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


adoptable dog photo

Why not foster a lonely pet like Sweetie for the holidays?

It’s time for our second annual Foster a Lonely Pet for the Holidays campaign, a program to help get pets out of shelters and into foster homes for the holidays — and hopefully adopted! Learn more about how it all started here.

Fostering a pet is a great way to give back during the holiday season. It gives animals a break from shelter living and decreases the number of pets shelter staff have to care for. (Shelter staff deserve a holiday break too.)

This year more than 1,500 shelters and rescue groups signed up for Foster a Lonely Pet for the Holidays and are ready to welcome great new foster homes. We hope you will participate, and to help, we’ll be blogging about fostering all this month. We’ll address some of the most frequently asked questions about fostering, how to avoid common pitfalls and what to do if you hit trouble.

Want to skip the info and sign up now? Find a participating organization here. Then contact that shelter or rescue group directly and tell them you’re interested in fostering.

What does fostering a pet involve?
When you foster, you agree to take a homeless pet into your home and give him or her love, care and attention, either for a predetermined period of time or until the pet is adopted.

Why do adoption groups need foster homes?
There are many reasons a dog or cat might need foster care. Some of the most common include:

  • A rescue group doesn’t have a physical shelter and depends on foster homes to care for pets until suitable homes are found.
  • A puppy or kitten is too young to be adopted and needs a safe place to stay until he or she is old enough to go to a forever home.
  • A pet is recovering from surgery, illness or injury and needs a safe place to recuperate.
  • A pet is showing signs of stress such as pacing or hiding in the shelter.
  • A pet has not lived in a home before or has not had much contact with people and needs to be socialized.
  • The shelter is running out of room for adoptable pets.

Why should I foster a pet?
Fostering a pet is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have (other than adopting, of course). By taking an animal in need temporarily into your home you’re:

  • freeing up a spot so the shelter or rescue can take on another pet.
  • giving your foster pet the time he needs to be ready for adoption.
  • helping the shelter or rescue learn more about the pet so he can end up in the best home possible.
  • socializing the pet to a home environment and possibly getting him used to being around other pets and different types of people.

Not sure you can foster a pet? We know eight reasons you can, even if you think you can’t. Also check out Fostering a Pet: Frequently Asked Questions.

How do I sign up to foster a pet?
Find a participating rescue group or shelter near you [] and contact them. They’ll likely have you fill out a foster application and, if you are approved, they will work with you to figure out the right foster pet for your household.

Still have questions about fostering? Ask us below and don’t forget to check back next week for the next article in our fostering series.

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You might also like:

Pet-Fostering FAQs

Preparing Your Home for a Foster Pet

Introducing a Foster to Your Kids and Pets

How to Be the Best Cat Foster Parent

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