7 Things Pet Lovers Should Know About Fostering

Thinking about becoming a pet foster parent? Learn about the requirements and what to expect with a temporary placement!

Mar 7, 2024By Jessica Montes
things pet lovers should know about fostering

Animal shelters provide crucial amenities, like food, shelter, and toys for pets without a home. Unfortunately, they can’t always provide personalized care for all the pets in a facility. Luckily, community members can step in and temporarily foster an animal in need. It might only require a two-week commitment, but fostering comes with lifelong benefits for your furry friend.

Foster Programs Offer Many Benefits

Dog human hug
Photo by: Samson Katt

Adoption means you take a pet back with you to their furrever home. This differs from foster programs where someone temporarily cares for a pet before they find permanent parents. Shelters and organizations offer fostering due to space or staff shortages. Pet sanctuaries with no-kill policies can become overcrowded with a surplus of animal surrenders or rescues. They might not have enough staff members for 24-hour coverage and need additional hands. This is where foster parents come in.

The temporary caretakers can look after a single pet, sibling sets, or a parent and their litter. A foster home ensures that the animal(s) in question receive one-on-one human attention, more space to roam, and aren’t neglected because dozens of other animals need care. Young pets who still need bottle feeding are more vulnerable and require individualized nurturing.

There Are Different Types of Fosters

Foster dogs
Photo by: Goochie Poochie Grooming

Pet lovers can choose which pets they are willing to foster based on their time commitments and responsibilities. Some pets are taking medication and need someone who can administer the medicine for the treatment duration. Others have behavioral needs where fosters will help their pet overcome shyness or fear before they can go to a permanent placement.

Other animals in need include:

General foster pet placements are available at shelters, but if you have the patience and love, consider an animal that needs more TLC.

Prepare Your Home Before Fostering

Dog fosters
Photo by: Wendy Wei

Before you welcome a new, temporary pet into your home, you’ll apply with the shelter or organization. On the form, you’ll agree to responsibilities and certain guidelines. Depending on your furry friend’s age and needs, this can include taking them to veterinary appointments and monitoring their health.

The ASPCA also includes these foster parent requirements:

  • A secluded or separate area to minimize contact with household pets
  • Maintain a clean play/ feeding area
  • Provide food and fresh water
  • Play with them and create positive human interactions

Some shelters give you supplies and food and cover the medical costs. Ask about what they offer and any out-of-pocket costs you’ll have before you commit to fostering a pet.

Research What Goes into Fostering

Dog walk
Photo by: Maria Orlova

Once food, space, and supplies are taken care of, you’ll need to provide a foster pet with affection and love. Even if they will only stay with you for a few days or weeks, treat them like a permanent fur baby. They should receive the same amount of playtime, exercise, food, and affection as any other dog, especially if you have a multi-pet home. Your long-term furry companions and the new additions should not feel like they must compete for your time and become jealous of other pets.

Spending too much time with one animal can lead to sadness, anxiety, and aggression in the pet that feels left out. This can cause destructive behaviors where the “neglected” pets act out for attention or bully others who are getting more one-on-one time.

Know the 3-3-3 Rule

Dog owner
Photo by: Karolina Grabowska

You might have the best rapport with your foster pet at the shelter, but things don’t go as planned once you’re home. That’s because of the adjustment period known as the 3-3-3 rule. A pet will get used to the new place in three phases. First, give them three days to explore and adjust to the environment. Let them smell and wander into each room and become familiar with the different areas.

Second, expect them to learn the routine in three weeks. This goes for eating, playtime, walk, sleep, and work schedules. By this point, the foster pet will know when each activity takes place and when they can expect to see you. Lastly, if you’re working with a long-term foster placement, give them three months to call the place home.

It’s Okay to Foster Fail!

Dog affection
Photo by: Bethany Ferr

Sometimes, pet lovers experience foster fail. It doesn’t mean that they fail to provide for the pet or can’t keep up with their energy or affection needs. It means that a foster parent loves their pet so much that they failed to give them up and adopt them instead! Here, failing is one of the best things you can do.

You get to keep the lovely creature you bonded with, and the dog gets to stay with a family and home they are familiar with. There aren’t any tough goodbyes and the dogs don’t get taken away to start the entire adjustment process with someone new. While some parents can’t take in every pet they foster, they are the ideal person to adopt a dog in need.

Returning a Foster Pet Is Standard

Dog wave
Photo by: Dogs Best Life

In the perfect scenario, your foster pet has become your furry bestie and feels right at home with you. While this means you are doing an excellent job, it can make returning the animal more emotional and difficult. Even if you know the placement is only for a few weeks, both of you can get attached. It’s not easy seeing the pet you took care of run along to a new home.

Make it easier for you and your household with the vacation mindset. When you plan a trip, you aren’t moving to a new city or country; it’s a getaway with a return date. Likewise, fostering has a day when the “vacation” ends. Give it your best effort, but stay strong enough to say goodbye when the day arrives.

Also, look for foster parent support groups. No one understands what you’re going through better than other fosters, and they can share advice for making the returns easier.

Jessica Montes
By Jessica Montes

Jessica is a California-based writer, journalist, lover of animals, and vegan of 17 years. Growing up, she owned parakeets, fish, a rabbit, and a red-eared slider turtle. She currently has a black cat named Marty and a tabby named Jellybean. In her free time, she enjoys reading, baking, camping, and roller skating to funky tunes.