If you've been thinking about fostering a pet from a local shelter, there are some questions you need to ask yourself before you make your decision.
Fostering an animal is probably one of the hardest things you can do for an animal. It’s a selfless thing to do that is bound to have a long-lasting impact on many lives. If you've ever given thought to fostering, this post is perfect for you and by the end of it, you'll know if you're ready to foray into fostering!
The very first thing you need to keep in mind though is that your decision to foster should NEVER rely on how cute the animal in question is, or how much you want a pet. A fostered pet is still looking for a forever home, and the decision to foster should ALWAYS be made pragmatically.
Here are some important questions you need to answer before you approach your local shelter to apply for fostering pets!
Do You Have Space and Is Your Home Animal-Friendly?
Even though the whole arrangement is temporary in nature, you still need to have the space to cater to the animal comfortably. Do you have fancy furniture? Or spaces that aren't dog or cat-friendly? You may want to pet-proof your house before you foster if you're keen on doing so.
You also need to be sure that your neighbours are aware of what you're doing. Foster animals that are very young or have special medical needs are perhaps the most common of the lot, and it's a good idea to ensure the area you live in is safe for the foster pets you choose to take in.
Do You Already Have Animals at Home?
If you already have pets at home, it's important to plan how you want to introduce them. Or if you want to give them separate spaces. Think about how your foster charge will impact every member of your family, even your four-legged ones.
You can absolutely still foster if you have pets, you just need to do the research to properly plan for having multiple animals under the same roof.
Can You Afford to Look After a Pet, Even Temporarily?
Just as you have to make sure you have the time for a foster pet. You also need to ensure that you can afford the basic care your foster pet may need. This can range from food and grooming expenses to medication where necessary.
Sometimes shelters will help with costs, but that's not always the case as they struggle with funds too and hope that you will take full responsibility of the foster pet before they find a loving new home.
Do You Have the Time to Dedicate to a Foster Pet?
Depending on what a typical day looks like for you, it’s important to carve out the time for the pet you are fostering. Many times, before going to a forever home, a pet may need help to be house-trained or may need active care (if they are particularly young or old). Be sure you have the time to do this or you may end up feeling resentful of the animal who YOU brought home.
So if you plan on fostering pets, take a step back and look at your current schedule to see if you have the time or are willing to make the time to care for the foster pet.
Does Everyone Who Lives With You Understand Fostering and Are They Okay With It?
If you live alone, then there's really not much to answer here but if you live with your partner or spouse, or have other family or even roommates, it is important to have a vital discussion about what you plan to do before you bring a foster animal home.
Just because it is a temporary arrangement does not mean that the people who live with you will be okay with it. It's still a pretty big change in your family/partner/roommates and your lives. Walk, mealtimes, all responsibilities must be discussed if you are not planning on doing it all alone.
Have You Asked the Right Questions About the Foster Pet You're Considering?
Once you've considered all the points above, it's time to ask yourself some questions about the potential foster pet you want to bring home. Would you be willing and able to take care of a very young or a very old animal? Both categories require more time and special attention. Do you have the time, space, and energy for a high energy dog? Does the animal in question need house-training or other behavioural help? Do they have disabilities that you have to take into account?
Understanding the type of animal you're bringing home helps you prepare for it. And sets you up to have realistic expectations from the journey which in turn gives you a higher chance of success as a foster parent and a greater impact on the animal's life.
Are You Willing to Do What You Need to For the Foster Pet While They Are In Your Care?
Let's say you have lots of time, space, willing cohabitants, and money to care for a foster pet that comes to your home. Do you also have the energy to care for an animal with special needs? Or to provide a senior dog with the environment they need in their older age?
Often special needs animals are the last to find homes, but they have the largest of spirits. To bring one of these animals home is to bring great joy but it also comes with some challenges. You should be realistic in your understanding of the animal's conditions and limits so you can provide a safe and loving environment for them before it finds its permanent home!
Will You Be Able To Say Goodbye?
Foster care is particularly hard because the animals often win your heart completely with their unique personalities and become a part of your life. Understanding that the entire experience is temporary is vital, even though it may hurt to say goodbye. If you cannot permanently adopt the animal, it's heartwarming to know that they're going to a loving home that's theirs forever.
And to get to be a part of the process and make such an impact in an animal's life? Well, that's pretty special. If you love pets but can't sign up for a lifelong commitment and have the time, space, energy and money to do it... give fostering an animal a thought!