Become a Pet Foster Parent

Fostering a needy pet is a richly rewarding experience. It's also an emotional, often difficult experience that isn't for everyone - but for those that can do it, it's an experience that won't soon be forgotten. Humane societies and pet rescue organizations are often in desparate need of more foster homes.

What Kind of Pets Need a Foster Home?

Some pets are ill and need a quiet place to recover, and additional care. For example, a dog with a broken leg may need time for its leg to mend and to regain strength before he's okay to be put up for adoption to his forever home. Taking care of sick pets is probably most suitable for calm homes without young children or frisky pets. Foster homes with recovering pets should be comfortable caring for sick pets, such as changing dressings or administering medications.

This might sound strange, but sometimes pets aren't necessarily ill, but they need a place to recover their appearance. A cat that's been shaved for surgery and has a big angry scar, might scare away potential adopters. Once her fur has regrown a little bit, she'll look "cuter" and hopefully she'll be able to get a home more easily.

There are also young pets or nursing moms that need a foster home until the youngsters are big enough to be adopted into new homes, and the mom is healthy and strong enough to also look for a new home. Fostering litters of puppies and kitties that don't have a mom is very demanding, as young animals need to be fed regularly, usually requiring you to get up several times a night to ensure they're properly fed.

Foster homes are also needed for pets that have been neglected in the past, or are timid and need socializing for whatever reason. Pets that haven't had a lot of contact with people (or only negative contact with people) sometimes don't trust people and need to learn that being with people can be a good thing. A well-socialized and friendly pet is much more appealing to the public when they're looking to adopt a new companion.

Sometimes a pet just needs time to adjust. Some pets that come into shelters and rescue organizations are confused or stressed in the new environment. A foster home gives them the time to relax and enjoy themselves again before they're put up for adoption.

Why Be a Pet Foster Parent?

In a nutshell, fostering a pet gives them a chance to find a happy, permanent home when they otherwise might not have had that chance. Pets that are sick, too young, stressed out, or unsocialized aren't the best candidates for adoption. Fostering these pets to let them recover or grow physically or mentally makes them much more attractive pets to families looking to adopt.

I had the privilege of fostering a dog once. Normally I probably wouldn't have, as I have a full household of pets, pets who like their quiet lifestyle and aren't terribly keen on having a whirlwind young dog pounce its way into their lives. But I also found this foster dog running in traffic and it turned out, after a shelter vet checked him, that he needed to be fostered. It was exhausting, hard, frustrating, emotional, and gloriously, gloriously rewarding. I cried like a baby when he found like a new home, I was so happy for him and so devastated to be losing him.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat!

How to Become a Pet Foster Home

The first step is to contact your local humane society, SPCA, or animal rescue organization. Most will be in need of foster homes. An interview or application process may follow, with training and orientation for potential foster homes as well. Some organizations may request you attend a course or seminar on animal behavior or handling, or pet first aid. The requirements of every foster program will vary from one organization to another.

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Comments 34 comments

4Paws profile image

4Paws 8 years ago from Minneapolis

Yes, being a foster parent is exhausting, hard, frustrating, time-consuming, and VERY rewarding. You're absolutely right that we need to carefully consider whether to foster or not -- sometimes it's too stressful on the rescued animal and your household of animals, depending on their personalities and needs. But for those of us who can offer a temporary loving home, it's the most rewarding thing to help that animal find a new forever family.


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia

When I volunteered, I used to want to foster, but my parents would never let me. They feared that the dog would stay. I think I have a little self control... Just a little. Ha.


dogsdogsdogs profile image

dogsdogsdogs 8 years ago Author

Hi Whitney05... funny you would say that... I know quite a few people who have "fostered" dogs, only to have them become permanent members of the family!

