How Do You Become a Pet Foster Parent?

woman holding a white poodle mix dog

Wondering how to become a foster dog parent? Or maybe you’d like to foster a cat? There’s no doubt it’s a rewarding job, but it may not be right for everyone.

Fostering a Dog

Fostering has so many benefits beyond giving a dog a temporary home while they wait for a permanent placement. Foster dogs can enjoy more hands-on attention than they could receive in a busy shelter. Plus, they get a chance to acclimate to a loving home environment and learn appropriate behaviors.

When you care for a foster dog, you also open space and resources for another dog in need at the shelter. For these organizations, fostering can serve as a valuable resource to help them save as many dogs as possible.

Additionally, fostering a dog can serve as a trial run for you and your family. You get to experience the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities firsthand, including taking them out for daily walks, providing their meals, and cleaning up after their messes. It’s a useful way to help decide if you’re ready to have a dog in your home for the long haul.

beagle resting head on a mans chest

Quiz: Should I Foster a Dog?

Take this quick quiz to sniff out whether you should foster a dog. Give yourself 1 wag of the tail for yes and 0 for no.

Do you have experience caring for dogs?
Yes (1 wag) or No (0 wags)

Are you able to walk, feed, and entertain a foster dog on a regular schedule?
Yes (1 wag) or No (0 wags)

Are you willing to shower a foster dog with love and attention?
Yes (1 wag) or No (0 wags)

Add up your wags for your answer:

3 wags: You’re in a great place to consider welcoming a foster dog into your home. You can get started by reaching out to shelters in your area to learn about their foster programs.

1 to 2 wags: You should think carefully before you dive into the process. Be honest with yourself about whether you have the time and inclination to care for a foster dog at this point in your life.

0 wags: It’s OK if you’re not up for fostering right now. There are other ways you can help shelters, such as volunteering your time, donating money, or collecting and dropping off supplies, such as blankets, towels, food, and cleaning products.

What Is Needed to Foster a Dog?

The most important things needed for fostering a dog are a welcoming home with ample space and a commitment to taking great care of them. If you live with family members or roommates, you’ll need to get their buy-in, especially if you want them to pitch in on tasks like walking or feeding the pooch.

The process and requirements provided by foster programs vary by shelter. Make sure you know what’s expected by getting answers to questions like these:

You’ll also want to understand the protocol for accidents and illnesses. For instance, the shelter may require that you take the dog to an onsite or preferred veterinary clinic.

Once you’ve selected a shelter, they’ll have you fill out a foster application, which typically includes information about your living situation. They’ll want to ensure they’re placing the dog in a safe, comfortable home and that you’re able to properly care for them.

How to Train a Foster Dog

If you’re fostering an adult or senior dog, they may not need much training. Puppies and younger dogs are another story. You might have to house train them, encourage them to rest in their crate, and teach them basic commands like sit, stay, down, and drop it.

Training takes patience and effort on your part, but it can help a foster pup’s chances of getting adopted. You should use positive reinforcement like treats and praise as you work on different behaviors. Reach out to the shelter if you need guidance.

How to Get a Foster Dog Adopted

Some shelters handle most of the marketing and community outreach needed to get a foster dog adopted, but they may ask you to help in specific ways. For instance, you might need to send them photos or videos of the dog for their website and social media accounts (check out these pet photography tips), bring the dog to local adoption events, or interview people who are interested in adopting them.

One advantage of fostering is that you can expose your foster dog to a wide range of potential adoptees. You can introduce them to friends and family in your home, stop and say hi to neighbors as you walk around the block, or talk with dog-friendly people at coffee shops or parks. You can also use your own social media accounts to spread the word.

Can I Adopt My Foster Dog ?

So, what happens if you fall madly in love with your foster dog and can’t bear the thought of saying goodbye? It’s not uncommon for dog foster parents to want their furry friend to become a permanent fixture in their family. Ask the shelter about their adoption policies before you take home a foster dog in case you end up in this situation.

Keep in mind that the downside to adopting your foster dog is that you probably won’t be able to take in another foster. It’s wonderful that you’ll be giving your foster dog a loving home, but it also means one less resource for the shelter.

