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Are You Considering Fostering a Cat or Dog?

Fostering Pets & What to Expect

Here are some helpful tips to make the pet fostering process as smooth as possible.

Kittens, puppies, cats and dogs. They all need homes. Maybe you’re someone who’s been considering getting a new pet, but aren’t ready to make a lifetime commitment. Or maybe you just want to help until a pet can be placed in a permanent home. This is where fostering comes into play. With fostering, people can take in pets on a temporary basis. Shelters often get overwhelmed with cats and dogs, and fostering has been a very helpful way to alleviate crowded spaces, by letting caring people provide these animals with safe, temporary environments until permanent home placement is possible.

There are many benefits to fostering. Of course, the most obvious is helping out a cat or dog in need. Some kittens and puppies may actually be too young to be adopted, so fostering allows someone who loves animals and has the time to provide them with some extra care until they’re old enough or healthy enough to be adopted. The shelter experience can also be extremely stressful for animals, so a nice, quiet home, provides a safer and more stress-free alternative. Some cats and dogs may be recuperating from surgery. Being in a home instead of a shelter can greatly alleviate their stress and help with the recuperation process.

How Do You Become a Foster Pet Guardian?

If you decide to foster a pet, there’s more involved than just going to a shelter and wanting a cat or dog. Unless you live alone, consider how your family feels about fostering, if they will be assisting you in the fostering process, and if you’re able to set aside the time. Like anyone who has a cat or dog, you as a foster should have a general understanding of animal behavior; sometimes it can take patience, particularly if you’re bringing in a pet that may have suffered trauma. The time frame for how long one can foster an animal is also contingent on the animal’s condition and health.

The shelter will ask you to fill out a fostering application; there may be some training involved. Shelter representatives may also be required to do a home check to ensure you’re a good fit to take on a foster pet.

Common Policies and Procedures Involved in Fostering a Pet

Not all adoption organizations and shelters are the same. Each one has its own set of rules and regulations for fostering an animal. These organizations will usually have a coordinator to help you identify what type of pet is a good match for you. If you already have pets, most of these organizations will require that they’re updated on their vaccinations, etc. Some will also be able to offer necessary food and related supplies for you to give the pet while under your care.

Things to Consider When Fostering a Pet

This is a time consuming endeavor. Some animals come from backgrounds where they were neglected and/or abused, and they may need some extra attention. If fostering is something you don’t feel that you can commit to, then it may not be for you. If you have the time, then it will be a rewarding experience for you and for your foster pet. Also, it should be noted that you may have to fund the cost of taking care of the foster pet, including veterinary costs, food and related supplies. Once you’re approved to be a foster a pet, you can begin with some prep work.

What if you already have pets?

This can sometimes be an issue. Your current pets may feel threatened by a new guest. A separate room, such as a guest room, is the best place to initially keep your foster pet, as you’re introducing pets to each other. To be safe, you’ll also want to avoid any risk of passing illness between pets, so before introducing your current pets to a foster, it’s best to quarantine them for 14 days, to prevent the spread of any illness. While foster cats and dogs are examined by veterinarians before relocation, there is still a risk that they may have a hidden illness, which could affect your current pets.

Pet proofing your home

Dogs and cats can and will have accidents, so you’ll want to take some extra time to prepare them for this transition. Fresh litter boxes for cats, housebreaking pads for dogs and isolation, especially in the early days, will help them remain calm (you may have to potty train young puppies, if they’re still at the novice level). In addition, you may want to purchase Feliway for cats and Adaptil for dogs. Feliway and Adaptil release calming pheromones (undetectable to humans) that help your pet adjust to stressful or new environments.

Some other things that will help in pet proofing your home include removing any furniture or items temporarily from the environment that you think may risk any damage. Cats love to scratch and dogs like to chew; it might be a good idea to purchase scratching pads for cats and dog chews to keep their nails and teeth occupied and deter them from taking hold on your furniture.

Cats and dogs are also fond of safe spaces. This can be a box (cats especially love boxes), or the carrier in which you brought your pet home. Try leaving a box or a carrier in their room, so they have an extra place to go. A cat tree can also help your new cat feel safer, as cats particularly feel safer and more calm when they have a high area to rest in.

Plenty of Fresh Water and Food

Always make sure that your fosters (and your pets) have access to fresh and clean water. Clean their water bowls regularly. If your fosters are very young, be sure to get a shallow bowl and not fill it all the way up, as kittens and puppies could drown if there’s too much water.

Based on the cat or dog’s condition, there may be a need for him or her to have certain types of food. The shelter will let you know if this is the case and how often to feed them and whether they need supplements or any additional medications. Some pets may be underweight, and could possibly have a digestive illness. So you may want to try limited ingredient diets if that’s the case.

Litter Boxes for Cats

There are different types of litter that shelters will recommended to you. In most cases, kittens that are under four months may be required to use non-clumping litter, while clumping litter may be fine for older cats.

Alternate Sources of Heat

While you may have the heat on in your house, depending on the time of year, these fuzzy guests may appreciate some extra warmth, such as a heating pad. If you use a heating pad, be sure to keep it on a low setting and make sure the cord is out of reach, so it can’t be chewed.

And you may want to get some extra toys, because kittens and puppies just love to play!

Potential Medical Issues

Your foster pet may have health issues and may need to be given medicine. Be sure that you’re able to give your cat or dog any medications that they might need. If you have any concerns, reaching out to your veterinarian for advice can help give you guidelines on how to administer said medications.

Some animals may have preexisting health conditions. If a contagious illness exists, then your foster will have to be isolated, and you’ll most likely be required to give them necessary medications. The same goes for a foster recovering from surgery, whether it be from an accident or abuse…they need some extra TLC, especially if there is limited mobility involved. Be patient, show them love and be prepared to bring them in to your Austin Veterinarian if they need bandages changed.

Although fostering does take time, it’s also extremely rewarding to have helped an animal in need.

Potential Emergencies

Your shelter will offer guidelines of how you should handle any potential emergencies. In Austin, we recommend contacting AVES for after-hours emergency care.

Once the Fostering Period is Over

It’s inevitable that you and your family will become emotionally attached to the cat or dog you foster. When it’s time to send them to their permanent home, it will naturally be upsetting, especially the first time you foster, as you have developed a bond with them over time. The good thing to know is that after you’ve given your foster pet the much needed love and compassion, they will most certainly be healthier, better prepared and socialized, so they will have an easier time finding a good home.

If you have any questions about fostering a pet, contact one of the local shelters in your area. In Austin TX, Austin Pets Alive is a good one to reach out to in order to get some additional info.