Fostering a Shelter Animal

10 Apr

What is fostering? Fostering is when you bring a shelter animal into your home and provide care for the animal until such a time that the animal can be placed up for adoption to find it’s forever home. There are many reasons why a shelter animal may have to go to a foster home but it is generally for healing after a surgery, socialization, they are too young to be up for adoption and would do best starting off their early days in a home environment versus the shelter, a nursing animal with their litter, orphaned/abandoned animals and sometimes to make space for incoming animals if a shelter is at capacity.

Nursing Mother and Kittens

Fostering is a very rewarding experience but in reality it can also come with heartbreak. Saying good-bye to an animal that you have cared for, for several weeks is difficult. Does it get any easier with each foster animal? Maybe for some, but not for me. I think I cried for a week after I said good-bye to my first foster. I will never forget him. He was a handsome ginger tabby cat that needed a place to heal after his front leg was amputated. His name was Colonel Meow. He fit right into our household and he loved my big black lab the most. They would chill out on the couch together. For the first couple of weeks, his mobility was limited until he got used to having only 3 legs but it wasn’t long before he adjusted. I will never forget the day that I had to put him into the carrier to bring him back to the shelter. He and I had a good conversation along the way. I told him he was so special that there were many families that would love him and that his forever family would be searching for a guy just like him. I also told him that the local newspaper dedicated an entire article about him and that he was seeking a new home. As we drove up to the door of the shelter, I knew that it would only be moments before he was no longer safe with me. I often wonder if all foster families have the same thoughts I do. We rarely get to hear their complete life story and how it ends and I think that is what makes it hard. Do they end up with a good family, will they end up abandoned or worse abused or killed on the street by a car or do they end up lost, lonely, hungry and suffering? Being a foster home is really just a stepping stone to a better life for the animal. For me personally, the older cats are the hardest for me to foster. Many of them have already had a rough start in life and finally they are safe at their foster home only to possibly end up in another bad situation. Then it seems that there are just some animals that really never get a chance and are perpetually in the shelter system because no one invests the time needed and humans have really failed them as owners.

Colonel Meow

Kittens, I find are the easiest to foster because they are so full of life and energy and they have their whole future ahead of them. Fostering has its ups and downs. I have sadly lost a few kittens along the way, they either died shortly after being born or just were not strong enough to survive and die a week or so later. I will never forget them and I hold them in a special place in my heart. I take some comfort in knowing that at least they were with a person that cared and tried their very best to save them and that they didn’t die out in the cold somewhere in an unsafe place. They had the very best chance but for whatever reason, they were just not meant to be. 

Forever in my Heart

Most shelters or rescues will provide:

  • food and food dishes
  • litter and litterbox
  • toys
  • bedding
  • leash and collar
  • any vet care that is required

You just need to provide the care, love, socialization and a safe indoor home environment.

Some things to consider before making the decision to foster:

  • the length of time that your foster animal may stay with you can vary depending on the circumstances.  It can range from just a few days to several weeks.
  • recording of daily care of the animal(s) such as general health, eating habits, bathroom habits, any other applicable notes.
  • you may also have to take the animal to vet appointments, weigh-ins or to meet a new potential adopter.

There is nothing more rewarding when you hear that your foster animal has been adopted. You always hope that they end up with the best family ever and you have to believe that they do or you would end up with a lot of animals. I however, have been a victim and have been a foster failure a couple of times. Sometimes I also adopt the very old, almost a palliative care type adoption. The old guys break my heart and I can’t bare to leave them in the shelter to live out their remaining days when they only have a few months or a year left at the most.

When you agree to bring a foster animal into your home, there is a transition time. Sometimes the animal has had very little human interaction or very little to no training. It takes them time to adjust to a routine and to get fully settled in. If you are expecting anything more than that, perhaps fostering is not the best route for you and it is also not fair to the well being of the animal.

Fostering is a great way to “test drive” what it is like to have a pet if you have never had one or maybe you don’t have the time to committ to have a full time pet but can offer periods of time where you are able to offer a greater portion of your time.

While fostering is temporary, many foster families fall in love with the animal in their care and decide to adopt them.

There are many animals that are currently in your local animal shelter that would greatly benefit from a foster home.
If you are interested, consider contacting your nearest animal shelter to complete an application form so that they can add you to their foster list.

Foster Kittens