4 myth-busting reality checks about fostering an animal

May 23 | Guest post by Minerva Siegel
Adopt me collar by Etsy seller SouthernWag
Adopt me collar by Etsy seller SouthernWag

Fostering an animal means taking a homeless animal from a shelter or rescue and giving it a home with you until it gets adopted. It's such a needed, life-saving process that a lot of people have questions and misconceptions about. I'm here to address them…

Doesn't it cost a lot of money to foster?

Reality: Shelters/rescues offer to cover the medical (and sometimes even food) costs of caring for a foster animal, so you're not left with any financial risk by caring for it.

What if I get paired with animals I won't be able to handle?

Reality: Before pairing you with an animal, the shelter/rescue will go over your lifestyle, animal experience and preferences to make sure that fostering will be a good experience for both of you. If you have children, the shelter/rescue will be sure to only pair you with animals that have proven themselves to be good with kids.

I think I work too much or am too busy to foster animals.

Reality: If you work a lot, they might suggest fostering an animal that doesn't need a lot of your time — like small mammals, cats, birds, or a senior/very mellow dog that doesn't need the kind of stimulation and attention that a puppy or hyper breed does.

It'd be too hard emotionally on me because I'll form bonds before giving them away

Reality: If you (or your children) do fall in love with an animal you're fostering, your adoption application is likely to be approved. It's a good way to test out an animal and see if it would be a good fit for your home!

Otherwise, it can be hard to give an animal you've been fostering to its new home once it's been adopted, but know that the shelter/rescue screened the new home thoroughly and that the animal is going to have a great life with its perfect, forever home. Shift your focus to being happy for the animal, instead. Fostering is a beautiful, selfless thing and a great way to teach children about the responsibility of caring for animals and the importance of giving back to your community.

Reasons to foster:

  • Foster homes save lives by opening up crucial space in shelters for more homeless animals
  • Get the full experience of owning an animal without the longterm commitment.
  • Shelters/rescues do everything they can to make sure the fostering experience is positive for both you and the animal. If, for whatever reason, the fostering situation doesn't work out for you, you can always give the animal back to the shelter.
  • Shelter environments are stressful for animals, and can bring out the worst in them, making it difficult for them to get adopted. Getting them into a home environment often helps calm them and gives them a sense of security so they can thrive!
  • If you want an animal, but feel that you travel too much to commit to one, fostering might be the perfect option for you! You can offer to foster animals between trips; any shelter would be so grateful for the help, and you get the experience of having an animal without the commitment.
  • You can feel good knowing that you made a huge impact on an animal's life. By fostering, you're helping animals during scary transitional periods in their lives and providing them with comfort and safety until they find their forever homes.

If you're interested in fostering…

Contact your local shelter or find a rescue you'd like to work with and inquire about it! Shelters and rescues do everything they can for animals, but foster homes are always needed and welcome. They'll probably have you fill out a questionnaire about your home and what you're looking for, and then let you know if they have an animal that would be a good fit for you to foster. So many animals are put down in shelters because there simply isn't room for them. Fostering animals saves lives, gives back to the community and is a rewarding and fulfilling experience!

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  1. Also, each rescue group is different, so make certain you find a group that works for you. (EX: some dog rescue groups I've worked with don't take in puppies – they only foster and adopt out dogs that are at least 6 months old. If you want a puppy, that probably wouldn't be a good fit for you.)

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  2. I work in rescue and our fosters are such an important asset. We will always give the foster parents food, toys, beds, cat trees, and cover all medical expenses. It is much easier to fundraise than it is to find a foster home.
    Fostering is also a great way to see if your household is up for a new pet or a different species of pet? I foster adult cats and litters of kittens, and it has been a great way to teach my dogs how to interact with smaller animals. Most shelters and rescues don't give you the opportunity to introduce cross-species before adopting, so fostering is a good way to make sure everyone knows how to play nice.

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  3. Just chiming in to say we had a great experience fostering an ex-racing greyhound. We worried a little about how he'd be with our smaller 30-pound mixed breed, but it was really a positive experience for both dogs. He was a big, lazy, sweet boy and I loved taking care of him and teaching him things like food manners and how to do stairs (most racers have never been inside a home in their life).

    I also worried about becoming super attached. We only ended up having him for 9 days (rather than the 4-6 weeks we were expecting), as someone who had already adopted a greyhound through this rescue before was interested in him so the adoption application went through quickly. Though I was certainly attached, it was so cool to get to meet the family who would be taking him in and see how happy they were to have another sweet greyhound after their first passed away. I'd occasionally run into the family after the adoption and get to hear that he was doing great. A very rewarding experience all around!

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    • The part about letting them go seems to be the part most people have a really hard time with. I have a current foster who has been with us for a year and some odd months. He DOES NOT like my dogs, or other cats/kittens I bring home. He is part of my little family. I have his pawprint tattooed on my arm next to my dogs' prints, he was with us when we moved from an apartment to our house -when we were house hunting, we actually looked for one more bedroom than originally planned because Kitty Harrington needs his own space. That being said, he is not my cat. I love him like my own, and my friends and my mom constantly tell me to just make it official and adopt him already. I refuse to do it because he deserves a home better suited to his needs, and unfortunately, I cannot give that to him. Every time the adoption coordinator comes across a potential forever home, I cry and I think about how strange it will be to have that room empty, but I also am so hopeful for him, I feel like a parent sending their child out into the world. Ultimately, he is welcome to stay as long as he needs, (my boyfriend straight up ASKED to foster the most unadoptable cat, so this is not the routine -most fosters are only with you for a few weeks or months) but he is not MINE. There is a better home for him somewhere, and as much as I will miss him, I cannot keep him from a better home just for my own selfish reasons. None of those potentials have worked out, but I still have hope that the day will come, even if it takes another year. Point is, it can be heartwrenching to see an animal you have so much love for get passed over because of their age or their looks. It is scary to think of letting them go, and you WILL worry. But it is also so rewarding to know that you are giving them the best possible situation for this moment, and that you helped them grow into the perfect animal for SOMEONE, even if it can't be you.

      1 agrees
  4. Jumping on my soapbox to say–small birds like finches or paired birds may not need a lot of time, but most birds are very social and require a large commitment! But I'm sure everyone looking to foster parrots already knows this 🙂

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  5. I have fostered and been involved as a volunteer in a cat rescue.
    As a foster parent, I've had marvellous (kitty coming to sleep on the bed with us right the first night and purring so loud he'd wake us up) and not-so-great (kitties hiding in the basement for weeks and never, ever showing up) experiences . It's always worth trying. If the pet doesn't adjust to your home, you still gave them your love, affection, socialization, etc. and saved them from being out there, starving/dying from cold/being euthanized by the town services. Every little gesture counts. If the pet does great, it's an even more rewarding feeling. I stopped fostering because we adopted a puppy but I'll definitely do it again in the future.

    I never found it difficult to let foster pets go as I felt I was only a sort of surrogate mom and that these pets belonged to their future forever home. I was just taking care of them until their forever family found them.

    PS actually I started fostering after reading about it a couple of years ago on OBH! Thank you for this post, which will hopefully spark other fostering initiatives 🙂

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  6. I foster kittens with Best Friends and it's literally the best! When I went to orientation, the director told us to think of it as rent-a-kitten. Most of our kittens have been great (I've even convinced friends to adopt some of our favorites so we could still see them occasionally)! And for the ones that haven't been that great… well, we know it's only temporary.

    If you _do_ go through Best Friends they provide everything — food, litter, carrier, tower (if needed), vet services, etc.

    1 agrees

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