An introduction to fostering, why you should get involved

Volunteering to save a life is truly an incredible experience. Yes, it will take some of your time, a little extra cleaning, and perhaps a piece of your heart.  But you’ll look back on the great memories and fun times with an almost euphoric feeling because you helped heal an abandoned pet’s broken heart. And once your foster pet is adopted, you’ll realize that he is now a beloved member of someone’s family all because you stepped up and saved his life. Sound like something you’d love to do? Great! Here’s an introduction to fostering and even more reasons why you should get involved.

What is pet fostering?

When you foster a pet, you bring him into your home and care for him on a temporary basis; typically until he’s ready to go up for adoption or he’s adopted by a forever home. The average length of stay for a foster pet is about a month.  However, some pets only need a few weeks, while others need 2-3 months.
All veterinary care is covered by the foster organization and their veterinarian.  They can often provide many (and sometimes all) of the supplies needed including pet food, a crate, etc. As a foster parent, you will be responsible for making sure your foster pet is safe, loved and cared for.

Why do pets need foster homes?

There are many reasons why a pet might need a foster home. Here are some of the most common reasons why you should consider fostering a pet in need:
  • Pregnant dogs and cats and moms with babies need foster homes until the puppies or kittens are old enough to be adopted.  (This is typically at around 8-10 weeks of age.)  Shelters simply don’t have the space to keep families, and underaged pets are at a high risk of getting sick in the shelter environment.  Without a foster home, these factors put them at a very high risk of being euthanized in many shelters.
  • Particularly in spring and summer, orphaned and underaged kittens and puppies end up in shelters without their mom.  Some need a safe place to go for a few weeks until they’re old enough to be adopted.  Others may not be eating on their own yet and need special care including bottle feeding. Shelters simply don’t the space to house these babies until they can be adopted or round the clock staff to take care of the bottle babies.
  • Animal shelters are overcrowded! Many are forced to euthanize adoptable pets daily to make space for incoming pets.  By fostering a pet for even a short period of time you can save two lives; that of the one you foster and the one who takes his place at the shelter.  You can save a life and help by fostering a pet for even a short period of time.
  • There are thousands of rescue groups who take in pets from individuals and from overcrowded shelters.  These organizations don’t have a physical shelter and rely solely on temporary foster homes until the pets can go to an off-site adoption facility or be adopted into a new home.
  • Many dogs and cats need a foster home while they recover from an illness, injury or surgery before they can enter an adoption program.  One of the most common ailments is a cold. These are fairly simple to treat in a foster home (about two weeks on average), but are a very common reason for euthanasia in a shelter.
  • Shelter life can be extremely stressful on pets.  Some simply need a break from the overwhelming stress.
  • Pets who need additional socialization can also benefit greatly from spending time with a family in a foster home.

What does fostering involve?

In addition to caring for your foster pet like he is your own, you can also help the foster organization learn more about the pet’s personality and behavior, which will help them match him to the perfect family.
You will also likely be asked to take your foster pet to any veterinarian appointments, adoption events as well as to scheduled meetings with interested adopters.
While it can be helpful to have experience with pets, it’s not always necessary. Many adult and senior dogs and cats have lived in a home before and need little to no training. Of course, there’s always an adjustment period while they get to know your house rules, schedule, etc., so you want to set them up for success from the start (see our blog articles for more info). Other dogs and cats (particularly younger pets) will need your gentle guidance in learning what it is like to be in a home. Helping your foster pet learn or polish lifesaving skills will help prevent him from becoming a tragic statistic. And, of course, your foster pet will need lots of positive interactions with people and other pets which will involve kisses on the nose, cuddles and gentle handling. Discuss any concerns you have  with your foster organization so they can match you with a foster pet.

 I’d like to help!  What are my next steps?

There are many things you can do to help save a life! You can search for local pets in your area who are in need of a foster home, share information about fostering pets with your friends and family, sign up to become a foster hero, or make a donation to your local pet rescue! Visit our homepage to find pets who need you and start enjoying a rewarding experience with your whole family!

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