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How to Foster a Pet

June 1, 2021 by The Spot Pack
Woman sitting with dog and cat

The Basics of Fostering a Dog or Cat

Think you're ready to foster a pet? Congratulations!

In this article, we'll share what you can expect, how to prepare your home, and how to get in touch with a pet rescue league or shelter.

What Does a Pet Foster Parent Do?

Yeah, what exactly is fostering, anyway?

Fostering means taking care of a pet in your home. You provide the pet with care for a specific amount of time until someone adopts the pet into a fur-ever home. At the very basic level, you give the pet affection, food, and exercise.

Responsibilities that come with fostering a pet:

● Staying in constant communication with the shelter/rescue workers about the pet's behavior.
● Participating in obedience training or adoption events.
● Evaluating potential adopters as to whether they "fit" the pet's personality.
● Transporting the animal to the veterinarian or on-site shelter vet as needed.

Ultimately, you provide pets with socialization opportunities and get to know their personalities. You provide a key part of helping pets find their forever homes.

How to Get Started Fostering a Pet

Take a look at the following steps to learn how to go from just thinking about fostering to offering your time and energy to this huge commitment.

Step 1: Get in contact with a shelter or rescue organization.
Contact your local shelter or rescue organization. Many organizations want you to stay as local as possible so it's handy for the shelter — and for you.

Step 2: Shelters and rescue organizations will work to match your home with the right type of pet. New foster families won't receive a "challenging" pet right away — they will ease you in with a more "laid-back" pet the first time around.

Step 3: Make sure you and the shelter are clear on the goals of fostering and the needs of the specific pet. You'll need to have space in your home and the schedule to accommodate the pet's needs, such as a toileting schedule. Ensure you have the right conditions (for example, if a dog can't tolerate kids, a fostering situation wouldn't make sense if you have twin two-year-old boys).

Ultimately, fostering helps another family find the right pet for their home.

Cost of Fostering

As you might imagine, it's not free to foster. Many organizations pay for the basics: a collar, leash, bowls, crate, and a litter box. You may wonder about paying for medical care. Remember that pet foster parent should not have to pay medical costs, from emergency care to spaying or neutering.

Take a look at these costs to make sure you can provide the financial support necessary to help pets in need. You can deduct expenses if you foster through a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.


In most cases, pet foster parents must buy pet food. Dog food, for example, costs between $20 to $60 per month, or $250 to $700 per year. You may spend on the higher end of the spectrum if you foster a larger dog who has a lot of energy compared to a smaller dog. The amount you spend also depends on the quality of the food you buy.

"Fun" Stuff

Who can resist purchasing a squishy bed or new toys to play with for a new foster pet? You might want to spoil your pet and even splurge for doggie daycare if your new foster pet needs socialization — though note that some pets cannot tolerate being with other animals. Take the shelter's guidance to heart when it comes to what a pet will and will not tolerate!

The bottom line: Don't let a lack of financial resources stop you from fostering, because a shelter will provide you with a few resources. You can also check out these DIY pet toy ideas for free and easy playthings!

Prepare Your Home for a Foster Pet

Before you get started with fostering, take a look around you and even get down on all fours to see what could be dangerous for an animal. Pet-proofing needs to happen before you welcome a pet into your home.

Things like poisonous plants, too-small balls, string, wire, nails, electrical cords, chemicals can lurk everywhere. Look for:

● Kitchens and bathrooms: Medications, cleaners, lotions, chemicals, contents of trash cans, left-open toilet lids
● Living and family rooms: Lamp cords, kids' toys, houseplants, aquariums, and cages for other small animals (like birds)
● Garages: Chemicals, especially antifreeze
● Bedrooms: Cosmetics, accessible items on bedside tables, lamp cords
● Yard: Holes in the fence, dangerous yard equipment

Ready to Foster a Pet?

As a foster parent, you really do commit your time and energy to an animal in need and provide a foster pet a safe, caring environment in which to live. You treat your foster pet almost as the pet was your own.

For that, you've earned a very well-deserved high-five.

Have more questions about pet care, training, breeds, or pet? Find more at Spot’s blogbowl.

Just Adopt? Fetch Your Free Quote!

Written by Melissa Brock, pet parent of a black fur-shedding feline. Melissa is the founder of College Money Tips and a full-time freelance writer and editor. She loves helping families navigate their finances (especially those who own pets!).

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