Fostering an animal is a great way to give back and provide a loving and caring temporary environment until your guest can find a home. But there’s a few things you need to think about before you head to your local shelter to fill out an application.

Foster failure is a thing…but that’s ok

You will often hear the term “foster failure” if you spend any time in the animal rescue world. It’s a term used to describe the situation where someone who was fostering an animal ended up adopting them and making them a permanent part of their family. It is usually a great situation for the animal since the temporary family they were living in is now their permanent caretakers. Often people will use this as a reason that they cannot foster because they will end up wanting to keep the animal permanently. While this is certainly a risk that you have to be prepared to take going into a foster situation, knowing that you are acclimating an animal to a loving family environment, and preparing them for their permanent forever home is a great way to keep from becoming too attached. Think of yourself as a temporary sanctuary where they can relax and be prepared to show their true personality on the way to their forever family. And think of yourself as the matchmaker that can help find them the environment that they can thrive in forever.

Foster animals may have a troubled past

Often when you are fostering an animal, they are coming from a shelter or other situation that may have been high stress. Many times their background and history has not been documented so you are on your own to determine what experiences this animal has had, and what they might react to. Generally these situations are not dangerous but if your foster dog has never seen a cat before, your house could end up looking like a Tom and Jerry episode pretty quickly so you need to be prepared for anything and take each situation slowly. If the animal is coming from an abusive situation any sudden noises or movements can cause them to react or spring into protective mode. They may be protective of their food, toys or even you. Realize it is simply a matter of time and patience and learning for them to get used to your way of living. Take it slow, allow them time to get to trust you and be careful about introducing too many new variables at once and you should be just fine.

This isn’t an overnight thing; it’s a commitment

The term temporary foster can mean different things to different people. On a rescue relay transport, fosters are usually safe, overnight locations between the days transport legs and not something that is intended to be weeks or even months. Before you sign-up to put a roof over their head, be sure to think about your lifestyle and what type of commitment you can make to their care. There’s nothing wrong in being up front that you can only foster for XX weeks or XX months as long as you’re up front and honest about it. Remember that you are committing to care for this animal so do not approach the situation figuring that if you need to give them back you can just show up and deliver them back to where they came from. Rescues and shelters are depending on you to honor your side of the bargain.

You are their advocate, their voice, their protector

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a foster family is the day that you deliver your furry companion to their forever home. Yes it’s sad and emotional to let them go, but you know in your heart that this is the right fit because all along you’ve been focused on what is best for them. As their foster family you were their advocate, their voice and their parent. You searched to find the right forever home, participated in the adoption process and posted lots of pictures, videos and stories so that prospective families could get a true indication of your foster friends’ personality. You sleep soundly knowing they are onto their next phase and you know you are ready to take on a new foster companion to help them along their journey.