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Become a Pet Foster Parent

Updated on February 22, 2011

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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