Could You Foster a Pet?
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Could You Foster a Pet?

Life As A Pet Parent

If you love animals but cannot make a long-term commitment to adopting a pet, fostering may be a great choice for you. Taking in a stray or homeless pet on a temporary basis can be incredibly rewarding, and helps sensitive or special-needs animals find their forever home with minimal stress and suffering. Could you be the special person that makes all the difference to a needy pet? Read this article to learn more about fostering and how to find fostering programmes near you.

What is fostering all about?

Time and time again animal charities and shelters launch appeals concerning the lack of space available in their adoption kennels. Due to the current economic climate, an increasing number of people are seeking to re-home their pets, while there are fewer new permanent homes available. Pets that are lucky enough to find a place in a shelter kennel do not always do well there - though shelters go to great lengths to ensure their intake is well cared for, many animals will not transition well into kennel life. The longer a pet spends confined with minimal human interaction, the more likely he or she is to develop behavioural or temperament issues as a result. Even the best-behaved cat or dog may be vulnerable to the stresses of living in a shelter, not to mention the effect on pets that are already shy, nervous or frightened. Naturally this can be detrimental to a pet's adoption chances and thereby increase his length of stay at the shelter. Fosterers help ensure that pets have the best chance possible to find a new permanent home. By allowing pets in need to live in a normal household environment, the fosterer takes special care to ascertain that her charge is well adjusted and ready to be with the right family forever. It's the best way to keep animals happy and healthy while they wait for their new home, whilst also providing a good idea of what the pet is really like to prospective new owners.

What does it take to be a good fosterer?

Different fostering programmes have varying requirements depending on the species, age or temperament of the animal in question. However a good fosterer will generally be able to offer the following:

  • Patience. Though many pets are rehomed through no fault of their own, they may be apprehensive about their new surroundings and show some negative behaviours, including house-soiling, destructive tendencies, or shyness. A good fosterer will be willing to work with the animal to bring out its best attributes, and help it overcome any problems stemming from a broken past.
  • A home with plenty of space. Some programmes do not allow permit interaction between pre-existing pets and foster animals. Even if they do, it's a good idea to have a separate room available in case the foster animal is shy or does not take well to other pets.
  • The ability to avoid over-attachment. Some fosterers do end up adopting pets in their care, however it is important to remember that fostering is meant to be temporary. Fosterers should aim to help as many animals as they can rather than simply "trial" new pets.
  • An open mind. You may have some ideas about the kind of pet you'd like to foster, however it is best to be open to fostering pets according to need rather than other attributes such as age or breed.
  • Time and commitment. Though it is fun and rewarding, caring for a foster animal is hard work. It can be difficult to predict a homeless animal's needs, and so it is important that prospective fosterers are able to devote a consistent amount of time to care, training, cleaning and any medical requirements.

What are the costs associated with fostering?

Expected costs vary from programme to programme, but generally medical care and supplies are covered by the charity involved. Some may be able to provide food and transport, or reimburse associated expenses.

What types of animals can be fostered?

Dogs, cats, and rabbits are the typical species available for fostering. Some may be strays in need of special TLC, like heavily pregnant cats or dogs or animals with very young litters. There are also programmes that help vulnerable people by temporarily rehoming their pets, for example women escaping violent domestic situations or elderly people who must go into hospital. Some charities do not house strays in kennels at all, and therefore rely exclusively on a strong network of fosterers to provide shelter and care for their animals. Online research can help you decide which of these programs is right for you. If you just want to help in general, a local branch of your favourite animal charity should be able to point you in the right direction.

What challenges might I face as a fosterer?

For most people, the hardest part of fostering is saying goodbye. You should consider that some fostering situations carry on for months, and during that time you may form a strong bond with your foster pet. It is important to always remember that fostering is meant to help as many animals as possible - and that the aim of your role is to help your foster pet move on to his forever home so he has a fair second chance at life. You should accept that you might not have a say in where your foster pet ultimately ends up, but rather you have the ability to make a difference in his quality of life. Without fosterers, many more needy animals would have nowhere to go.The other major challenge will be the unknown factor in caring for a pet whose history you may not know. The shelter will usually provide some background on the foster pet, but be aware that this may be limited or not entirely accurate. Always keep any eye out for any unusual behaviours or symptoms and take care when handling or approaching an animal you do not know well.

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