woman hugs golden retriever with 5 kittens in lap

Pet Fostering 101

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What is Fostering?

Most know fostering as it relates to children in our community, but pets also benefit from fostering. A foster home is a temporary living situation where pets await permanent placement with a forever family.

Pets that qualify for foster could include:

  • Neonatal kittens that are too young to survive without mom
  • Nursing moms with babies that are too small to spay/neuter and need to grow before being placed with a family
  • Pets with medical issues that require special care before being placed for adoption
  • Pets that there isn’t room for at the shelter who need temporary placement before a home is found

Duties of Any Foster Home

No matter what age or species you are fostering, there are several duties that are consistent across the board.

  • Provide a safe, caring, and clean environment
  • Provide food, water, shelter, love, and enrichment
  • Provide socialization and exercise
  • Transport to and from necessary appointments, events, the shelter, etc.

Animals Shelters Across the Country are Limited by Space

four puppies in a kennel
Litter of puppies in animal shelter. Catahoula Leopard Dog, Pit Bull Terrier mixed dogs

The number of lives we save in the community is directly proportional to the people who open their hearts and homes to foster pets.

Space will always be an issue with shelters, no matter how large the shelter may be. With homes, we’re unlimited in the amount of space we can create for these pets who need time to find their forever families.

Challenges of Fostering

Overall, fostering can be easy. There are, however, challenges that people need to think about before becoming fosters.

Some say “I would just want to keep them all…” That is a challenge. However, the reward of seeing the fosters go on to their forever families is worth it.

Sometimes, the unknown history of pets can be challenging. Unfortunately, the animal shelter can’t test if a pet is kid friendly. Other behavioral factors can be big questions because most of the animals in shelters are strays and have no known behavioral or medical history.

Before fostering, it is always important to check with your veterinarian to determine that your current pet/pets will be okay with another animal in the home and the added stress of a new foster in the home. Our obligations are to our pets in the family first, so it’s necessary to make sure they are physically and emotionally ready for another pet in the home.

Another challenge is time commitment. Always assess how much time and energy you will be able to devote to fostering before making the commitment.

Compassion fatigue is another challenge when fostering pets. Animal welfare is a highly emotional, wonderful field. It’s extremely important to take care of our mental health and to not take on the burden of being the one person to save them all. Be mindful of your limits and do not get burned out.

Rewards of Fostering

These tend to greatly outweigh the challenges to fostering.

  • Having an animal companion without a lifetime commitment
  • Satisfaction of helping a pet overcome illness, injury, trauma, or the odds being against them and seeing the amazing transformation
  • The joy of saving a life

Foster Opportunities at Local Shelters

  • Nursing Moms or Bottle Babies
  • Cats/Kittens until Adoption
  • Dogs/Puppies until Adoption
  • Transport Fosters
  • Sleepovers
  • Foster Field Trips
  • Pet Placement Partners

If your local shelter doesn’t offer some of these above, pitch the idea to them. Shelters are limited by staffing. If they have a volunteer willing to kickstart a program, that can make all the difference.

Nursing Moms with Kittens/Puppies

Nursing moms are one of the easier groups to foster because mom does all the work. She is feeding, cleaning, and socializing them. Your job will be to take care of mom with food, water, and a safe, quiet place to raise her kids. As the kittens or puppies grow up, you’ll get more hands on and give them socialization with your family. You’ll also keep an eye out for any issues. This foster situation can be beginner to intermediate, and the time commitment is usually 4 to 8 weeks.

Just Kittens or Cats

Rescued baby cat being fed with bottle of milk

If you love sleeping, bottle babies are not the route to take. Little kittens need regular supervision and care. Feral kittens are also necessary to try to assimilate them into a home. Kittens and cats can be any experience level. Sometimes, young kittens are sick and need expert care. Other older kittens need less experience.

Fostering Dogs

There’s a huge range of types of dogs available to foster, and this also means different experience levels. Memphis Animal Services provides vetting, a crate, collar/leash, other supplies, and you provide a loving home until the dog is adopted. It’s always important to meet your foster dog before bringing them home.

It’s also crucial to market your foster pet and take photos and keep records of behavior and temperament as well as sharing this info with friends and family.

Transport Fostering

Often shelters in the South are linked with other shelters in different parts of the country who don’t have the overpopulation issues that we do here. They can take pets from these shelters and help find homes for the pets quickly. As a transport foster, you will keep the pet for a couple of weeks until that pet is able to go to another organization in a different part of the country.

Foster Field Trips and Sleepovers

Sometimes short-term trips or outings can have major impacts on a dog’s life. At Memphis Animal Services, you can take a dog out for a day trip or have a sleepover on the weekend. This requires less time commitment and makes a big impact. There’s a study conducted for a pilot sleepover program that measured cortisol levels in dogs who go on sleepovers. There was a significant decrease in stress reduction during these sleepovers. Read more about the study here!

Foster for a Rescue

Rescue groups save pets from shelters and as strays. Rescue groups can provide more support in some circumstances than shelters. There are lots of local rescue groups, and you can reach out to a representative to learn more about how to become a foster with a rescue group.

Bottom Line

A Pit Bull Terrier mixed breed dog cuddling in a person’s lap

Fosters are an integral part of our lifesaving abilities. They are the reason more lives can be saved across the country, and they give pets what the shelter environment can’t while helping them find their forever homes.

If you are interested in fostering, ask about foster opportunities at your local shelters or rescues! If you are not sure where to start, ask your Hollywood Feed stores to connect you to their rescue or shelter partners.


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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Kathy Prince

    I have fostered in the past and it is very rewarding to know you have helped a dog find its forever home.

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