So you’re thinking about getting your first foster pet? That’s awesome! You’re one step closer to not only helping a homeless pet prepare for their forever family but also freeing up space at a shelter for another animal in need. Fostering is one of the best ways to get involved with animal rescue because it allows you to save not one, but many lives.
If you’re a first-time foster, we want to help you make the right decisions and provide a pleasant experience for both yourself and your foster pet. While it’s great to learn from mistakes, keeping these 5 things in mind before heading off to the first shelter you find can keep you from running into problems that you could’ve easily dodged.
1. Find a reputable organization.
If you already have an organization that you know and trust, then you can certainly skip this step. But if you’re still on the hunt for a shelter or rescue to work with, it’s good to ask around and do a bit of Googling to find out which organizations are located within your area. Once you’ve found the one you want to work with, do a little background check to make sure that they’re a safe and reputable organization.
Remember, you’ll be caring for one of this organization’s animals, so they’ll be your number one resource for advice, as well as questions and problems that you may need help with during the fostering period. It’s important that they’re reliable enough to be that resource for you and you’re comfortable enough to reach out to them when you need to.
2. Be ready to commit.
Fostering is definitely one of the most rewarding experiences in the world, but it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. There will be times when your foster pet may stress you out or demand more time from you than initially expected. As a foster parent, you’ll need to be able to handle the ups and downs of caring for a foster pet and be committed enough not to give up the moment you start feeling inconvenienced.
Don’t just decide to foster an animal because you want a pet to post on social media or simply want something cute and cuddly to look at during your free time. Caring for an animal comes with responsibilities, so before you bring an animal home, make sure that you’re 100% ready to commit. Shelter or rescue animals have already been through so much and being taken into a home only to be brought back days later will only add to their trauma.
3. Recognize and accept that your routine will change.
Once you decide to become a foster pet parent, you should be ready to make any necessary changes to your daily routine and home environment. For instance, if you end up fostering a cat that has a knack for opening cupboards and getting into no-go areas, you may need to invest in child-safety locks to keep them out of trouble. Or, if you normally spend your days indoors but happened to fall in love with an incredibly playful dog, then you should be willing to set aside some time daily to take them out for walks.
4. Expect the unexpected.
Fostering is temporary and normally, organizations will let you know how long the fostering period will be. However, there may be instances where you’ll be asked to take care of the animal for longer than initially expected and this can happen for a variety of reasons. It could be that the animal is sick and needs more than to recover or the organization still hasn’t found an adopter. But regardless of the reason, it’s important to make a mental note of this possibility and be prepared for any change of plans.
5. Prepare yourself emotionally.
Of course, we can’t forget about the bittersweet ending to many foster stories: the part where you hand over your foster pet to their forever family. As someone who’s getting ready to take the leap into fostering, you have to be emotionally prepared to let go of your foster pet when the time comes. This is the hardest part of fostering and one of the main reasons why many are hesitant to become fosters in the first place.
While practically impossible not to become attached to your foster pet, it’s important to keep reminding yourself that your role is simply to help them get back on their paws and become the best furry companion they can be. As hard as it is to watch the pet that you loved and cared for leave with another family, it’s something that needs to happen in order for you to open your heart and your home again to another animal in need.
For the record, though, if you simply can’t bring yourself to let go of your foster pet by the end of the fostering period, there’s certainly no shame in foster failing!