Fostering a shelter animal is one of the most selfless things you can do. Yet, if you think about it, if you’re a dog or cat lover, then there’s something in it for you, too. After all, you may be taking a stray animal off the hands of a shelter that is more than likely already full of animals, but you’ll have a new friend to introduce to the family and play with!
While fostering is awesome, it comes with many responsibilities that you shouldn’t take lightly. It’s not uncommon for a foster parent to come into a shelter with good intentions, then come back in with their tail between their legs because they simply couldn’t hack it. So, let’s talk fostering, and when you’ve finished reading, you’ll be that much closer to understanding and appreciating your role as a foster parent to a dog or cat.
Make Sure You’re Ready to Foster
This might seem to be obvious. You wouldn’t be looking into fostering a pet unless you felt ready. However, “ready” in this sense might not be exactly what you had in mind. Here are the signs you’re ready to foster:
- You’re ready for a pet, but want to test the waters first
- You intend to take a pet from a shelter and transform it into an animal that is ready for a family and a home. Your goal is to acclimate the animal to a familial setting.
- You have the time and space needed to accommodate the pet.
If you check off these boxes, then you’re ready to proceed.
Why Fostering is Important
Fostering an animal isn’t just meant to be a fun and satisfying way to spend time with a new pet. At its core, it’s actually a unique way to serve your community by sacrificing your time, energy, and sharing your love and generosity to a pet in need. The pets in our community are still members of our community, so the selfless attention you give them is 100% a service to the community.
Beyond that, fostering a dog or cat frees up room at a shelter, potentially saving more homeless animals as a result. In the end, you’re also teaching this dog or cat to be an upstanding member of the community and to be a loving member of its permanent family when they are officially adopted.
What Fostering a Pet Typically Costs
No, you will not get paid to foster an animal. Shelters are running on lean budgets as it is. Think of your work fostering an animal as a charity that pays back in the happiness you feel when you’re walking, playing with, and snuggling with your foster pet.
To us, the greatest cost of fostering a pet is the emotional one. It comes with a tremendous high and, if you let yourself get too attached, can come with a low when the time comes to return your pet to the shelter. If you want our advice; have as much fun as possible with your foster pet, show it all of your love, but be prepared for it to eventually be adopted by a family. The day-to-day cost of fostering an animal is low. You’ll need to buy them food and maybe a few times. Beyond that, all they’ll want is your love and attention.
Your Foster Parent Responsibilities
Fostering a dog comes with many responsibilities, many of which are no sweat. Here’s what you can expect:
- Take your animal to some form of obedience class to train them for their future family
- Participate and transport your pet to adoption events
- Talk your pet up to potential adopters
- Get a feel for the animal’s personality and convey that to the shelter
How to Get Your Home Ready
Cats are pretty good about making themselves at home almost anywhere and cause little disruption in the process. However, dogs can find themselves in plenty of trouble if you don’t dog-proof your home before bringing a foster back. Think of your new dog as a toddler; if they can get into something, they will. Here’s what we suggest to do to prepare your home before the big day:
- Invest in baby gates for any rooms or spaces you don’t want the dog to enter
- Buy a nice dog brush to brush and groom the dog—this is important in teaching them how to be a gentle and loving member of a family
- A few nice dog toys
- A food bowl and water bowl
- A good quality dog or cat food
- Treats for training (you’d be surprised what a dog would do for a treat!)
- Enzyme cleaners (dogs and cats), for the occasional accident
- A dog or cat bed so they have a comfortable place to sleep
The Number 1 Rule of Fostering
At the end of the day, the number 1 rule of fostering a pet is to have fun. The whole purpose of bringing a dog or cat into your home is to enjoy its company. All a shelter asks in return is that you use that time with your foster pet to teach them a thing or two about how to be a part of the family. If all goes well, they’ll find a forever home soon enough, and all of your efforts will make a lucky family very happy.