Pet Tips

Foster care for cats and dogs – Pet tip 132

For many animal lovers, the idea of fostering a pet can be scary. To take on all of the responsibility, put in all of the work and time and energy and love, just to have to say goodbye—it can be extremely difficult. There is no doubt that fostering a homeless cat or dog is an emotional experience. What people don’t know, however, is that there are also many wonderful, unique experiences associated with becoming a foster owner. In fact, for the right person, having a foster pet can be one of the most enjoyable and satisfying ways to interact with the animal world.

Almost all humane societies and animal shelters have some sort of foster program in place. Foster homes may be needed if the shelter’s facilities simply cannot accommodate the large number of homeless animals, but most of the time they involve providing a temporary home to an animal that is either sick, injured, or simply to young to be adopted. As you can imagine, these animals require more care and attention than your average pet. For some owners, this can be too much to handle. For others, caring for especially needy animals can be extremely gratifying.

The whole idea behind foster programs is to nurse animals like this back to health so that they may be adopted out to a ‘forever’ home. Most fostering programs will cover the costs of any veterinary care, and some will cover the costs of food; therefore the role of the adoptive owner is not to provide financial support, but rather to provide the love and patience necessary for the animal to thrive. This includes both the animal’s physical and mental well being. By the time the pet is ready to go to its permanent owners, it will not only be in good health, but also have learned to love and trust human beings; the latter is often the biggest impact a foster owner can make in an animal’s life.

If this sort of relationship is one that you think you may be interested in, it is worth checking out the local humane society to get more information on the details of their fostering program. A good program will have a thorough application process which will make sure you and your home are suited to the fostering scene. Before you even get to this stage, it is a good idea to take some time to seriously consider the commitment of foster care.

If you have a spouse or family that will be fostering with you, it is important to sit down together and discuss what fostering a pet will mean to your household: Do you have young children? Other pets? Does your job require you to be away from the house for most of the day? All of these things will influence what kind of animal, if any, you are truly able to care for. Even the physical nature of your home can influence your foster care plan: Are there many stairs in your home? Do you live in an apartment building? Do you have an enclosed backyard? In the best of cases, the animal shelter you are fostering from will use this sort of information to match you with an appropriate foster pet. If the animal shelter does not have a system like this in place, try to find out as much as you can about each of the animals in need of foster care, and carefully consider whether or not you can provide them with the kind care they need.
Any foster owner will tell you that bringing an animal into your home comes with a lot of responsibility, even if their stay is a short one. Of course, the same owners will also tell you that they wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. If you are an animal lover who has strength, patience, and time to spare, it might be time to consider taking part in a foster program in your area.

By Alison Norwich – writer

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