Adopting a dog means taking on the costs of care, including their veterinary bills. Find out how pet insurance can help you manage those expenses.

How Long Do You Foster a Dog?

The length of time depends on the shelter’s program and the dog’s situation. Some programs want you to commit to a set amount of time, such as 6 to 8 weeks. If the dog is too young to adopt or getting over a health condition, you may need to foster them until they reach a certain age or stage of recovery.

Will My Foster Dog Miss Me?

Will my foster dog think I abandoned him? Will she be upset without me? Those are common questions for anyone thinking about parting with their foster dog. After weeks or even months of caring for a dog, it’s normal to have mixed feelings about saying goodbye.

While you may miss each other at first, rest assured you’ll both adjust in time. It’s helpful if you had a chance to meet the adoptive family beforehand. This way, you can picture your foster dog living a happy and healthy life with their new pack.

Remember, you’ve done something wonderful by fostering a dog. And maybe now you have space in your home to perform the same service to another dog in need.

gray tabby cat with big blue eyes resting on a womans lap

Quiz: Should I Foster a Cat?

Try this short quiz to see if taking in a foster cat will make your motor run. Give yourself 1 purr for yes and 0 for no.

Do you have experience caring for cats?

Yes (1 purr) or No (0 purrs)

Are you up for responsibilities like feeding them a healthy diet, making sure they get enough exercise, and scooping the litter box?

Yes (1 purr) or No (0 purrs)

Are you open to loving cuddles together on the couch?

Yes (1 purr) or No (0 purrs)

Tally your score for your answer:

3 purrs: It seems like you’re ready and able to bring a foster cat into your home. Reach out to a local shelter to find out more about the process.

1 to 2 purrs: You should think carefully about what’s needed to care for a foster cat and make sure you’re up to the task. It can be helpful to talk to friends or family who have fostered cats to hear about their experiences.

0 purrs: Taking in a foster cat doesn’t seem to be the best choice for you, at least right now—and there’s nothing wrong with that. You may want to consider other ways to help shelter cats, such as donating supplies or volunteering your time.

How to Be a Cat Foster Parent

Fostering a cat is a lot like fostering a dog in many respects. You’ll need a safe environment and the time, commitment, and resources necessary to care for a feline friend.

Contact local shelters to learn more about their cat fostering programs. Once you’re ready to commit to fostering a cat, you’ll need to complete an application. You may also have to comply with other requirements, such as setting up a home visit or providing references.

After you’re approved, you should gather the necessary supplies, such as a litterbox, bowls, cat food and treats, and safe cat toys. The shelter may provide you with some of these initial essentials. You’ll also want to ask the shelter about what to do in case the cat gets hurt or sick and needs veterinary care.

Can you foster a cat if you already have one? Yes, but think carefully about whether your current feline will be agreeable to a new furry roommate. Get help introducing cats.

How to Get a Foster Cat Adopted

You have an opportunity to introduce your foster cat to lots of potential adoptees. Tell your friends, family members, and neighbors about your foster cat. Invite them over to meet your four-legged friend, and post pictures, videos, and stories about them on your social media accounts.

How Long Do You Foster a Cat?

The time commitment for fostering a cat varies by program and the needs of the cat. For instance, the shelter may ask you to foster the cat for a minimum of 8 weeks. If the cat is sick or injured, you might have to care for them until they’ve regained their strength. Kittens usually stay in a foster home until they’re old enough for adoption.

Can I Adopt a Foster Cat?

The goal of fostering a cat is to provide them with a temporary home, but some cat foster parents get smitten and don’t want to part from their kitten. Before you foster a cat, talk to the shelter about their adoption policies, so you know what to expect if this situation arises.

While shelters typically allow foster parents to adopt, they may ask you to make that decision before the cat is officially put up for adoption. Also, keep in mind that adopting your foster cat likely means your home will be closed to future fosters.

Are you ready to foster a pet? Check out the online resources for fostering, volunteering, and adopting pets offered by our strategic partner The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®).

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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