The ultimate guide to fostering pets

Can’t commit to a lifelong pet just yet? Maybe short term fostering is for you.

Got a lot of love and time to give a dog (or kitty, bunny or bird), but also love to travel? Maybe you know your living situation is set to change and the timing is not right for a lifelong commitment, but you miss having a pet? Short-term fostering may offer a solution for you – and rescue animals in need.

One of the most important parts of becoming a pet owner is deciding if you can make the lifelong commitment – many companion animals can live for 15 or 16 years, and they come with many responsibilities and ongoing (and sometimes unplanned) expenses.

Many responsible pet lovers will decide the time is not right for them to take on this commitment, at the same time, missing the companionship they provide. It’s the right choice for all involved, but it can be a sad one for animal lovers.

But what if there was a way to spend time with animals on a short-term basis? There’s plenty of catches, but potentially a lot of bonuses (and snuggles).

Short-term fostering

With many rescue centres busting at the seams, short-term foster carers are in great demand.
The time frame varies from rescue to rescue, and from animal to animal, but by getting in touch and registering your interest and what you have to offer (you will go through a thorough screening process) in terms of time, space and any special caring skills, you may be able to bring a pet into your home on a temporary basis.

Some animals are high need and will require 24/7 care and supervision – for example, expecting mamas and the ten or so weeks that follow the birth so they can care for their litter. Others may be deteriorating in the shelter environment and need to be placed with someone that has a solid grasp of training and is home often throughout the day. Some may need medicines administered and to be taken along to appointments – the cost of their care is covered by the shelter. While there are some that just need a little love and attention while they wait for a suitable forever home to come along.

Refuges will usually provide on-going support via visits and phone calls as required.

Fostering really does help

If it's not enough that you get to enjoy the company of a furry pal, you're also doing a lot of good for that animal.

Fostering gives animals the opportunity to assimilate into different home environments and learn the basics of becoming a pet, says Dianne Dumanovic of Greyhound Adoption Program SA (GAPSA).

“We provide all the essentials to make fostering easy for the families, including contact, support and supplies.  And for the greyhounds, they have check-ins with the GAP foster team to make sure they are learning and growing with the family and getting ready for being fostered out,” she says.

Their ‘You.  Me.  6 Weeks’ campaign is incredibly popular and successful – placing a greyhound in their foster home for a six-week period before they get matched with their perfect adoptive home.

Some take up the opportunity just to work with a greyhound, while others use it as an opportunity to integrate a furry family member into their homes. “Others want to trial living and joining their families with a greyhound.  It’s short enough to be easy, but long enough to give everyone a life-long experience and moment,” says Dumanovic.

“We are always on the look-out for new foster families - people who live in apartments, or with cats, or with smaller dogs – any new experience we can share with the greyhounds to get them ready and homeward bound for their forever family,” she says.

Want to give it a try?

There’s a few things you’ll need to think about before you embark on your pet-fostering journey.

Have a think about how much money you can budget for the pet (generally costs are covered, but some smaller organisations may need you to pay for some items – for example, food), how much time your household has, and do you have other pets. Also give thought to what type of animal will fit into your household and lifestyle (you can foster a wide range of creatures beyond cats and dogs). Pet rescue can help you locate foster organisations in your local area, or you can search for those in remote areas that are covered for travel – these are usually through bigger organisations including the RSCPA and SAFE. Your local vets often have contact details for local shelters and can help with your search.

Prepare to fill in a detailed application, and go through an interviewing process. Once accepted, start checking in and await your temporary household member.

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