Fostering for the First Time

Foster a Pet for the First Time

One of the most effective (and rewarding) ways to help local rescue organizations is to become a foster pet parent! Many rescued pets need some time to adjust to new living conditions, heal from neglect, and learn to be pets before they begin life with a fur-ever family. Still other pets need a foster family because the local shelter is unable to accommodate them.

Your first foster pet experience may seem intimidating, particularly if you don’t know what to expect. Your role as a foster pet parent is extremely important, and you’ll need to consider factors such as how you will pay for expenses and how fostering will affect your schedule and family. The following tips will help you understand what’s involved and determine if fostering is right for you:

Assess Your Time Commitment

Before you agree to foster a pet, think critically about how much time your foster will require. Depending on the animal or breed and his or her past experience, you may need to devote a significant amount of time to care for the pet. Choose carefully – a senior pet might be easier than a puppy, and dogs often require more supervision than cats. If your job requires you to be on-site for the majority of the day, you may need to request a schedule change to give dogs a break during the day. While cats require less supervision, you must still scoop the litter box and feed them daily, so if you travel a lot, a foster pet may not be right for you.

Pet-Proof Your Home

Survey your home carefully before fostering to avoid accidents. Secure or remove any potentially dangerous or toxic items including certain houseplants, unprotected cables, wires or cords, and cleaning or other chemicals. Learn what you need to know about common household items that can harm a pet and store these in a safe place a pet cannot access.

Plan for Expenses

In some cases, shelters and rescue organizations will pay for part or all of the expenses associated with fostering a pet, but there are some basic items that you will have to pay for. Before agreeing to foster a pet make sure you know which expenses are your responsibility and remember to make some room in your budget for toys, grooming, pet gates, and other expenses that a rescue organization may not cover. You will want to find out if you can borrow crates and litter boxes and other equipment, and consider how you’ll pay for anything you might want such as a litter disposal system or a training class.

Fostering a Pet for the First TimeConsider Your Entire Family

Your new foster pet will be a new family member, and you need to be honest and aware of your entire family. Other pets and children can create stress for a foster pet transitioning to pet life, and it is essential that you communicate clearly with the foster coordinator about your environment so that they can properly place a foster pet. It is also possible for a foster pet to transmit illnesses to other family members and pets. Check with the rescue organization and get as much information as you can about a foster pet to protect your family.

Assess Your Space

Most of us won’t offer to foster a goat or a pony because we simply don’t have the space (or the zoning) to care for a large animal. Be honest about your living space when determining what type of foster pet you can assist. A large, energetic dog might not be the best choice if you live in a small apartment without a yard. Cats can adapt to smaller environments, although it is important to make sure you can find a place that is out of the way of activity for a litter box.

Prepare for Success (When They Find a Home)

Remember that you are just a step on your foster pet’s journey to finding a forever home. Your job is to provide the care and guidance that will equip a pet to find and stay in an adoptive home, and your success will lead to the pet leaving your home to start a new life. Prepare ahead of time to deal with the difficulty of letting go. Fostering another pet is a great way to remember why you wanted to foster a pet in the first place, and if you truly cannot let your foster pet go, you can always adopt – a “failed foster” is still a success.

If you are interested in fostering a pet, visit one of the rescue organizations on our Community Partners page.