Cute photo, by the way.


grousepup profile image

grousepup 8 years ago from South Salem

A very nice, thoughtful and thought provoking article. My wife and I fostered a very fine German Shorthaired Pointer bitch some years ago. Suzie was the name we gave her. We found her curled up under our front door overhang a couple of nights before Christmas. After two succesive nights, we took her in and. while she had no collar or I.D. tags, figured someone would surely claim such a fine dog. Didn't happen, so Suzie was ours for several weeks, until my step-father decided to become her forever Dad. He doted on her and she was extremely happy and affectionate. It was not easy to relinquish our foster gal, but, heck, she could be and was, frequently visited.


dogsdogsdogs profile image

dogsdogsdogs 8 years ago Author

What a great story, grousepup. It's easier to give up our fosters when they're going somewhere we can regularly visit them, isn't it? Glad to hear that Suzie found a loving forever home.


mayhmong profile image

mayhmong 7 years ago from North Carolina

I would rather foster animals than real kids in my opinion. I didn't realized that there would be so much other factors to consider when taking in a sick pet. Thanks for sharing this with us!


casey 7 years ago

I have a crazy situation. I and my boyfriend were living with my father while we went to IUPUI. He kicked us out and we are currently homeless literally living in a tent. We each plan to take out student loans to buy a cheap HUD/refinanced house. But we have to wait until August, when the school year starts to take out those loans. Nobody in our family can help us out because they all have too many pets of their own. We just need a place for him to go until we can buy our house. We will pay for all the dog food any any extra compensation you would want and that we can afford. FIZ-GiG is about a year old and he's a very friendly and spoild staffordshire and rednose pit mixed. Don't let his breed scare you please! pits are only mean and aggressive when their owners have made them that way. We've raised him to be goofy, playful, happy, and he knows a lot of awesome tricks. If you give him a treat he'll wait until you count to 3 before he takes it! Fiz-gig plays well with other dogs but has a problem with chasing cats because he's not used to being around them. He also gets lonely and whines when left alone. He doesn't chew up anything as long as he has his bone. We'll write up a contract saying he is our dog and we will get him back at a certain date, and that you will be paid whatever amount we agree on. Also, if you are willing to do this for Free, that would be great and extremely helpful- we'd still pay for his food, treats, and toys. email me at cmitsche@iupui.edu if you are willing to help, have any advice, etc.


Better Tomorrows profile image

Better Tomorrows 7 years ago from Los Angeles, California 90035

Interesting story, I never thought about Fostering pets, I did grow up handling pets in a cenal type setting my sister showed pets and did a little breeding these were very expensive dogs though they I think received better care than our parents gave us.


Stephanie 7 years ago

Im very glad that i had came across this site....i was thinking about fostering while my husband was over seas, just for something to do that is rewarding in the end and just need to know how i could get involved in it!!! i enjoyed reading all of yalls stories....and again thanks for them also.


tonyhubb profile image

tonyhubb 6 years ago

We (Me and my wife) sheltered two homeless cats and now they are the members of our family.


animalcraxe 6 years ago

i am going to foster i think it will b a great reward. i love animals and have oe of my own.


Lynsey 6 years ago

My room mate and I rescued 1 cat from the pound and then took in a pregnant stray and after having 6 kittens we could only find homes for 4. We now have 4 cats and our 2 Golden Retrievers. We work with Adopt a Golden Atlanta and foster dogs through the organization. It is a lot of work and sometimes you get a foster that digs, or barks, etc. However, EVERY time you take them to their new home it is very hard. We are a huge part of approving the new forever home but it is still hard. As much of a toll as it takes on you emotionally I would not change it for anything. We stay in touch with the new homes and when a new foster comes along it eases the pain. I just keep in mind that a dog is getting a great home and now we are able to help another one who, otherwise would still be hungry or tied up in someone's back yard or worse dead. "It came to me that every time I lose a dog, they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog that comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are." (Cheryl Zuccaro)


lovelypaper profile image

lovelypaper 6 years ago from Virginia

Glad to meet another pet lover. I like your hubs.


white_tiger55 6 years ago

**IGNORE LAST TO POSTS BY ME*** Sorry!!

Hey! I'm going to be 16 in April and extremely interested in fostering. The Humane Society near me is currently in need of people to foster cats, dogs, and even small animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs. Myself being a complete animal lover, and having experience in the area, (owning small pets, cats, dogs, and also have done a multitude of pet-sitting/pet care jobs) volunteering as a foster parent for pets in need at my local shelter sounds perfect. I realize it is difficult, but the cause makes it entirely worth it and I am up for the challenge.

