helping to guide and shape these animals into a place of confidence regardless of circumstance.
Younger dogs may not be potty trained, which will require persistence and patience on your part to help them master this process. This may also result in more laundry, unintentional messes, and a general learning curve as the animal adapts to the new environment.
Puppies —as well as older unsocialized dogs— may also need some basic obedience training. Teaching simple commands such as sit and stay, helping deter biting and nipping, and leash training are vital to their development and will help make them more adoptable.
Any pets who have been neglected or abused may be hesitant at first, which is why persistence and patience are…again…valuable assets. Changing environments is stressful, and digestive issues are not uncommon as they get used to their new surroundings. Ultimately each scenario will be different, so be flexible and tolerant and learn and grow with the animal's needs.
If we’re being honest, many foster parents fall in love with their adorable fosters and become attached. And while it’s technically a “foster fail” if the parent ends up keeping the animal, it is truly a win-win for everyone. If you do end up returning the foster, it isn’t uncommon to feel sad, but many say it does get easier over time.
If you think the emotional burden may be too much, you may want to consider volunteering or adopting instead. There is no shortage of pets looking for full-time loving homes or socialization at the shelter. That said, fostering is one of the most rewarding things you can do, and you’ll feel like a proud mamma whenever your foster gets adopted.
Ready to Get Started? Fill out an application or contact the shelter to learn more.