Fostering 101: 20 questions to ask before you foster a pet

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You can foster a pet like Bob (at LifeLine Animal Project in Atlanta).

In honor of our Foster a Lonely Pet for the Holidays program, we’ve been posting about pet fostering each week this month. (Read the previous posts about pet fostering.)

Want to foster a pet for the holidays? Find a participating organization near you.

Fostering pets has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and is something I encourage everyone I know to do. But I’ve learned some big lessons along the way.

For the experience to turn out well for the foster parent and the rescue organization (and, most of all, the pet), it’s crucial that all parties communicate and be clear about their expectations and responsibilities.

Here are some questions to ask the rescue group or shelter before you sign up to foster (the group will most likely have you fill out a foster-home application as well). Don’t be alarmed if the group doesn’t have answers to all the questions you ask. Each organization has its own procedures.

Questions about the pet:

  1. How did he come to be with the shelter or rescue group and how long has he been there?
  2. Why does he need a foster home now?
  3. Does he have any medical concerns or need medication?
  4. Has he been neutered (or spayed, if the pet is female)? If not, when will he be?
  5. Is he up to date on his vaccinations and has he been tested for diseases such as FELV and FIV (cats) or heartworm (dogs)?
  6. Since conditions such as kennel cough and upper respiratory infections cannot be tested for, how long should I keep him separated from my own pets?
  7. Does he have any behavioral issues or concerns? How are they dealt with?
  8. Do you know how he is with kids, cats, dogs and/or strangers? Can my children or pets meet him before I commit to fostering him?
  9. Do you know how he does when left alone? Is he crate trained (dogs)?
  10. Is he housetrained (dogs)/litter box trained (cats)?

Read 10 important questions to ask about the fostering process after the jump.


Questions about the fostering process:

  1. How long will I be expected to foster this pet? If it’s until a
    suitable home is found, how long do you expect that to take?
  2. What happens if I can no longer care for the pet?
  3. Who pays for medical bills if they arise? Does that include
    treatments for my pets if they catch something from my foster pet?
  4. What should I do if there’s a medical emergency?
  5. Who is responsible for communicating with potential adopters,
    screening them and introducing the pet to them?
  6. Will I be required to bring him to adoption events and, if so,
    where/when?
  7. Will you provide food, litter, supplies (such as a leash or a litter
    box), medications, etc., or will I be expected to?
  8. If I have a problem, whom can I contact? If I leave a message, how
    quickly will that person get back to me?
  9. Could my foster pet be deemed unadoptable and, if so, what happens
    then?
  10. Can I adopt him if I choose?

Even the best-prepared foster parent should expect the
unexpected. But it’s so worth it. Like Marge, the cat with cerebellar
hypoplasia whom I planned to keep for two weeks as she recovered from an upper respiratory infection — but who stayed for four months when it became obvious that she wouldn’t do well in the shelter.

Marge had to be isolated and needed daily physical therapy and enrichment work. She was one of my greatest challenges, but that just made it all the more rewarding when she found the perfect home, a devoted couple who continued her physical therapy. Last I heard, Marge is able to climb and descend stairs like a champ — something we never thought possible when she first came to the shelter.

Do you have questions you always ask before you foster a pet? Tell us below!


Previous posts about fostering:

Here’s What You Said: Your stories of fostering pets, tips and more!

Pet Fostering 101: What is fostering a pet and how do I start?

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