Benefits of Fostering Animals and What to Know Beforehand

It is estimated that 7.6 million animals enter American shelters each year. Shelters regularly run out of space and/or have animals who are unable to adapt to a kennel environment. Because of this, they often rely on foster organizations to take these animals and search for people willing to adopt them.

Fostering is important because it gives animals the chance to be in a home where they can acclimate to a stable environment, overcome fears, and recover from any trauma they might have experienced.  Below you can learn more about the benefits of fostering, find out what is needed in order to foster, and read questions to consider before fostering an animal.

The Benefits
Fostering increases the chances for an animal to be adopted through helping their best personality to emerge. As a foster parent, you can teach the animal basic house manners and allow them to experience what  a loving, healthy home is like. Fostering also helps modify behavior and ease temperaments. It gives animals the chance to work out their issues in a stable home environment, and be completely ready to find a forever home.

Animals also develop social skills from being fostered. Different interactions develop their ability to adapt to new stimuli and stresses. Helping them to feel comfortable around unfamiliar people and animals will, over time, develop into trust. This can be rewarded in the  form of playmates as well as extra scratches behind the ears!

Fostering animals can be an important first step before taking on the responsibility of owning a pet. It gives you exposure to different breeds and their personalities. Perhaps you’ve always been a dog person, but you’ve wanted to see what it would be like to own a cat.  While fostering is not necessarily a trial run for adopting a pet, it can help you determine if being a pet owner is right for you. And, most importantly, you’ll discover if you have the emotional and financial capacity to do the job well.
Another benefit of fostering is that it enables animals to enjoy better mental health. Shelters don’t always exercise animals enough, and it can be  stressful for animals to co-exist with so many others. Sometimes shelters don’t have the staff capacity to properly train the animals, which lessens their quality of life. Also, unlike foster animals, animals in shelters have a higher chance of getting sick.  Overall, fostering saves lives and gives animals a “leg up” in their hope for finding a forever home.

What is Needed
Compassion for animals and a knowledge of animal behavior is a great start! It’s important to understand that the fostered pet may or may not be adopted when returned to the shelter or rescue organization. The length of time a foster pet can stay in a home depends on the individual animal’s situation.

You’ll be required to complete a foster application and attend a training session. Some shelters and groups do home visits prior to your fostering your first pet. You’ll be informed regarding the policies and procedures of  fostering. In most situations, a Foster Care Coordinator will help you select the type of pet you should foster and will notify you when one becomes available. Organizations require that, if a foster parent already owns a pet, that the pet (or pets) is up-to-date on vaccinations. This ensures that the owner is responsible, and that possible diseases are not spread to the foster animal.

Before fostering an animal, it’s important to make sure your home is pet-proof. For instance, puppies and kittens will play with or chew on most anything! Unfortunately, this includes items such as drapes, blind cords, shoes, and even furniture. Small items like thumb tacks, nails, house plants, and rubber bands are also dangerous to puppies, kittens, and curious animals in general. And, if you have anything of value that you’d miss if it was damaged or destroyed, it’s better to take those items out of harm’s way.

Another helpful tip is to make sure you have ample supplies for your animal’s needs. A crate or carrier can help pets feel like they have a quiet and safe place where they can retreat. Providing the right type of quality food is crucial to keeping your foster pet healthy. Shelters and rescue groups will inform you of any special dietary restrictions or needs the pet may have. Also, pets love toys! Tennis balls, socks, rubber mice, and buzz balls are some great examples of fun toys to help keep your pet entertained and happy.

Questions to Ask Yourself (FAQs)
Will I be able to keep foster pets and my own pets in seperate locations if needed?
It’s recommended that you have a place where foster pets and your own pets can be separated from time to time. This gives them space from one another and allows each to have their own area to live in.

Can I foster and work full time?
Most pets can be left alone for up to eight hours, but it is suggested they be crated during that time.. Following this, it’s imperative that they are provided social time as well as exercise. However, if it’s a younger pet that’s still bottle-feeding, it needs to be monitored and can’t be left alone for long periods of time.

Would I be able to deal with possible damage and lots of clean-ups when I first take a foster pet home?
Animals in new environments can become stressed and have accidents. Or, they might chew or claw objects such as drapes, carpeting, and clothing.  Making a plan ahead of time can help you best prepare for any potential messes that might occur!

Can I afford care and health expenses?
Budgeting and financially preparing for pet expenses is important. Most rescue groups cover the cost of necessities like food, cat litter, etc. However, there are veterinary expenses that aren’t covered.  And, if you’re gone for extended periods of time, there are pet-sitting costs to be considered.

Will the pets I own adjust to an addition to the family?
Pets can be territorial and possessive when it comes to sharing the attention of their owners. Certain breeds are more prone to act out at their new housemate than others. There is also the consideration of pet power hierarchies in households. This is an issue to anticipate as the animals learn to get along.


Sources: Vet Street, Connecticut Humane Society, Pet Finder, Cuteness, PAWS