Many years ago, I was pet-less for several years during a time when I worked long hours while establishing my career. I eventually moved in with a roommate who had a couple of cats. During that year, I realized that I did have the time and energy to welcome a cat or cats back into my life full-time and moved forward with a pet adoption when my roommate moved. You don't need to move in with someone with a cat or a dog to test the waters either.
If you’ve been debating adopting a pet, there is a very good way to find out if you’re ready before making that long-term commitment – fostering. By fostering, you are offering a short-term home for dogs and cats that are waiting for a home through rescues before moving onto a pet adoption.
Shelters also use fosters for socializing kittens and puppies or while they are waiting for space to open on the adoption floor for older, recently rescued pets or pets overwhelmed in a shelter environment. Although some pets have come from difficult circumstances and need experienced homes, many dogs and cats settle in quickly and just need a loving temporary place to stay until their true forever family find them.
By stepping up, you not only find out what type of pet may be a good fit, you save a life while a dog or a cat may be waiting for a family. Some fosters are needed for a matter of days or weeks and others may need to offer a more long-term commitment. Here are some examples when fostering first is a great idea whether you're considering pet adoption or not.
Kittens and puppies – Kittens and puppies are cute and cuddly, but also take a lot of work to be properly trained and socialized. If you’ve never had a puppy or kitten before, or it’s been years since you’ve had young pets in the home, fostering is a good start. Most puppies and kittens find a home relatively quickly. So, if puppy destruction or kitten mayhem is too much, you’ll be dealing with that for several weeks instead of months.
Young or old – Fosters are needed for pets of all ages. Be honest with a rescue about your experience, energy level and time commitment. There are many senior pets that are ready to settle in and some younger pets that need more training and about every type of pet – cat and dog – in between.
Work and travel schedule – If you have certain times of year when you’re on the road more than home or working very long hours, consider fostering during your slow time. One friend of mine volunteers to foster during her slow four months on her job because she realizes that she’s gone far too many hours for a permanent commitment.
Adding more pets – Some pets are very territorial. If you’re not sure if your current pet would be accepting to additional pets of the same or another species, fostering is a wonderful idea. I have volunteered with several people who found out through fostering that their cats were indeed very dog friendly and now have mixed households. Others have found through fostering, before making a permanent commitment, that their pet needs to be the king of the castle before moving onto a pet adoption.
Getting a feel for the breed – You don’t really know how in love you are with any breed until you finally live with them 24/7. If you foster Chihuahuas, Beagles, Jack Russell Terriers or other breeds known for specific behavior, you’ll have a better idea how they fit with your lifestyle and living conditions.
There are many foster-based rescues and shelters that need fosters in the Chicago-area. Do your homework and find an organization you feel comfortable with and have confidence that they will help you as you settle in to fostering. The rescue or shelter should provide you with certain resources – like counseling, veterinary care and some supplies – and also help you with a plan of action on training and care of that pet. And, if you fall in love with your foster pet, you can adopt him or her - foster failures just rock!
To subscribe to my feed, type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.
The pets featured in this story are from Lulu's Locker Rescue, the Blackdog All Breed Rescue in Glenview and the Chicago Cat Rescue. Go to their websites to learn about fostering, adopting or volunteering.