How to Start Pet Fostering

By Erica Loop in Helping Hands

Have you considered pet fostering? According to the ASPCA, nearly 6.5 million dogs and cats enter animal shelters in the United States annually. Even though adoption is ideal, it isn't always possible for every pet. Fostering a pet allows you to help an animal in need and individuals in your community. Before you welcome Fluffy or Fido into your home, it's key that you know what's expected of temporary pet parents.

Types of Organizations

The first step to fostering is to find an organization and program that matches your capabilities. Keep in mind that the specific organizations will vary by geographic area, but check out these options to start.

  • Animal shelters. These organizations take in animals that are abandoned, abused, or have owners who are unable to care for them. Animal shelters need people to foster puppies and kittens that are too young for adoption, ill, recuperating from surgery, or need socialization.
  • Homeless shelters. When an individual or family struggles to find housing, homeless shelters provide meals and a roof over their head. But these organizations aren't always equipped to handle pets. Some have foster programs in place to provide caring homes for the animals while their owners get back on their feet.
  • Domestic violence and crisis centers. Like homeless shelters, these centers often don't allow pets. A foster program provides a temporary home for individuals' pets while they receive care.
  • Military programs. If a serviceperson is deployed and doesn't have a spouse, family, or friends who can care for their dog or cat, they may have to surrender the pet prior to leaving. A military pet program finds a foster parent to care for the animal until the serviceperson returns home.

woman caring for foster dog in her home

Your Responsibilities

You'll need room in your life (and your heart) for the pet. Even though organizations may allow people with small apartments or homes to foster, make sure that you feel comfortable with the amount of space that you can devote to a dog or cat. The specific length of time you'll foster the animal depends on their needs. The pet may need a few weeks to recuperate from an illness or may need a few months to become accustomed to people.

Fostering a dog for the first time may be intimidating, but most organizations provide free training and materials that can teach you about dog care, behavior, and what's expected from a foster family. Fostering organizations also typically provide food, toys, and medical care for the pet. But you're responsible for picking those items up from the organization, meaning you'll likely want to live near the shelter or program headquarters.

While every organization has its own requirements, many won't allow individuals younger than twenty-one to foster. They may also ask you for proof of home ownership or a lease that expressly says you can have a pet.

two small foster cats at home

Common Challenges

Fostering a dog or cat is incredibly rewarding, but it can also come with some challenges. Sick animals, pets that are recuperating from surgery, and puppies or kittens may require significant attention. Certain breeds may have a lot of energy and need plenty of playtime. If you work full time out of the home, have young children, or travel often, fostering may be difficult.

Dogs and cats that have behavioral or socialization issues also present distinct challenges. Extra training or guidance from the fostering organization can help, but you'll need patience and the ability to care for an animal that may not necessarily want your love and attention right away. That said, these fostering situations may be the most gratifying in the end!

The Impact

The impact your fostering will have on the pet is immeasurable. Not only will your love positively affect the foster pet, but you will also be helping people in your community and supporting the fostering organization. In return, the pet will change your life and make a lasting impression on your family!

Do you know someone who has fostered a pet? Tell us about it on Twitter!

Image Sources: Pexels | Pexels | Unsplash

The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Tom's of Maine.

Why It's Good

Pet fostering can change, and even save, an animal's life. But that's not all. This act of kindness can make a major positive impact on individuals in your community—and on yourself.