The Humane Society of the United States reports that between six and eight million dogs and cats enter shelters each year. Those numbers mean overcrowding for the majority of the nation's shelters, but foster pet parents are alleviating the shelter space problem while helping to socialize displaced pets. If you're an animal lover, fostering a dog or cat (or both) might seem like a fantastic opportunity to help homeless animals in your community. But, just as there are things to consider before you adopt a pet, you should take into account certain things before you volunteer to foster a pet.
Do You Have the Time?
Pets in general require a lot of time for feeding, grooming and quality interaction. Foster pets are only different in that aspect in that they typically require more time than a family pet. Foster animals often need help socializing and adjusting to a home environment, and the more time you can spend with a foster animal, the better his chances are for successfully finding a permanent home.
Is the Whole Family on Board?
Fostering a pet means more than simply providing food and shelter. Part of any fostering program is showing the foster pet how to be part of a human/animal family. That means that everyone in the household must treat the foster animal like one of the family, and actively support socialization and any training the pet needs.
Do You Have the Proper Space?
If you don't believe pets belong in the house, you should pass on fostering. Many fostering programs require that you keep foster pets indoors. Your home should be large enough to accommodate your foster pets and your family, including any animals who have a forever home with you. And if you have any rooms that you want to keep off-limits to a foster pet, make use of baby gates to control where in your home your furry house guests are allowed.
How Do You Feel About Potty Training?
You take in whoever needs a home when you agree to foster pets, and that can mean dogs that haven't been potty trained. Be prepared to teach that skill for two reasons: It will improve the animal's chances of being adopted into a forever home, and it will also save your belongings from being damaged. Talk to a vet or the local Humane Society about potty training practices if you are unfamiliar with them. Have a supply of piddle pads on hand for small dogs and puppies. Also, keep at least one extra litter box in waiting, as a newly arrived cat will do better with his own place to go.
Can You Say Goodbye?
If you love animals—and of course you do, or why else would you be fostering?—it can be easy to become attached to the foster pets you care for. Some may stay with you for more than a year, giving you ample time to start thinking of them as a permanent part of the family. But all fostering situations come to an end at some point. Keep in mind that eventually, you will have to say goodbye.