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Is pet fostering for you?

You might be the purr-fect foster parent for a needy cat or dog! Can you love them and let them go?

Woman with foster dog

Pet foster parents are similar to child foster parents. They care for a homeless pet as if it were their own until it can be adopted by its forever family.

Fostering a pet is a loving thing to do and makes a vital contribution to a great cause. Giving a shelter pet a safe place to live can be a lifesaving decision. It may prevent the animal from being euthanized, and it helps other animals, too. By taking a pet into your home you open up a space at a shelter or rescue that allows another needy animal to be taken in. There are animal foster programs in most communities administered by the Humane Society, animal rescue organizations, and groups like CARE, who operate without a physical shelter.

How long?

How long you might have the animal you foster can vary. Some organizations have programs for both short- and long-term fostering, while others simply ask the caregiver to foster the pet until a permanent home is found. In some cases the pet is only fostered for a single day before adoption, but in other instances the animal remains in the foster home for years. The longer you care for an animal, the more deeply attached you’ll become. Keep in mind that as a pet foster parent you are helping a previously lost or unwanted animal find a loving home. The pet you care for temporarily will eventually “graduate” and move on.


Determine the amount of time you have to devote to care and consider your space. The more free time you have, the more time you can spend with a high-energy pet. Dogs need to be walked and exercised and appreciate having outdoor space. Make sure outdoor areas are fenced if the pet is unattended. Apartment-dwellers with space limits might choose to foster cats, rabbits and other small animals.

If there are other pets in your home, introducing a new animal can be tricky. Find out if the pet is spayed or neutered and ask about medical issues the animal may have. If illness or injury occurs, who pays for the medical expenses? Give some thought to the type and personality of the animal that would be a good fit for you and your family. Find out if your foster pet gets along well with other animals, how it behaves around children, and how it fares when left alone.

If you’re matched with a foster pet, treat it as your own — with love and care. These animals need it. Pets are sometimes fostered to recover from an illness or injury, and even the healthiest animals feel stress and fear when they find themselves separated from their owners and living on the streets or in a shelter. Fostering means providing a loving and safe haven for them, taking care of their physical needs, and giving consistent love and attention.

You might foster dozens of pets before suddenly and surprisingly meeting… the one! If a foster pet steals your heart, it’s usually possible to convert the foster relationship into a permanent adoption.

More help for animals

The Animal Cancer Foundation
The care and training of service dogs
Paws Chicago

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