This week's post covers everything you've ever wanted to know about fostering pets! We answer some common questions, outline the pros/cons, look at alternative ways to help, and provide some in-depth resources for further reading. We also compiled a list of area rescue groups with active foster programs in case you decide to start fostering. If you've been curious about what fostering entails, keep reading!
So... what does it mean to foster a pet?
When you foster a pet, you bring them into your home to live with you while they await an adoptive family. This gives them the chance to learn how to live with people and other pets in a household setting.
Why do foster programs exist?
Pets are placed in foster homes for a variety of reasons. Some animals shut down in the noise and stress of a shelter setting and need the love of a family to flourish. Young animals are often placed in foster homes so they grow up knowing basic house manners and become well-socialized adults. Other times it's a space issue: Mobile has many area rescues that lack a physical shelter facility, so all of their adoptable pets live with foster families until they are adopted.
If I foster a pet, do I have to eventually adopt it?
Nope! The goal of fostering is simply to give the pet a chance to live in a home setting instead of a shelter facility while they are waiting for adoption. While you're in no way obligated to adopt the pet you're fostering, it's not uncommon for foster families to fall in love with their temporary family member and decide to adopt them. These cases are lovingly referred to as "foster fails".
Am I financially responsible for a foster pet?
Most rescue organizations will cover all of the medical and veterinary expenses associated with a foster pet. Some rescues will also provide the food and supplies necessary to care for the animal, though other rescues rely on the foster family to cover these costs.
Is fostering a good way to "try out" pet ownership?
If you and your family are serious about adding a pet to your household, fostering can be a good way to practice pet ownership on a more temporary basis. However, there is no standard timeline for a foster pet to be adopted; sometimes it's just a matter of days, sometimes it can take months before the right family comes along. It takes time and energy for a rescue to find and screen foster homes, so returning a foster pet to a rescue because you weren't prepared for the commitment can put strain on a groups already limited resources and affect their ability to take in other animals.
What about short-term foster programs?
Many rescues now offer day-trip and weekend sleepover programs that let stressed shelter animals spend some time socializing with people or "vacationing" in a home. Lady Luck (pictured below) went to the beach with us as part of the Kaua'i Humane Society's field trip program. Other rescues that specialize in transports often need foster homes for just a few days or weeks while the animals wait for their transport date. Contact the specific rescue group to get more details on these shorter-term foster opportunities.
Lady Luck gets a day trip to the beach!
Ok, I'm sold! What do I need to do to start fostering pets?
Qualifications to become a foster pet parent will vary by rescue organization, but most rescues have an application and vetting process for potential foster homes. They may ask that you provide vaccination records for your personal pets, a reference from a licensed veterinarian, and/or allow a home visit to ensure a safe foster environment.
Fostering Pros + Cons
Like anything else, fostering a pet has many considerations that you and your family should examine before making the commitment to a temporary family member.
Benefits of fostering:
- Fostering saves two lives: fostering one pet allows the rescue the space and/or funds to take in another animal in need.
- Fostered makes pets are more adoptable because they have learned how to live in a household setting with people and other animals.
- Fostering provides a safe, quiet environment for a pet to recuperate from surgery.
Fostering provides an attentive and loving environment for senior or sick pets to receive hospice care.
Tolls of fostering:
- Fostering can be emotional; it's easy to develop an attachment to a pet but can be hard to let go when that pet is adopted by another family.
- Fostering can lead to wear and tear on your home and/or belongings from young or rambunctious animals that are still learning their boundaries.
- Fostering can incur potential financial costs if you have to provide or replace consumable supplies like food, treats, toys, litter, puppy pads, etc..
What can I do to help if fostering isn't for me?
Fostering is definitely a commitment or love and time, so if fostering isn't an option for you, that's ok! There are still lots of ways you can help the animals at a local rescue. We recommend contacting the rescue to inquire about specific needs, but in general, here are some great ways to help:
- Volunteer - Rescues with a shelter facility can always use help caring for their animals. Most rescues also welcome volunteer support for things like adoption events, managing pet profiles on adoption sites, transporting animals to and from vet care, and helping post on social media.
- Donate supplies - Rescues are always in need of consumables like food, litter, puppy pads, and cleaning supplies. Many rescues have Amazon wishlists these days, so you may not even need to get off the couch to send some help their way :)
- Spread the word - Most rescue groups have a presence on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Sharing their posts, updates, and fundraisers can really help support their efforts.
Volunteering with Lantana at ARF.
Curious to learn more about the ins and outs of fostering a pet? We've gathered some very thorough articles on the topic so you'll have all the fostering resources you need in one place.
