It’s said that fostering animals saves lives and it couldn’t be more true! Many dogs, cats and other domestic animals struggle with the stress, noise and lack of socialization at shelters, and animals who are from abuse, neglect or other situations may need time to come out of their shell, heal emotionally and learn basic skills before anyone will adopt them. Add to this that many shelters and rescues are overcrowded, where there may not be places for animals in need to go. Not only can fostering animals help in all of these situations above, but it can also help animals get adopted to loving, forever families.
If you’re thinking about fostering an animal, please do! Here are a few tips to help:
- Advance Prep — Before your foster animal arrives, be sure to check with your landlord or building manager if you lease to ensure you can have the animal. Give your space a good cleaning and pick up any items you may need such as toys, a bed, etc. Most rescue and shelters will provide food and other care, but anything else you’d like to give the animal is more than appreciated. Make sure you’ve designated areas for walking, potty breaks, feeding, etc.
- Consider The Animal’s Story And Needs — While the rescue or shelter may not know the full story of the dog, pet or other animal you’re going to foster, try to get as many details as possible including its care during its shelter or rescue experience. Certain details like when the animal was fed, walked, or other activities can help a lot once you’ve got him or her home with you. Any behavior details will also give an understanding of his or her needs. Was the dog energetic in the shelter, or kept to itself? Afraid? Ask these types of questions to get helpful clues.
- Give Time To Adjust — Even if a dog, cat or other domestic animal isn’t from an abuse, neglect or other situation, he or she may still need a little time to get acclimated and comfortable once in a home again. Behaviors like separation anxiety, uncertainty of where to use the bathroom, and other issues may arise. A patient, loving understanding that it could take a few weeks or even longer can help in these circumstances.
- Include Its Own Toys And Space — Animals know when items are their own and it can often be a comfort or help to have a few things waiting when your foster arrives to your home. This includes if you’ve already got your own pet and/or other foster animals. A comfy bed, dishes, and toys intended for him or her alone can be important to acclimating your foster fur baby.
- Monitor And Share Behaviors And Traits — A key part of fostering is the ability to get to know the animal’s unique personality and behaviors. It can give specific clues to some of its past history and/or treatment by others, as well as little tidbits that can help get him or her adopted. For example, if your foster dog loves to sleep cuddled up in blankets or enjoys riding in the car, it can be the very information that helps find its forever family.
- Lean On Your Rescue Organization Or Shelter — If behavioral issues, health needs or other items arise, the rescue organization or shelter you’re working with for your foster can help! Many times individuals at rescues and shelters are more than well versed in animal behavior, including suggesting ideas for various needs your foster may have. They also often have large networks of trainers, vets, behavioralists and other help in case anything is needed in these areas.
- Integrate Other Animals Slowly — Some animals including any pets you currently have can jump right in with other animals, some need more time to adjust. Even if you think your dog, cat or other pet will do fine, bring your foster into the house and integrate them slowly. Sometimes, shelter or rescue animals may be overwhelmed, afraid, or tired where a little time to settle in a quiet spot with gentle visits from you while they get comfortable can be needed.
- Help Find A Forever Home — Fostering can mean you may have the animal for many months, or longer. Or it can be just a few weeks. Ideally you should commit to whatever duration of time is needed. You can help with finding his or her permanent home by supporting your rescue organization or shelter’s efforts, sharing fliers, taking the animal to adoption events, posting to social pages, etc.
Most of all, have fun! You have no idea how much it means to a rescue or shelter animal to have a warm, loving place to stay until they’ve got a permanent home, or how much it can touch your life to foster.