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Being a Foster Pet Parent

Ever considered fostering a pet? As a foster parent to a pet, you can help several homeless pets without the long-term commitment of adoption. However, there are a few things you need to know before you decide to become a foster pet parent.

Why Foster a Pet?

We often see animal shelters overflowing with pets in need of homes and as a repercussion, many are euthanized because there is simply no place for them to go.


For rescue organizations, foster owners are one of their most valuable resources, as they often lack large facilities that can house enough homeless pets. They often need foster families just as much as they need donations (or even more). Of course, if you cannot foster a pet, your donation will still do plenty of good.

When fostering a pet, it can be a good way to understand if pet ownership is right for you. As a foster, you can take in different kinds of pets and learn what kind of pet may or may not be a great fit for you and your family to adopt in the future.

Is Fostering Right for You?

Not everyone is cut out to foster a pet. You need to ask yourself if you’re willing to spend the extra time needed to take care of a foster pet. Can you be patient with that foster pet as they adapt to your home? Ensure you make time to work on training and socializing your foster pet so that they can be adopted out to a forever home.

One of the most important points to consider before taking on the role of a foster parent is to consider the impact fostering will have on the people and other pets in your home.

What you need to keep in mind- 

  • If you live with other people, make sure the decision to foster is unanimous. 

  • If you have kids in your home, teach them how to behave around the pets and to be gentle with them. 

  • If you have another pet, you need to consider if they’ve been socialized around other pets.

*It is imperative that you consider whether the presence of a foster pet in your home will create stress or happiness for all involved.

Finally, if you are an animal lover, there is a good chance you will get attached to your foster pet. Are you willing to give up the pet to be adopted? Otherwise, you could become afailed foster (a term that is used when the foster family adopts their own foster pet). Being a failed foster is not a problem unless it happens over and over, leaving you with too many pets to care for.

What Kind of Foster Pet is Best for Your Lifestyle?

Before becoming a foster owner, talk to a rescue organization. You need to know your limitations and availability. Think about what you can and cannot do.

Fostering a puppy requires a lot of dedication. If you work long days, a puppy may not be a good idea for you or the puppy.

High-energy pets need a lot of exercise, if you have any time or physical constraints  a high-energy pet or puppy would not be advisable. Senior pets or calm adult pets might be best.

If training isn’t something you enjoy, don't foster a pet who needs a lot of one-on-one training or socialization.

For apartments or small homes with no garden, it is best to foster small pets, rather than a large or rambunctious pet. This may also prove to be problematic if your current family pet is older or intolerant of high-energy pets.

If transportation is a problem for you, it might not be wise to foster a pet that has health issues and needs to see the vet frequently, though some organizations have people to help with transportation.

How to Get Started as a Foster Home

Choose the pet adoption organization you wish to work with and contact them about their foster program.

Having trouble finding an organization in your area? Check online or get in touch with people who may be familiar with animal rescue organizations or groups.

Learn more about the groups in your area by asking people about their reputation. People who work in the veterinary and pet care industries are great sources of information. 

Read up on some online reviews, though of course, always take what you read with a grain of salt.

Once you’ve decided on an organization, you may be able to go on their website to learn all about their foster program. When you're ready to learn more or enroll, contact the organization about what happens next.

Questions You Should Ask the Rescue Organization

It’s important that you learn everything about the pet before you take on the responsibility of fostering them. Some of the things you should discuss upfront.


  • Where did the pet come from? Has the pet ever lived in a home?

  • Is there any known history of abuse, neglect or trauma?

  • Where have they been since the organization took them in?


  • Is the pet neutered or spayed?

  • Has the pet had any health problems?

  • Is the pet on any medications or a special diet?

  • Are all vaccinations up to date?


  • Does the pet require house training?

  • Has the pet been crate trained?

  • How does the pet get along with people, kids and other pets?

  • Are there any known behavior problems?

  • Does the pet need training and/or socialization?


