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Imagine a basketful of adorable kittens taking their first steps in your living room, or five tiny puppies napping on your couch with their paws in the air.

We may think of scenes like these when we consider fostering animals for a shelter. But there’s much more to fostering than we might first imagine. Though fostering is an essential part of preparing some animals for adoption, serving as a foster caregiver is both a rewarding and challenging experience. Knowing what to expect before you foster is very important.

Fostering dogs and cats involves taking them into your home and caring for them temporarily. These animals are meant to be adopted when they’re ready, so your foster role is to offer a safe, realistic family or home environment until the animals are prepared to move into their forever homes with loving families. As a foster caregiver, you are helping animals to become their best selves with increased chances of adoption.

Placing animals in foster helps reduce overcrowding in shelters. It also gives animals time to grow large enough for adoption or to recover from surgery, illness, or injury. Fostering is perfect for anxious animals to relax, for animals that have become upset by kennel life to grow calm, for animals needing human companionship to become more socialized, and for puppy mill survivors that have lived in cages to learn about living in a real home.

As you consider becoming a foster caregiver, review these points to see if fostering is right for you.

  • Be sure all members of your family approve. Fostering requires time, energy, and space, so it’s important that all family members agree to welcome temporary furry residents.
  • Plan to accept all the responsibilities of fostering. These can include providing a clean, safe space for animals, giving them water and food (which Atlanta Humane provides) every day, and spending time with them. In addition, foster caregivers may need to bring the animals to the shelter or to a veterinarian for follow-up medical treatment as needed. Depending on the species and temperament of the animal, caregivers may also need to take animals to adoption events or meet-and-greets with prospective adopters. They must also give the shelter regular updates on the animals, including any medical or behavioral concerns.
  • Choose the right animal for your family, living situation, and lifestyle. If you travel frequently or have too little space for fostering, you may not be ready to take on the animals’ care. If you have other pets in your house, they may become confused or hostile when fostered animals intrude on their territory. You may need to set up separate spaces for fostered animals and your own animals.
  • Remember that in caring for fostered animals, you’ll need constant patience and compassion. Although fostering is very rewarding in many ways, it also requires time and activities that are likely to change your usual routines. As an example, a puppy may not be fully house-trained and will need your patient guidance as they master this important ability. Some fostered pets may demonstrate unwanted behaviors or separation anxiety. You’ll need a double dose of patience and compassion to give these animals your unconditional love.
  • Consider whether you’re strong enough to say a loving goodbye when your fostered animals are adopted into their new families. Remember that as one animal leaves, you can open your home and heart to another animal that needs your care.

If you’ve read through these points and think fostering would be a good fit for your family and lifestyle, please click to learn more about fostering with Atlanta Humane.