Being a foster parent can be a lifesaver for a stray or surrendered animal. Foster homes provide a safe haven for rescued dogs and cats – and other domestic animals as well – so that municipal and nonprofit shelters and rescue groups can save as many lives as possible.
Fosters free up space in shelters so that they can take in more animals, but there are other reasons to open your home to foster an animal in need. Many dogs and cats don’t do well in a shelter environment or they are recovering from an injury or illness and need more hands-on care than a shelter can provide. And many animals are just too young and still need nursing or bottle feeding round the clock.
Whatever need you fill; fostering can be a rewarding experience for you as well as the animal you help. Here are some things to consider before you sign on with a rescue organization or local shelter:
Many organizations provide their foster homes with food as well as litter for cats. They also cover medical expenses. A shelter may have its own veterinary services, which you will use, or a rescue or nonprofit shelter may have an arrangement with a private veterinarian where they will direct you. Generally you will not need to provide medical care beyond administering routine medications.
Prior experience with a dog or cat helps especially since the animal may be quite stressed or have some behavioral issues, which can be very challenging if you have never had a pet before. However, never having a dog or cat should not deter you from fostering. In fact fostering can be a good way to decide if you want to adopt an animal. Ask questions about the animal – its history, personality and behavior – coming into your home. You also can specify what kind of animal you prefer. You may find that fostering older cats or dogs is preferable to taking on a rambunctious puppy or kitten. Also older animals will need less training and less of your time than younger ones.
Isolating foster animals
Whatever you do, don’t leave fosters alone with your animals unsupervised. Slowly let fosters and your pets get to know each other. Also be sure both foster sand your own pets are up to date with their annual vaccinations.
In the case of cats, keep them in separate rooms at first and let them sniff each other under the door for several days before making an introduction. You also can keep the foster cat in a crate while you introduce it to your cats. (See: Adding another kitty to your home? The Do’s and Don’ts)
Ideally, your own dog should have a chance to meet the foster before it comes into your home. You can schedule a time when you bring your dog to the shelter or introduce a potential foster to your dog at a park. Make sure both dogs are on leashes while you make the introduction.
Help find a permanent home
Most organizations find home for their fostered animals by showcasing them online or through adoption fairs. Most likely it will be your responsibility to get the cat or dog to these events and the more frequently you do, the greater the chance of if finding a new home. You can help the adoption process by letting your friends and family know you have a foster animal needing a permanent home. Regarding potential adopters, you should be part of the interview process since you know the animal and its disposition.
Need to terminate foster arrangement
Most organizations will work with you if the foster situation is not working out or your circumstances change. Also if you need to travel, organizations can help you with an interim placement while you are gone.
Adopting your foster animal
You may have heard the term “foster failure.” Sometimes a foster animal steals your heart and you won’t be able to part with it. However, most organizations don’t expect you to adopt your foster animal. They hope you will find great satisfaction in being a foster parent and continue to open your home to animals in need and help them find their forever homes.
With kitten season getting underway, foster homes for cats are particularly critical now. Talk to your local shelter or a rescue organization in your area and find out how you can help by opening your home and heart.