Are you still on the fence about fostering and want to know everything you don’t know?! There are some nuances to fostering that you pick up only after you’ve fostered a pet, and it’s important to know that every rescue has a slightly different approach to their foster program. You may find that you disagree with certain practices or that you need more support than a certain rescue or shelter can offer, or you may immediately find a great fit with lots of support! Here are some things to think (and ask) about when beginning or renewing your foster journey…

  • Is the rescue or shelter a 501(c)3 registered organization? Are financial or in-kind donations (pet supplies, food, etc.) tax deductible? Is there a paid staff or is everyone a volunteer? If there is a paid staff, what percentage of each dollar donated goes to pay salaries versus going directly to the pets? Is there a board of directors who make decisions for the rescue’s initiatives?
  • How many emergency contacts are provided and how easy are they to reach? Who do you contact if you need supplies or food? How will you be informed about upcoming adoption events and who coordinates medical procedures?
  • What supplies are provided, what supplies must a foster supply, and/or what do foster parents USUALLY supply? For example, many rescues do not receive donations of kitty litter; while some rescues and shelters can (and will) purchase litter and provide it for their fosters, many fosters choose to donate litter. If you are on a fixed budget, make sure to let prospective rescues know ahead of time so they can plan to purchase enough supplies for your foster pets up front, and always give ample notice when in need of supplies (ask your rescue how much notice they need to provide you with supplies).
  • How long do fosters stay with a foster family? Many rescues are completely foster-based with no facility and rely on foster parents to care for pets until they find forever homes; this can take days, weeks, or even months and committed fosters are needed to save their lives! Other shelters and some rescues only need temporary foster commitments – a foster home while a pet recovers from surgery, a short-term foster family to learn more about a pet (are they house trained? good with dogs or cats? good with kids?), etc. Decide what commitment you are able to make and ask the rescue(s) you’re interested in if you can help in that way!
  • What happens if your personal pet and your foster pet don’t get along, or your foster not good with your kids, or has issues that you are unable or unsure how to correct? Or what if your foster pet might benefit from additional training that you aren’t sure how to provide at home? What can I do to best protect my personal pet(s) from things such as fleas, upper respiratory infections, or parasites? Note that not every home is ideal for every pet, and maybe your foster will flourish as an only pet, or with a sibling, or with a stay-at-home or work-from-home parent, or in daycare – things you may not be able to provide but a future family might. Try to remember that a foster commitment is temporary, and while your home may not be the “perfect fit” (and you should be honest with your rescue/shelter about issues) you might be able to handle or mitigate certain issues – with support – until a forever home is found!
  • When and where are adoption events and how often do you need to drop off pets and/or attend events in-person? What is the time commitment outside of fostering in your home? Can transportation to adoption events and/or medical procedures be provided?
  • How does the rescue or shelter publicize adoptable pets? Are they listed on a website, social media, or rescue outreach page (such as PetFinder.com or Adopt-A-Pet.com)? How often are these marketing resources updated and (if you’re so inclined!) can you help with updating posts? Are there local photographers willing to photograph pets for the rescue to make pets more “adoptable”? Check out our Foster Photography page to learn more about taking unique, bright, and thoughtful photos of your pets!
  • Once a foster pet is in your home, what sort of information does the rescue need or want to know about them? I promise you, the more information, the better! Is Fido afraid of the washing machine or does Pussyfoot make cute sounds when she watches the birds outside? Sweet stories, silly anecdotes, and honesty about issues or shortcomings are all necessary information for a rescue or shelter to find the best-fit families for their pets! Check out our Pet Biographies page for some questions you can answer about each foster pet in your home to give your rescue or shelter more information about their needs!

When it comes down to it, fosters are volunteers. Rescues and shelters understand that foster parents are volunteering their home, time, and resources to save lives – volunteers and fosters are the backbone of a successful rescue or shelter! If you do your homework upfront, you may find greater satisfaction in your relationship with your rescue or shelter of choice!