Pet Fostering: What to Know Before You Make the Leap
Your decision to foster can be lifesaving for a shelter pet—it can give him a safe place to live, and can even prevent him from being euthanized. Fostering one pet also helps countless others—by taking one into your home, you open up a space at a shelter or rescue for other animals to be taken in.
There are also practical reasons for fostering: It can help you ‘test’ different animals to see which will be suitable as a permanent pet.
But so much is involved with fostering—not only the physical side but also the emotional—that you should be well prepared before you make the leap. Here’s what you should consider:
Fostering Pets: How Long Do You Want to Foster a Pet?
There are short-term fosters of just a few weeks and longer-term ones that can even last years.
Determine what your schedule and your other needs can handle, as well as the needs of any other people or pets in your home, says Jane Harrell, Associate Producer at Petfinder.com.
Fostering Pets: Determine What Kinds of Medical Needs You Can Handle
Pets are often fostered while they are recovering from illness or surgery and need a safe place to recuperate.
“Sometimes a pet just needs time away from the shelter,” Harrell says. “Shelters and rescues can be stressful environments and these pets are coming from all different areas of life.”
Fostering Pets: Evaluate Time and Space
“Figure out what type of dog you’d be able to accommodate in terms of size, temperament and energy levels,” says Sarah Oren, founder of Foster Dogs in NYC.
Take into consideration your work schedule and free time.
“The more free time you have, the more time you can spend with a high-energy pet,” she says.
And consider your space—if you have a small home, decide what you can deal with.
Fostering Pets: Bear in Mind the Pet Will Leave You
“People get very emotionally attached to their pets,” says Harrell, “so when you take on a foster, consider taking a pet that might do better permanently in a different type of home."
If you have a foster pet that you know is going to have a better life living with someone else, it makes it easier to let him go when he gets adopted, she says. "For instance, I take on high-energy fosters sometimes because I know that another home might be able to provide a better long-term lifestyle for that foster than I would since I lead a relatively low-energy lifestyle."
Harrell finds it easier to let go of her foster pets when she meets the adopters because she’ll see they will be well cared for, although admits the first time a pet leaves is the hardest.
But there is usually the chance for you to convert your foster relationship into an adoption, says Oren.
“If you fall in love with a pet and can’t give it up, you can be the first one to adopt it.”
Fostering Pets: Mistakes Are Made
Be aware that if a foster relationship doesn’t work out, or if you’re in over your head, it’s OK to say so, says Harrell.
“It’s not like an adoption where you’re looking for a lifelong relationship with them. There’s no shame in letting the shelter know that and giving them some time to make other arrangements.”
Fostering Pets: Important Questions to Ask
- Why is the pet in the shelter/rescue and why does she need a foster home now?
- Does he have any medical issues?
- Has the pet been spayed/neutered?
- Who will pay for medical bills if they arise?
- How does he behave around other animals and children?
- Who will provide food, litter and any other essentials such as a leash and any potential medications?
- How does the animal fare when left alone?