  • Will I be expected to provide training for the pet? 

  • Will the pet need to be transported anywhere frequently, like the vet or to rescue events?

  • Does the pet have any other special needs? 

Commitment and Communication

  • How long does the rescue organization expect me to foster this pet? 

  • Who pays for pet food, pet supplies, and veterinary care?

  • Will I need to make a financial commitment?

  • Who should I call if there is a question or concern?

  • Who handles potential adopters and their questions? Who arranges visits with potential adopters? Who screens potential adopters?

  • What happens if I can no longer foster the pet?

  • What if I end up wanting to adopt the pet myself?

After asking your questions and deciding on a foster pet, make sure you have all the information in writing so you can refer back to it if needed. You may be asked to sign an agreement, which is normal. However, it is not normal for you to be asked to make a large financial commitment.

Keep the lines of communication open. Ensure you know who your first point of contact is and that you have the contact information for several people in the organization.

Helping Your Foster Pet Adapt to Your Home

First things first, give your new foster pet time to adjust to your home, known as the adjustment period. And, if you truly plan to find the pet a loving home, then part of your job is to help the foster pet become confident and adaptable without getting too attached.

Here’s how you can help your foster pet adjust

Make sure your new foster pet has a comfortable and safe area where he can retreat if needed. This area can include a pet bed, blankets, a crate and treats. Some pets take time and may instead want to hide, sleep or just be alone at first. Other pets will be excited about the people and other pets, but may tire themselves out and need that safe place later on.

  • Establish some rules and a routine from day one. Feeding the pet around the same time each day is a good start. 

  • If staying off the furniture is going to be another rule, then don't make any exceptions in the beginning. Be firm and consistent, yet gentle. 

  • Start training right away on basic commands with small, short training sessions so your foster pet can learn words and begin to adjust more easily. 

What to Expect While Fostering a Pet

Your foster pet may have a few quirks which may appear early or over time. The initial adjustment period usually lasts a few weeks (at least). This is a crucial time and you may even get frustrated with your foster pet's behavior. However, you must remember many foster pets have anxiety and fear, especially if they have never lived indoors in a home environment. They may act out by barking, being destructive, or even showing some aggression. It has been observed that hyperactive and unruly behaviour seen in some foster dogs stems from pent-up energy that they could not release in a shelter environment. It is your job to be patient and consistent, and hopefully, your foster pet will adapt and settle down in a few weeks.

On the flipside, your foster pet may be calm and quiet for a few weeks, before exhibiting undesirable behaviors once they get more settled in. You might be able to curb some of this by establishing a routine and rules from day one. If minor behavior problems do occur, you need to work on training and socialization so the pet can be adopted more easily. Major behavior problems may need the attention of a professional. Make sure you report all behavior and health issues to the rescue organization. 

When Your Foster Pet is Adopted Out

Saying goodbye is never easy, and more so when you’ve formed a deep bond with your foster pet. However, most foster pets will be adopted out to forever homes. When this happens, you should feel proud of yourself for all the hard work you put in. You've done your part in providing a loving temporary home for a pet. You’re the one who helped that pet learn how to live as part of a family. 

You may be able to exchange contact information with the adopter for follow ups on the pet's progress in their new home, depending on the situation. This can offer peace of mind when you find yourself missing your temporary companion.

If all goes well, everything will work out with the pet's new home. However, there’s always a chance that sometimes adopters return a pet for one reason or another. If this happens, the pet adoption organization may or may not ask you to foster that pet again. If they do ask, there is certainly no obligation to take back the foster pet. However, if you did fall in love with your foster pet, then getting him back might lead to a permanent arrangement.

What If You Become a Failed Foster?

Ok, so you couldn't say goodbye. Congratulations on your newly adopted pet! Many people get so attached to their foster pets that they decide to adopt them permanently. Just try not to make a habit out of being a foster failure, or you might find yourself drowning in pets!

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