In one instance, I adopted a baby dwarf hamster from the Humane Society who had been left in a paper bag with his sister, who had already been adopted. He had not been adopted yet though, and the people in the shelter said the outcome looked grim. After seeing all the choices of small animals, I continually returned back to this one's cage. Cautiously, and seeing my age, the employee informed me that this hamster is aggressive and not personable, and probably not a great fit. I disagreed.

We went into the "trial room" to get to know the hamster, named Hansel at the time. He was so small and adorable, yet very timid. Very gently, I lowered my hand for him to get to know me a bit. He obviously wasn't interested, though, because the first thing he did was bite me as hard as he could, taking a chunk of my finger with him. Remaining calm, I took out my hand slowly, and the employee's face showed a mix of embarrassment and hopelessness. He figured that after being bitten I would never consider Hansel. Much to his surprise, I looked up at him, beaming, and said, "I'll take him."

Yoshi, his name was, the small, aggressive dwarf hamster who was presumed to not live much longer than a year at most, lived to age 5 and a half. It was a difficult 5 years, and he never let go of his aggressive habits. Every time I wanted to play or cuddle, I was bitten. Yet, I still feel he felt my love and care for him, because he lived all those years with the same person, and it takes quite a bit of love to do that.

This experience was invaluable for me, and though Yoshi is no longer with me today, I am proud to say that I changed his life and made it considerably better. He suffered from an illness that he had since his arrival in the shelter, and costed myself hundreds of dollars to pay for in many different trips to the vet. He kept fighting, though, without quit.

This may seem silly to people who think a hamster is merely a rodent, but not to me. I feel like being Yoshi's owner showed me a different side of pet-owning, that it isn't all about the benefit of the person. People might think that I put in a lot of time and effort into an animal that never really gave back to me, but I completely disagree. Pet-owning is about co-existence, learning and loving. I learned that helping a hamster in need is no different than say, a person or child in need. And that, to me, is invaluable.

That being said, I will have my license in 2 weeks, and a car aswell. I also have a regular job (babysitting ever Friday night) from which I make a good amount of money. I have already presumed the fact that I will be responsible for the care and feeding of the pet, and have specifically set money aside for doing so. Further, my parents are in complete agreement with this, and believe that this would be a great way for me to not only gain/improve on valuable life lessons (time management, responsibility, etc) but to also give back to an organization that has impacted our family for years.

I guess I should get to my point, which is that clearly I am under 18, yet really interested in fostering pets. I was wondering if anyone knows if this is a) possible and b) how I could go about doing this. I thought that perhaps my mother could co sign the paper, giving me legal rights, or a variation of that.

Any ideas or comments are so appreciated.

Thanks!


dogsdogsdogs profile image

dogsdogsdogs 6 years ago Author

Hello white_tiger55, thanks for commenting. I don't know of any organization that would allow someone under the age of majority to single-handedly foster a pet. You would likely need your parents to agree, and then all of you would attend a foster parent orientation (if your chosen shelter does that sort of thing). Your parents would also probably need to sign any sort of documentation, contracts, papers, etc. That would mean that your parents would be the ones who are technically responsible for the animal (even if you agree that you will do the work). Many organizations will also screen and interview foster homes for suitability. You would need to ask your the shelter or rescue for details.

That doesn't mean you still can't enjoy the experience! So many rescue organizations and shelters need foster parents. It's great that you're interested while so young and you certainly sound committed to providing a loving and happy home for the animals until they're ready to go up for adoption. Good luck!


Fionna Hughes 6 years ago

How can I find someone to foster my sons dogs - 2 staffies. They are so lovely but my son is having to leave his home and look for work but its a catch 22 situation - he needs someone to look after his 2 pooches whilst he goes. He lives in the Wrexham area. He cant give them up as they are his life. Many Thanks


dogluvr 6 years ago

i love this article. i'm 15 and love dogs. i have a dog but i also want to foster a dog because i like helping needy dogs who could use a nice home. anyways i was thinking on how to convince my parents about fostering. any ideas??


doggie lover 6 years ago

hi. I was wondering if fostering dogs cost a lot of money? i own a dog but since foster dogs can be sick or have problems, i was wondering if they would cost more then my dog?


