You’ve probably seen a post on Facebook or maybe heard a radio ad by your local animal shelter pleading for new foster homes because despite how much we love dogs and cats, there is still a huge pet homelessness problem. Staggeringly, there are about 70 million stray animals living in the U.S. and only about six to eight million cats and dogs of that 70 million enter the nation’s 3,500 shelters every year, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
Even while a number of U.S. residents already opt to adopt rather than shop for their feline and canine companions, a large majority still choose to go for animals from breeders, whether full bred or a designer mix. To help combat the pet overpopulation crisis, fostering an animal is one of the most hands-on ways a person can help pet homelessness. Here’s some info on what to expect when you foster a pet!
Know what it really means to foster: Even though you love animals and your heart is in the right place, you should keep in mind the fact that a foster animal will have to be returned to the shelter or to their new family after a set upon foster time, which can be anywhere from a few days to a few months. And depending on your abilities, you might be asked to take in pets with behavior issues that require you to do behavior training or those with special needs which could mean giving medications, physical therapy.
Research what type of pet you would like to foster: Even if you have or have had a dog or cat, you should brush up on your pet knowledge before committing to foster. It’s not that pet parents are slackers, but we do tend to get comfortable with what we are doing in raising our creatures. Although it’s best to foster animals you have experience in, you can still take in anyone. See if the shelter has info sheets to give you a crash course on the kind of pet you want to foster.
Make sure you have the time to dedicate to your foster pet: Unless a foster pet needs constant care, you can indeed be a foster parent if you work a full time job. Most shelter animals are healthy and do not require content monitoring. However, you still need to have time to exercise them and to give much needed attention. When you foster an animal, the shelter or organization should provide basic needs for all animals like food, bedding, toys, ID tags, kitty litter, medications, and veterinary care. You are welcome to buy special treats, toys or anything else for your foster! Check with the shelter to see what supplies they provide.
Prepare you home, family and other pets: Make a foster pet feel extra welcomed by preparing all who live with you. All humans in the home need to agree to work together with a foster pet and all permanent pet residents must have vaccinations up to date to prevent the spread of communicable diseases commonly found in a shelter environment. Prepare your home by creating a safe place for any pet by having stair gates, securing exposed electrical cords, keeping all chewable items out of reach, and setting up a sleeping space the foster can have all to himself.
Be able to love and to let go: Are you hesitant to become a pet foster parent because you’re afraid of having a broken heart when you have to give them back? You are not alone! Just remember that you gave them a warm, loving temporary home while they waited for their forever family to find them. It was a rewarding experience and you saved a pet’s life!