Fostering dogs & puppies:
Dog Fostering 101 - An extensive guide from the good dog people at Rover.com, this article covers pretty much everything you need to know about fostering dogs! From knowing when you're ready to take on a foster pup to knowing your responsibilities as a foster dog parent and preparing your home, this article introduces some great ideas. We love how author Elisabeth Geier discusses the ups and downs of fostering a dog with emotional or behavioral issues. The great thing about this article? All the links to related articles - be prepared to fall down a rabbit hole of dog care knowledge.
Fostering 101: The Basics of How to Foster a Dog - This post from the IffyDog blog takes a more personal approach to answering your foster questions. The author is a writer and animal advocate out of New Orleans and takes time to share many details from her own dog fostering experiences. We love the great tips she offers on cat/dog and child/dog introductions, basic training to cover while the dog is in your care, and a few ways to "market" your foster dog to help them get adopted.
Fostering cats & kittens:
The Kitten Lady on Fostering - A complete guide on fostering kittens written by animal advocate and author Hannah Shaw, this article details supplies needed, bottle feeding schedules, and common kitten health markers. Shaw also explains her tips for photographing kittens, successfully "advertising" them, and screening potential adopters. We particularly love all the questions she has you ask yourself in the "Before You Start" section - kittens can require far more care than adult cats so it's important to make sure you are able to provide that care.
Fostering 101 - Saving Lives From Home - Presented in a question-and-answer format, this article does a great job answering some of the less common questions you might have about fostering. "What if I have my own animals at home?" "Is it hard to say good-bye to your foster kittens?" The author is a long-time foster kitten mom and we love how she dives into the many ways the animals benefit from being in foster homes.
Local Rescue Groups with Foster Programs
If you're interested in fostering through one of these rescue groups, click on their name to learn more! Keep in mind that the majority of these organizations are run exclusively by volunteers so it may take time for them to get back to you. If you know of a rescue group with a foster program that isn't mentioned below, contact us here and we'll get them on the list!
Alabama Animal Welfare Coalition - The Alabama Animal Welfare Coalition is a non-profit, foster-based rescue serving the Mobile area. Founded in 2012, they offer low-cost spay/neuter for dogs and cats as well as a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program for feral cats.
Animal Rescue Foundation - The Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) of Mobile is a non-profit, adoption guarantee shelter serving the Greater Mobile area. Founded in 1995, ARF relies on a strong volunteer base and an active foster program to re-home abandoned animals. Their shelter facility on Rangeline Road houses both cats and dogs pulled from city shelters or brought to ARF as strays.
Azalea City Cat Coalition - The Azalea City Cat Coalition is non-profit, volunteer-based feline rescue organization serving Mobile and Baldwin counties. They specialize in solutions for feral and community cats, including low-cost spay/neuter programs as well as TNR services
Friends of the Mobile Animal Shelter - The Friends of the Mobile Animal Shelter strive to improve the quality of life for the dogs and cats housed at the City of Mobile Animal Shelter. They are always looking for foster homes for adoptable dogs and cats that are stressed by a shelter environment.
Krewe de Rescue - Founded in 2013, Krewe de Rescue is a non-profit, foster-based rescue that strives to unite area organizations to network high-risk animals. Krewe de Rescue is located in Mobile, AL, and serves both dogs and cats.
Mobile Cat Society - The Mobile Cat Society is a non-profit, foster-based feline rescue serving Mobile, AL. They offer low-cost spay/neuter for rescues as well as TNR services for feral cats.
Mobile SPCA - The Mobile Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a non-profit, adoption guarantee humane society that houses dogs and cats in their facility on Zeigler Circle. Founded in 1885, the Mobile SPCA is Mobile's oldest animal shelter. In addition to foster and adoption programs, they also offer spay/neuter assistance, pet food assistance, adoption counseling, and emergency preparedness resources.
Project Purr - Project Purr is a non-profit feline rescue with a "free-range" adoption center on Cottage Hill Road, where cats live together in rooms, instead of in individual cages. Project Purr focuses on pulling adoptable cats and kittens from local shelters and providing them with a loving environment while they wait for forever homes.
Save A Stray - Save a Stray is an all-volunteer, foster-based rescue group serving the Mobile, AL area. They are dedicated to helping local cats and dogs through foster/adoption services, spay/neuter initiatives, feline TNR, and organized transport efforts.
Third Coast Animal Rescue - Third Coast Animal Rescue is a non-profit, foster-only rescue group based in Mobile, AL, and serving the greater Gulf Coast area. They specialize in rescuing dogs and are always in need of foster homes.
And that wraps up our guide to fostering resources! Tune in next week for our round-up on pet adoption resources.
🐾 Are you currently fostering a pet? We'd love to hear about your experience in the comments below!