When people learn that I do foster care for humane society animals, they generally have some questions. Seems a lot of families would be interested in fostering but haven’t yet taken the plunge.
The great thing about fostering an animal is that it saves lives. Foster care givers increase the capacity of a shelter, so that more animals can be helped. And some animals – particularly dogs – that have been in a kennel for a while get a mini-vacation in a home.
Fostering is ideal for families with children because the kids can help take on responsibility for a short period without being overwhelmed by giving care for an animal’s entire life. And parents can enjoy having the animal in the home without worrying that he or she will have to provide all the care when the kids have other things to do.
College students with a willing landlord are also good candidates for being foster parents. Often in college, you have no idea what you’ll be doing in a couple years. Getting a pet can cramp your style if you suddenly have a chance to study art history in Italy for a semester. Short-term care lets a student enjoy the company of a companion animal without having that huge commitment.
Retired people are also good foster caregivers. Some would love to have a pet, but want to travel or stay parts of the year in another state. When they foster, they can have animals around without having to worry about transporting them to Arizona or taking them in the motorhome.
Let me share with you the most common questions I am asked about fostering and give you my perspective on it.
What do you have to pay for when you take on a foster animal? You are responsible for basic food, water and shelter. You also will provide litter for a cat or rabbit and other day-to-day needs. Medical care is usually covered by the shelter and will be arranged by shelter staff if needed.
How long would I keep the foster animal? That depends on what you want to do. Dogs may just need a weekend with you to break up the time in a kennel. Newly spayed rabbits need to be watched for a day or two to make sure they are eating. On the other hand, a mother cat with a new litter will need to be cared for until the kittens can be on their own – about eight weeks.
What if I get too attached to my foster animal? About 90 percent of the time, you will get attached. While it’s OK to adopt that animal, remember that doing so means that you are more limited in being able to provide foster care for other animals. Once you get past returning your first foster animal, it gets much easier – especially when you see that animal go to a really good home. From then on, while you will make connections to some animals, it will be easier to move on.
How do I help find a home for my foster animal? Humane societies generally don’t have the time or money to advertise each animal on an individual basis. Here’s where you can help. Talk to friends and neighbors and let them know you have a great animal that is excellent in your home. Some people who might not think of adopting from a shelter will take an animal that has done well in foster care. You can also put up posters on community bulletin boards, run classified ads or do other advertising. A potential adopter will be screened by the humane society staff just as if he or she had walked into the building.
What information should I provide about my foster animal when it is time to return it to the shelter? Certainly any thoughts you have about an animal’s likes or dislikes, personality and needs should be shared with the shelter staff. Some foster caregivers type up a memo or short note with these details that can be added to an animal’s file. You can also make it clear that you would be happy to speak with a potential adopter who has questions.
How many foster animals can I provide care for? Especially at first, you should take on no more than one animal at a time, or a mother with babies. Most foster families have their own pets, and you should make sure you never scrimp on their care or attention. Many people will take on a few foster animals in succession, and then take a break to avoid getting burned out.
Do I need to keep foster animals separate from my own? Yes, that is advised. No matter how well an animal is screened at the shelter, it may be carrying something that could be passed on to your pet. At a minimum, make sure your pets’ vaccinations are current and that its immune system is functioning well. As well, some foster animals won’t get along with your pets and aggression can result. Most of the time it isn’t very practical to keep the animals separated, but if you can do so, it’s the wisest option.
What if I have an emergency and have to return my foster animal to the shelter ahead of schedule? Communicate any circumstances in which you couldn’t keep a foster animal to the foster care coordinator at the humane society. If something sudden does come up, that person will also be your contact for making arrangements to return the animal.
Foster care can be tough. But it is a great feeling to know you made a difference in an animal’s life and helped prepare it for its “forever” home. I encourage anyone thinking about foster care to get involved this summer by calling your local humane society.