Animal lovers are constantly looking for ways to make the biggest impact. Donations of time and money are highly valued at rescue agencies and shelters. But for some people, their generosity extends far beyond chipping in a couple dollars. They believe the best way to help is by working one-on-one with animals through foster pet care.
Besides helping individual pets, fostering frees up space in shelters and invites more love into each foster home. Fostering offers many benefits, but it’s not for everyone. Consider these factors before you take on the responsibility of fostering a pet.
Temperament of other household pets
Before you agree to foster a pet, consider how your other pets would react to a new animal in the home. Your current dog might be super friendly and enjoy having a new playmate. Existing dogs are a great source of socialization for foster dogs, especially if the foster was rescued from a very isolated environment.
On the other hand, maybe your current pet is still working to overcome their own behavioral issues. Owners with challenging pets should wait to foster until their fur babies learn to coexist with other four-legged family members. Existing and foster pets might not become the best of friends, especially if you’re dealing with two or more cats. Help current pets get along with others to set up the foster animal for success.
Experience with unwanted behaviors
There’s a good chance you’ll encounter some unwanted behaviors in your foster pet. This is because most fosters previously lived on the streets or came from abusive homes. Pets who suffered physical abuse might growl, bite or cower if you approach them the wrong way. Competing for limited resources in the past can make foster animals territorial over food and toys. Some fosters are well-tempered but don’t know basic house rules.
Fostering is easiest for people who have experience with challenging pets. Foster pet parents need to anticipate unwanted behaviors and understand how to correct them. In many cases, the rescue agency or shelter won’t know a pet’s true temperament until they’re placed in a home environment. As the foster pet parent, you have to be ready for anything. You might be able to foster an animal with no behavioral problems, but these cases are less common.
Schedules and time commitment
Foster programs can match you with an animal that best fits your lifestyle. If you’ve got a hectic schedule, consider fostering a cat or dog that’s already accustomed to living in a home. These animals are housetrained and know how to get along with other pets. But no matter how well-tempered they might be, every foster animal has an adjustment period that requires someone to stay home and supervise them. Make sure you can set aside plenty of time to ease your foster animal into their new routine.
Unlike with existing pets, foster animals require a large time commitment in various other ways. The foster program will likely ask you to attend adoption events with the foster animal. Unless you’re working with a senior pet, most fosters need obedience classes and consistent training at home. You’ll also have to meet with people hoping to adopt your foster pet. Take an honest look at your schedule, then decide whether you’re prepared to take on these responsibilities.
Financial and emotional costs
Rescue agencies and shelters do their best to set up every animal for success. When you foster a pet, these organizations will likely cover the cost of obedience classes and medical procedures. However, most pet facilities operate with limited donations and government funding. They might not be able to pay for other pet expenses such as food, litter boxes, crates and toys. Fostering requires the pet parent to be financially stable enough to pay out of pocket for supplies.
Fostering animals is equally rewarding and emotionally taxing. It’s no exaggeration to say that foster pet parents are saving lives. Not only that, you get to watch a timid animal blossom into a confident, family-friendly companion. But you also have to be prepared to say goodbye. After all, foster pet care is a temporary living arrangement. As soon as they grow comfortable in your care, the animal gets passed on to their forever home. Foster pet parents must be willing to let go of that bond and put the pet’s needs first.
Fostering pets is a very fulfilling role for those willing to invest the time, money and patience. If fostering isn’t the right fit, you can save pet lives by donating to or volunteering at your local animal shelter. Otherwise, go ahead and give it a shot! Fostering gets easier with every pet, and the animals will reward you with immeasurable love.
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