There are many hurdles that could potentially interfere with someone adopting a pet. Even the biggest animal lovers among us have complex, multi-faceted lives. There’s the issue of time, space, and certainly finances. Some people simply are not in a place in their life where they’re prepared to meet the needs of a pet, even if they wish they were. That being said, there is a wonderful opportunity for certain animal lovers to help save lives, even if they’re unable to adopt. This is accomplished through fostering.
What exactly does fostering accomplish? You’re temporarily taking an animal into your home, knowing that it will ultimately be adopted by someone else. First of all, this frees up space in the shelter for another animal. It is not an exaggeration to say you could literally save an animal’s life by removing it from a high kill shelter that’s overpopulated. Then when your furry companion gets adopted you can save another one. Then another, and so on, and so forth. This isn’t necessarily just a matter of physically removing them from the shelter though. Sometimes shelter’s seek out fosters because an animal has behavioral issues that need more one-on-one attention than the shelter staff/volunteers are able to provide. If you’re able to work with them on their issues, you can make them more adoptable and improve their chances of finding a forever home. Their issues could also be related to age or poor health. There’s even hospice fostering, which simply means, the animal is very old and/or very sick and will be living out the rest of it’s life with you, as short as it may be.
Now fostering still requires time and possibly space (an apartment is still better than a small cage, mind you), but one big difference is the financial side of things. The specifics may vary from one shelter/rescue/organization to another, but typically when you foster an animal, all their medical bills are covered by that group. Food may also be included and even basic necessities, like a litter box, leash, or bedding. In which case, your sole focus is on meeting their other needs.
Fostering is still an option, even if you already have a pet. In fact, certain animals really benefit from living with another pet for socialization. This will simply limit your potential fosters to ones that are okay with that type of animal (possibly dependent on a successful meet and greet), assuming yours is up to date with their vaccines and spayed/neutered.
Now, I hope all of this sounds wonderful because it is. But I think it’s important to not get swept up in the idea of it while ignoring the reality. Not everyone is cut out to be a foster. A ‘foster fail’ is someone who fostered an animal, but then fell in love and ended up adopting them. There’s nothing wrong with this! However, if this becomes a habit, at some point you won’t be able to take in anymore animals and your fostering days are over. Some animals stay in foster care for as little as a few days, while others remain there for months. It’s understandable how someone would get attached to a critter they’ve been taking care of for a more extended period of time. That’s the thing about fostering, you have to be willing and able to let go when the time comes.
I truly believe it takes a very special type of person to be able to bring an animal into their home and show it as much love and attention as they can, knowing another family will see the fruit of their labor. Eventually someone else will come along and see a well-trained dog or a well-socialized cat and adopt them whereas they wouldn’t have adopted the rowdy dog that always jumped up or the scared cat that always hid in the corner. But because of the time and effort that you put in to helping that animal, some one else will give them a chance. It requires a certain level of selflessness, but I know so many people feel infinitely rewarded for a seemingly thankless job.
If you’re interested in fostering, you can contact your local animal shelter and rescues to find out more.