Ask any shelter or rescue what their number one need is in caring for their animals. One might guess food, vet care, or toys, but they would be wrong. It’s people that are willing to step up and become a foster to a dog or cat in need of a temporary home. While shelters do have kennels, it is an isolated place for the animal and may be an extremely stressful experience while waiting to become adopted. Especially for an animal who has just been surrendered after living their life in a home environment. For a rescue, having fosters ready and willing to assist with an animal may mean the difference between being able to accept or decline assistance to that pet.
So, what exactly is a foster? A foster is a person who opens up their home to a pet in need of temporary housing/care, giving the pet shelter, love, companionship, structure, and meeting their needs for food, water, and possible medications. It is a very rewarding endeavor!
There are three types of foster care that one can participate in:
- Temporary Foster Care: This is a predetermined or fixed amount of time the animal will need fostering. This includes people that need care for their pets during personal healthcare crises or other emergencies; to give them the time to get their lives re-established. It may be recovery from a surgery, the need to be the primary caregiver to a parent on hospice, moving to another home, school or military deployment. These are pet owners who do not want to permanently rehome or lose their pet, but they do not have reliable family or friends who can care for or commit to the pets needs during this critical time period. Once the fostering commitment is finished, the pet is returned to the owner.
- Flexible Foster: The second type of foster is an open-ended foster home. This foster agrees to take a displaced or homeless pet into their home and become a temporary pet owner to that dog or cat. You give him/her your love, guidance, attention, meeting their needs until the pet is adopted to a “forever” home. This foster parent may need to identify animal needs that need addressed, such as socialization, exercise and leash walking, potty training or crate training; essentially to allow the dog or cat develop the skills they need to find an adoptive home and for it to be successful. It is important for those who foster a pet to remember their involvement is essential but temporary guardianship to the animal in need. The number of animals that can be saved and rehomed via one foster can easily reach double digits in a year or two.
- Foster to Adopt: The third type of foster is foster to adopt. This is a person who is looking for a cat or dog to become part of their family and takes the pet as a 30 day foster to see if it’s a good match for both the pet and people. To see how the animal interacts with family, children, extended family/friends and to address any concerns before officially adopting the pet into their family. This also allows a person or family to assess if they are ready to own a pet and able to meet the dog/cat’s needs.
In rescue, there is a term for fosters, who determine the pet they are caring for is a great fit and will adopt the pet into their home. They were not foster to adopt, but open-ended foster homes. The term they are known as is “foster failures”. This is because the capacity of that foster home to bring in and care for another foster in need has diminished by “one”. So while caring for a dog/cat can lead to a strong bond, foster failure is not the goal of fostering animals in need. It is very rewarding to see an animal thrive in one’s care then be able to be adopted into a permanent home.