There’s no doubt about it, pets definitely change your life. They dictate your schedule and are a huge commitment financially and emotionally. It’s no wonder that people take breaks between pets, or opt for pet volunteerism. If you’re not ready to commit to having a pet, fostering one is a great option. You get your pet “fix” while doing something incredible for your local shelter and an animal who needs you.
Many animal shelters and rescue groups have a foster program and they are structured differently according to the individual organization. This is great if you are interested in animal fostering because you can take your pick and choose a group that is a perfect fit for you. You can foster dogs, puppies, cats, kittens, rabbits, guinea pigs and even horses if you have the inclination and space!
Some foster programs will not allow you to become a “foster failure,” and permanently keep any of your fosters, while other programs would be delighted if you chose to do so. Some programs have time requirements, while other programs are flexible with the time you will need to care for the animals. The time commitment can be as little as one or two weeks, or even open-ended, depending on the animal and situation.
When you inquire about fostering with a certain group, all of these things can and should be discussed. You are usually not expected to pay for basic supplies like food, litter and medicine out of your own pocket. It’s best to be flexible and ready for anything while you’re fostering because the process can be unpredictable. Animals, especially kittens and puppies, get sick easily and frequently and will need immediate medical attention.
There are many positives about fostering. Fostering allows you to “test the waters.” If you are not yet ready to have a pet of your own, you can take advantage of fostering in order to go through the motions of having a pet. After fostering once or several times, you may decide that you are finally ready to adopt a pet and be a forever parent to an animal.
If you have always been a dog person, but have been thinking about adding a cat to the family, you can foster kittens or cats. This allows you to find out more about their personalities, as they can certainly differ greatly! When you foster a pet for a period of time at your home, you are bound to learn the different personality traits of the animal. This is very beneficial information for the animal organization, rescue, animal shelter, etc. that you are fostering for because then they will have this extra information to be able to tell potential adopters in order to make a good adoption match. If you have other pets in your home, this is a double bonus because when the kitties go back to the shelter, the staff can add “Good with dogs, birds, other cats, etc.” to their kennel cards and this increases their chances of finding an ideal adopter.
Fostering also helps socialize your own pets! If you already have a dog and you want to eventually adopt a cat, you want to make sure that your dog can handle living with a cat. Through fostering, you can determine whether your dog is suited to have a cat-mate or if it will not be a happily-ever-after union.
Many parents grew up having puppies and kittens in the home and it is an experience that they like sharing with their children. Fostering provides families a responsible way to enjoy the “miracles of life” while they learn about pet ownership and without adding to pet overpopulation.
These are only a few of the many advantages of fostering an animal. The only “disadvantage” might be that from fostering an animal, you will end up with more pets than you bargained for!