Foster Pets: The Best Volunteer Gig Ever

But don’t you fall in love and want to keep them forever?

That’s the first question I’m asked about what it is like to foster pets.

“Well, I could never give them up.” is what follows next.

So How Can I Give Up Foster Pets?

From the start, I know they are not my pets. They belong to a pet rescue and are not mine to keep. My objective is to be the best temporary home until they have a permanent one.

When a foster pet leaves my care, I’m not dumping them on the street. I’m not turning them over to a monster who will feed them to reptiles. When a pet is adopted, that means it is going to a screened and pre-approved, legit home with a family who wants this pet. It means someone fell in love. Someone is choosing them.

This is a good thing! I don’t find it hard, sad, or horrible at all.

And Then Their Eyes Met

Seeing families meet a foster pet for the first time is heartwarming. The person smiles, tries to engage the pet, and there is a shy little introduction. As the minutes pass, the pet responds more and more. The spark ignites. You see that first moment of newly found love. You can see the unconditional love unfolding right before your eyes.

And even if the meet-and-greet doesn’t end in a love connection, that truly doesn’t bother me. I would much, MUCH rather the family be honest and say “thanks, but no thanks” than go into an adoption with doubt or hesitation.

A New Life

I usually get pictures from the adoptive family months later. The foster cat all tucked in bedthat used to curl up on a bed with me is now cashed out on a couch with another family, their kids, and their pets.

It isn’t a sense of betrayal or sadness seeing this. It’s the joy of a true win-win: a homeless pet has a forever home and I know how happy and in love someone else is.

That’s why I foster. That’s why I can love them and give them up.

Day-to-Day Life as a Foster

cats looking intently at toyEveryone fosters differently. And some of it depends on the species (cat versus dog versus exotic pet). Sometimes fosters are just incorporated into the existing family with full run of the house. For foster cats, sometimes they live in a spare bedroom or the basement. Other times, fosters may reside in tower cages. With the spare room or tower cage, I make sure the foster pets have plenty of human interaction and exercise.

If you bristle at the thought of a foster being in a cage or spare room, consider the alternative. They could be fighting to survive outside. Or they could be in a shelter who’s numbers are so over capacity, the animal would likely be euthanized.

Time in foster care is a small blip on a pet’s radar screen of life. Sure, it may not be 100{cc651acb8fd21d18461bab90e3951e117ad976e0f5f2bec6fa2ec763fee94208} ideal, but if it is safe, clean, and the pet’s needs are being met–that may have to be “good enough” until a permanent home is found.

Cost of Fostering

The cost of fostering can vary. Typically, you will have to cover the cost of food and litter (for cats). And often times rescues receive donations of food (or litter) from Good Samaritans and that can help defray your out-of-pocket expenses. Any vet expenses usually fall to the rescue, however, you would be in charge of transporting to the pet to and from veterinary care.

The Joy of Foster Pets

cat on boys lap

I’ve enjoyed fostering because of the joy of new beginnings. A homeless pet has a forever home and a family has a lifetime of unconditional love in return. I love having my kids involved so they know the importance of volunteering and giving altruistically to others.

Most shelters and rescues are in desperate need for qualified, loving foster homes for a variety of pets. I encourage you to open your heart and your home to a foster pet. You will not regret it and you won’t end up with 57 pets either.

Please consider becoming a foster family for the following local rescues/shelters or any number of other groups throughout the state:

Foster pet mom and catKirsten Linney has fostered over a dozen cats in the past year and a half. She has a harmonious family life despite the revolving door of feline guests. Kirsten is mom to 3 kids and 5 cats and feels she has enough of both to keep her content for many years to come. She works at Den Herder Veterinary Hospital and her husband is grateful for the space they give her to keep fosters at work.