How (and Why) to Foster a Pet

How to Foster a Pet 

   All they need is love, plus a loving and nurturing temporary home. Adoptable dogs and cats in overcrowded animal shelters sometimes need a transition home between the shelter and their permanent family. Kittens and puppies need a safe and quiet place to live as they grow and mature, before they reach an adoptable age. Some rescue and shelter pets need your loving attention to redirect behavioral issues. Fostering pets provides animal lovers a practical way to help animals in need.

Getting Started

Contact the fostering coordinator at your local animal shelter or animal rescue league. You will most likely need to fill out an application and shelter staff may ask to visit your home. The coordinator will determine which type of pet best suits your foster home. Having other pets, time to care for a pet that needs attention regularly, and considerations like a fenced yard for larger dogs all factor into matching you with the right foster pet.

Prepare your home for the pet's arrival. If you already have pets, make sure their vaccinations are up to date. Puppy or kitten-proof your home, or find a safe room for them. Just like babies, young pets are curious and mischievous. Purchase supplies including a pet carrier, water and food bowls, litter box and litter for cats, toys, and a safe and warm place to sleep.

Be prepared to wait. Although there is a great need for pet foster homes, the placement process may take some time. Proper pet placement is essential to successful fostering.


The placement agency usually covers vaccines and medical expenses of foster pets; some also pay for the pet food. Fostering duration can vary. If you have a kitten or a puppy, they can usually be fostered until they reach the neutering/spaying age. Other pets may require more time before they are ready for their forever home, or until a suitable home is found.


A foster pet parent needs to be both compassionate and firm. These young animals or abandoned pets need a person who is patient and loving. Some also need to be house trained or socialized. You'll need to help the pet break bad habits. As a foster parent you may be tasked with training your adorable foster dog not to jump on people or chew on shoes.

The biggest challenge for pet foster parents is saying goodbye. When your foster pet has reached an adoptable age, has recovered and behavior issues have been addressed, it's time for him to meet his forever family. The satisfaction of knowing that you played a part in saving the pet's life can help make the transition easier. Plus, you can always start thinking about the next pet you'll foster!

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