11 Questions to Ask Before You Foster a Pet

fostering a pet

Fostering homeless pets is a great way to keep shelter animals from being euthanized, figure out if you want a long-term pet and can manage taking care of one, or simply reap the rewards of breaking an animal out of its shell to help it get adopted. Marina Ascani, a 22-year-old Florida State University student, has been fostering animals since January of 2018 and says she “decided to start [fostering] because [she] had been wanting a dog for a while but wanted to test out how it would work being a full-time student while working part time.” Over the past year she has fostered a few dogs, and approximately 8 cats/kittens, and a litter of puppies.

After sitting down and talking with Marina, it became apparent there are things everyone should consider before diving into the world of fostering. Here are 11 questions you should ask before you foster a pet!

1) What are the requirements?

While the requirements to foster will vary depending on the rescue or shelter you foster for, typically you must be 18 years of age or older and have a stable home environment. Marina says that of the 2 rescues and 2 shelters she has fostered from, “one place had a 3-hour orientation to go to, but they all had a form of around 30 questions about your home, lifestyle, and other pets etc.” Remember that if you aren’t eligible to foster with one organization, you may be eligible to foster for another! Just find out the requirements from various organizations and figure out which one fits best with what you can offer a foster pet.

2) What are the costs?

For the most part, the rescue or shelter you foster for will provide everything your foster pet needs. This may include food, medication, a crate, a bed, and food/water bowls. They will also cover veterinary expenses. The only thing you probably won’t be reimbursed for is mileage driving your foster pet to/from vet visits and adoption events as well as any extra toys you may want to give your foster pet. However, you may be eligible for tax deductions. It can also be a good idea to ask neighbors, friends or colleagues if they have any spare supplies you can borrow while you foster to reduce the financial strain on the organization you are fostering for. You’ll also want to be prepared for the expenses of damage from your foster pet. Most of the time the pet you foster will not be accustomed to living in a home, so damage from chewing or potty accidents is to be expected. That being said, there are ways to reduce the odds of damage!

3) Is your home puppy/kitty proofed?

Puppies and kittens are very curious and it’s not uncommon for them to get into trouble around the house. In order to keep them safe and your personal belongings safe, you need to puppy and kitty proof your home! To do this, anything that is toxic or harmful needs to be put away. This includes electrical wires, sharp objects, house plants, people and animal food, medication, and anything that can be knocked off counter tops or shelves, as well as closing toilet and trash can lids. To avoid potty training accidents, put away valuable rugs. Cats also love to climb up and mess with drapes, almost as much as they would enjoy diving into a fish tank, aquarium or hamster cage- close those lids! Lastly, make sure the foster pet is in a closed off location when you leave them unattended.

4) Do you have other pets?

Owning your own pets doesn’t prevent you from fostering animals, in fact it can help the fostered pet assimilate to living in a house. Being a pet-friendly animal will help them get adopted more quickly. Marina fostered a 70lb dog, Nova, and in her house, she has “2 dogs and 2 cats, and it took the dogs no time at all to get used to her, but the cats definitely took a couple weeks.” However, if you have a pet that is not particularly friendly, consider how they would feel having new animals come in for random periods of time. You should go through with fostering only if you truly feel they wouldn’t become stressed out and wouldn’t cause harm to the other animal.

5) How do you safely introduce your pets to your new foster pet?

There are many ways to get pets accustomed to each other:

Dog to Dog It’s always good to start by allowing dogs to meet outside first, then bring them in at the same time, avoiding the new dog intruding on the other’s territory. Keeping them on leashes while they sniff and check each other out is helpful, but some dogs have leash aggression. In this case, it is better to let the leash go (however do this in a controlled area like a fenced in backyard or front yard) so both parties are more comfortable.

Dog to Cat If the home is originally a cat home, the best method is to begin with them separated by a gate. They’ll be able to meet through the gate while feeling safe on either side. Switching the rooms they are staying in will let the new dog become comfortable in all areas of the house, and soon they will get used to the idea of one another. Then, while keeping a leash on the dog, they can meet and possibly sniff each other. This process is much slower than introducing dogs because they are different species, but over time they’ll soon live in harmony and might even become friends.

Cat to Cat Keeping the cats separate at first lets them smell the scent of the other without the intimidation of meeting immediately. By using a gate, they will feel comfortable seeing each other and you will be able to see their attitudes toward one another. If they seem normal, you can introduce them without a fence. If not, continue the process until they adjust.

Cat to Dog Because it is the dog’s domain, be sure to keep them in separate rooms at first. One method to allow them to get used to each other is by feeding them at the same time on either side of the door. They will hear and smell each other while being paired to the positive experience of eating. After a few days, consider using a gate to let them look at each other so there are no surprises when they finally meet.

6) Do you have the time to foster?

Don’t foster animals if you don’t have the time.  Just as normal pets need lots of love and attention, fosters do too, you never know how long you’ll keep a foster for. The time frame can range from a few days to a couple years depending on how long it takes your foster pet to get adopted. Not only are you taking care of an animal, but you might need to potty train it or keep a close eye for its recovery.

7) Are you prepared to potty train your foster pet?

Many foster pets have never been in a home environment before so the odds of them being housebroken are very low. For dogs, potty training takes consistency and hard work in order to prevent in-home accidents. There are lots of videos that will teach you how to do this. Marina stated that potty training is one of the more difficult aspects of fostering. If this is already too much, consider taking in a cat because they usually learn right away to use a litter box, and as Marina says, “all you have to do is show them the litter box and they’re good to go.” Sometimes kittens have a hard time figuring  out how to use one, but there are tips and tricks for this type of potty training as well.

8) Are you prepared to handle medical needs?

Some foster animals have medical needs that you will need to monitor, help treat, and take them to the vet for. If the pet you’re fostering is a puppy or kitten without vaccines, you need to stay alert and watch for possible signs of illness. This is especially important when they haven’t been vaccinated yet because they are prone to picking up diseases at an early age. If they are between 6 and 8 weeks old, be prepared to take them to the vets for their vaccines because that is the age when the first round is usually given.

9) Can you follow their feeding schedule?

Feeding your foster animal can get tricky if they have a certain feeding schedule to follow. This was another one of Marina’s difficulties when fostering. Some animals will need medication with their food and some may need to be fed more often than you are home. If that is the case, have a friend of yours come by and feed them to keep them on track. Treats are always a good way to bond with your foster, and treats are a great aid for teaching them new tricks. As for water, always keep a fresh bowl of water within reach. However, if the puppy or kitten is very small, they can fall in and drown. The best way to avoid this is keeping a few small bowls with a low amount of water around them.

10) Are you prepared to work for the highs?

Marina says “the most rewarding thing is watching a timid or shy dog break out of its shell and learn to love and trust you.” Many foster pets don’t know what it’s like to be loved or have a home and family, so getting to see them start to come out of their shell and trust is such a heartwarming part of fostering. These highs may take time to happen though, so be ready to be patient and work with your foster pet to get them to a well-socialized state of mind.

11) Are you prepared for the goodbye?

Inevitably, you will have to say goodbye to your foster pet when they get adopted. Fostering is only temporary (unless you become a “foster fail” and keep your foster pet) and you have to remember that going into it. Marina put it wonderfully, “As sad as it is when they get adopted, it’s also really great. Although you’re losing a part of your family and heart, you know they’re going to a really great forever family who truly wants them and is committed to them.”

Fostering animals has so many benefits on more than one spectrum, and with the proper care, it can lead to a life-changing experience for you and your foster friend.

Have you ever fostered a pet before? What was the experience like? Leave a comment and let us know!

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