An introduction to fostering, why you should get involved

Saving a pet’s life through fostering can truly be an incredibly rewarding experience. Yes, it will take some of your time, a little extra cleaning, and perhaps a tiny piece of your heart.  But once your foster pet is a loved member of someone’s family, it will leave you with a feeling unlike any other because you stepped up and saved him! Sound like something you’d love to do? If so, 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 should be covered and provided by the rescue organization’s veterinarian. The rescue organization may also be able to provide other pet supplies such as food, a crate, etc. As a foster parent, you will be responsible for making sure your foster pet is safe, cared for and loved.

Why do pets need foster homes?

There are many reasons a pet may need a foster home but here are the most common scenarios:

  • Pregnancy/Babies – 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.  Without a foster home, these young families are often at a very high risk of being euthanized in many shelters.
  • Orphaned – 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 just a few weeks until they’re old enough to be adopted. Others may not be eating on their own yet and need to be bottle fed. Shelters don’t have the space to house these babies until they can be adopted nor do they have the staff to take care of the bottle babies.
  • Overcrowding – Animal shelters are overcrowded! Many must 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; the one you foster and the one who takes his space at the shelter.  You can foster for a shelter or a rescue group. There are thousands of rescue groups who take in pets from overcrowded shelters.  They 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.
  • Treatable Illness/Injury – 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.
  • Stress – Shelter life is extremely stressful on pets.  Some of them simply need a break from the overwhelming stress.
  • Socialization – 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 rescue organization learn more about the pet’s personality and behavior, which will help them better 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 other 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 his lifesaving skills can keep him from becoming another tragic statistic. And, of course, your foster pet will need lots of positive interactions with your family which will involve kisses, cuddling and having fun! Discuss any concerns you have with the rescue organization to help them 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 pet! 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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