dogsdogsdogs profile image

dogsdogsdogs 6 years ago Author

Hi dogluvr/doggie lover. The humane society or rescue organization typically cover the food and medical costs of foster dogs. However, since you are underage, you would not be able to foster a pet on your own. Your parents' consent would be required. You might suggest to your parents that you all attend a 'foster parent orientation' to see what it's all about. Contact your local SPCA / rescue to find out what their procedure is.


wannabeafoster 6 years ago

hi

does anyone have any ideas how to convince your parents to foster- specifically dogs. I understand how big of a responsibility it is, but I'm so responsible! ( and I have tons of experience!!) any ideas will be greatly appreciated


Foster4Me..Please :) 6 years ago

Hi! I was dog crazy and begged for a new puppy, which I obviously don't need. I would enjoy fostering a dog from the shelter, though, but I think my parents would be against it, since we have a dog of our own.

I asked about it, my mom likes a dog at the shelter named Banyon, he is a real sweetie and very pretty. I don't know if she wants to foster him though, any ideas or suggestions would be so cool :) Thank you!!!


Deb 6 years ago

I am looking into fostering dogs soon, especially the large ones like great danes (we have a large dog shelter that needs a lot of foster homes nearby) I really love dogs and I used to work with them a lot at a dog "hotel" but my husband and i cant get any perminant pets since we are planning on traveling to africa for 3 months and then potentially moving out of the country. Would this be a good fit?? I thought it would work well since i so badly want to spoil a dog and take them to dog parks ect. but it would be horribly rude to buy one without a guarantee that we can keep it forever. We don't have any kids or other pets.


bd160900 profile image

bd160900 6 years ago from San Diego

this made me think of my pet. Great post!


dogsdogsdogs profile image

dogsdogsdogs 6 years ago Author

Deb: you would need to contact the shelter and see if it'll work. Every organization varies in terms of training and minimum (requested) commitment to the program. Probably a concern would be that a foster dog might not be ready to go up for adoption, yet if you're leaving the dog would need to be placed in a new foster home (not ideal)...


taty96 profile image

taty96 5 years ago from Ecuador

Nice post. Thanks for the info and for making people be aware of the importance of caring for animals in need


Kay 5 years ago

Im a stay-at-home mom w/ 2 school-age kids and a one year old cat. we have lots of room and i'd love to foster more kitties until they could find a forever home. the kids would love it and i would love it but i don't think hubby would love it. sadly, i don't think he'd join the bandwagon for fostering pets b/c he didn't even want me to get the cat i have now. it took years of me pushing the idea of it on him and me finally just going and adopting my cat and bringing it home. he first told me to take it back but after seeing how friendly my cat sonny is and how much warmth and excitement he brought to our home, he accepted him as part of the family. surprisingly, he even brought sonny a can of tuna last weekend lol. so hopefully it's just too early for me to consider doing the foster thing but im all for it when the time comes!


successfulwomen 5 years ago

Thanks for that exciting news!! Animals really need help some days!


Ariel 5 years ago

If I become a foster parent is there any way that the ASPCA financially helps you out?? Such cost for like food, and the daily items a dog needs ..??


philipandrews188 profile image

philipandrews188 5 years ago

Informative hub, Thanks for sharing.


TheMonk profile image

TheMonk 5 years ago from Brazil

I have just saved a cat from my own car. Brough him home with me. He was freezing to death! This was just the information I needed to make my mind about keeping him! Thank you!


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 4 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

Hi there Dogsdogsdogs..love this hub. What a great way to help others understand the need for and value of fostering animals. This is so needed and a wonderful way to help animals who many not have any other options left...and it helps learn how to appreciate our companion animals. Thank you! UP Awesome Useful Beautiful and Interesting. Love your picture, too.


erin 4 years ago

im not sure if i could be a foster parent, I love animals but I have 2 other dogs that im not sure that will like another dog.I also don't know if I could afford another dog but I really want to help an innocent dog or puppy.


StephH 4 years ago

Erin,

Be very careful about fostering with your current pets. It can be very dangerous. If you want to help and don't think bringing more animals into your home would be best, animal rescues are always in need of volunteers who can help clean kennels, walk dogs, etc. Your time and efforts would definitely be a godsend for the animal population!


Bella 4 years ago

I would love to be a Foaster Parent but soon as u get a dog u will bond with it and then when its time to give it up u had too much fun and ur have a bond with it it makes you sad.

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