Being a foster family for animals is a bit like being a foster family for children. You take in an animal (a dog, a cat, a rodent) who has had a difficult life, and/or was abandoned, and you keep the pet, take care of him until he finds a new home.
While the animal is waiting to find new owners, he will be looked after by a foster family whose missions are: take care of the animal, in certain cases socialise him, to help him regain his confidence in humans. Sadly, many animals were mistreated before arriving in foster care.
We can feel hopeless when faced with such personal investment coming from charities that we ask ourselves, how can we help all the animals in need in the UK? Becoming a foster family can make all the difference, because it changes the life of an animal, by avoiding euthanasia and by participating in the transition to his new life, within his future family.
Why become a foster family for an animal?
As lockdown rules have been lifted, rescue centres are under pressure because many people are abandoning their pets they had adopted during the Covid-19 crisis. Charities feared this would happen. They are oversaturated and need our help! By becoming a foster family, you’ll be taking an animal under your wing and you'll be making room for other animals in shelters. You would also be relieving the teams who take care of the animals on site.
Becoming a foster family for a dog or cat will be a great way to help your favourite charity or rescue centre.
In the event that you don't want to adopt a pet for one reason or another, but you have the time and energy to devote to a pet for several months, becoming a foster family can be a great option.
How to become a foster family for a dog or cat?
If you wish to become a foster family, you will need to get in contact with a rescue centre or a charity. It is them who come to the aid of abandoned animals but, because not all rescue centres have structures to welcome animals, they rely on the generosity of families to take care of the animal while they are waiting for their new homes.
Shelters also prefer to entrust some of the animals taken into foster care: the eldest or sick dogs and cats, for example, who can’t live in a shelter.
Nevertheless, it is important to find a trustworthy charity. For that, it is necessary that you inform yourself as much as possible by looking for information on the Internet, asking around. Also, it’s very important to meet the charities and rescue centres as well as the foster families.
What are the responsibilities for the foster family?
If you are under 18, you will, of course, need the consent of your parents. This also applies if the animal is accommodated in the parental home.
The necessary environment to accommodate an animal
Make sure you have enough equipment for the animal you are welcoming: food and water bowl, leash, toys, bed, poo bags, litter box (if you are welcoming a cat). In some cases, the charity can provide with what you need, but you have to find out beforehand to make sure that the animal you are welcoming will have everything it needs to be comfortable.
If you live in a small studio, for example, it might be more appropriate to accommodate a rodent that lives in a cage or a cat, rather than a large dog that needs to let off steam with a lot of walks.
As a foster family, time must be given to the animal
The question of availability arises: are you a student, at work for more than 8 hours a day, without a job? It is certain that your availability has a great importance on your ability to become a foster family: if there is no one in your home for several hours a day, you will not be able to welcome all types of animals.
We will have to arm ourselves with patience
When an abandoned animal arrives at your home, it could happen that it will not be educated. This means that you may encounter more or less serious behavioural disorders such as aggression, destruction, fear, pooping or urinating in the house, etc.
Also, you can define the species and the profile of the animals you want to welcome according to your situation and your experience. It will be important to share your expectations and abilities by talking to your contact at the centre, so that the experience goes well for you and for your little one.
Often, when an adoptive family is found, it is very difficult to part with an animal that has been fostered for a while. But the game is worth the candle: you will have saved two lives! The animal you’ve welcomed in your home, as well as another dog’s or cat’s life that will have found a place at the shelter.
Who pays for the care and maintenance of the animal?
Being a foster family for animals is a purely voluntary act, you have to give your time... and sometimes your money. While most charities undertake to cover veterinary and food costs, it sometimes happens that the foster family pays for the animal’s food.
Despite these drawbacks, most foster families are happy to feel genuinely useful for the animal cause, and the satisfaction of seeing a previously abandoned animal find a new family is worth all the rewards.
If you are sure you can invest yourself fully in welcoming an animal into your home, go for it! You will help an animal in need, and you will have the immense joy of helping it prepare to join its future family.