Fostering Pets: Are You Cut Out for It?



July 20, 2021

Six and a half million animals enter U.S. shelters each year. And there’s a brigade of important humans that helps with this overcrowding in a big way—the hardworking pet foster parents of America. These folks temporarily taking shelter pets into their homes frees up space for other needy animals, allows the foster pets to experience so much love, attention, activity, and comfort that they can’t in a crowded shelter, and gets the pet more adoption-ready and used to home life.

Pretty amazing. Of course, if you’re the sentimental, easily-bonded type, you can’t get around the difficulty that keeps so many from fostering—the saying goodbye. But if it’s something you’ve been intrigued by, check out some general info we’ve gathered on what the requirements typically are, to see if this life-saving work might be a good fit for you.

Getting Started

First, you’ll need to find a shelter or rescue organization that uses fosters. This can look like calling your local shelter and asking around or checking out Petfinder. Once you’ve found an organization to partner with, you might need to submit an application, then they may want to do a home visit and be the decision-makers on what kind of foster pet is right for you and your situation.

Know What You’re Getting Yourself Into

Not that we’d expect you to go into fostering for the money, you big-hearted, animal-loving Bivvy pet parents you, but in case there’s any question—fostering is almost always a volunteer, unpaid position. And the organization you’re fostering for will probably help you with some to most of the costs associated with caring for the foster, but there may be some you’re responsible for.

You might be responsible for taking them to vet appointments (the bills from which you’ll likely get help with), and you’ll probably get help with food and toys too, but you may need to provide other things like:

And financial requirements aside, some organizations may ask you to:

Be sure to find out ahead of time what will be expected of you.

With a Great Foster Pet Comes Great Responsibility

…and that includes considering, if you have resident pets, whether they’ll get on with a foster.

Whenever and wherever they meet, give them time. Let them get to know each other.

If you have a dog, see if the shelter will let you bring them there on-leash to meet the foster before bringing them home, since this is a more neutral meeting place than you and your dog’s own home will be.

If you’re going to foster a dog and you have a resident cat, ask the shelter to cat-test the dog so you can know ahead of time if they’ll get on. Then at home, let the foster dog get comfortable in the surroundings before introducing your cat, with the dog on a leash.

If fostering a cat and you have a resident cat, you already know cats are territorial. So go very slowly with the intros. Put the foster in her own room with everything she needs until she seems comfortable. Then, after some days, crack the door open so the foster can come out and interact if she’d like, under your supervision.

And if you have small children, always supervise their time with the foster pet.

Also acknowledge that shelter living can be stressful and take a toll on a pet, so a foster may take several weeks to decompress and become accustomed to you, your space, and your pets.

Goodbyes Are Never Easy

And the unfortunate thing is that just as soon as you and your foster get into a nice rhythm, it may be time to say goodbye. Go into fostering knowing that it’ll be emotional. But know what a beneficial thing you’ve done. Also, there’s nothing wrong with foster fails!

And a hack that might make this gig easier? Choose your fosters to be ones that aren’t 100% suited for you—like a breed or size that’s not what you’d select for yourself, or one that’s a little higher-energy and demanding of activity from you than you’d like. Of course, make sure you can give any foster great care, but from a making-the-goodbye-easier-on-yourself standpoint, choosing one that’s not right for you long-term might do the trick.

Give the Gift of Great Pet Insurance

One in three pets will need emergency care every year, and on average it costs $1,500. Those with their own furry family members on Bivvy pet insurance can save a serious chunk of change in such situations. You can recommend Bivvy’s pet health insurance or even gift Bivvy to the family who adopts your foster. Just make sure their name and address are the ones listed in all other areas of the sign-up process.

It takes a special someone to foster pets, but if you’re interested, there’s a foster out there for you and your situation—even if you work outside the home or have pets of your own. Check out whether it might be for you!