How to Be an Animal Foster Parent—Because Now Is the Best Time to Get a Four-Legged Companion

Photo: Stocksy / Eldad Carin
Now that we're all more time at home with limited human contact, you may be in need of a companion. Not everyone has the time to dedicate to pet ownership, but, with everyone spending more time at home, it might be the perfect time to foster an animal.

"Only a few weeks ago, many people may have felt they didn’t have the time, or weren’t home enough to foster or adopt a pet," says Nichole Dandrea, public relations specialist at Best Friends Animal Society. "But for people who are now working remotely from home, it seems there’s no better time to welcome a four-legged friend into the home."

Not only are you giving an animal a much-needed home, you're also getting a furry friend. "For many people who are working remotely from home for the first time, it may be difficult to adjust to the isolation," says Dandrea. "Pets bring comfort, joy and love during a time when there is a lot of fear and uncertainty." Studies have found that having a pet can make feel happier and more secure, and encourages healthy habits like eating better and getting regular exercise.

Dandrea says given the current health crisis, the need for animal foster parents has never been greater or more urgent. Shelters are currently limiting intake, operating with limited or no volunteers, and maintaining essential operations while keeping staff safe and healthy, she says.

"Animal shelters and rescues are bracing themselves for the possibility of increased intake, fewer adoptions, fewer foster homes, and the possibility of no space," says Dandrea. "Individuals can reduce the impact on our local shelters by reaching out to foster or donate to support the animals in our community."

If you're interested, here's how to be an animal foster parent and what you can expect.

How to be an animal foster parent

Where do I start?

Find the animal welfare organizations near you, and reach out. You can find local shelters in the Best Friends network, or search online for shelters near you.

"Contact the shelters directly and check their website and Facebook page for the latest info on their latest needs," she says. "Whether you can foster, help to drive a transport, or donate, there are many ways you can help."

Many organizations require you to fill out an application, so reach out to ask about the current requirements.

What is the financial commitment?

In most cases, fostering an animal is free. "Most organizations provide food, supplies, medication and veterinary care during the foster stay," says Dandrea. "You only need to provide a home and love."

How long do you foster the animal? 

The timelines vary, but given the current health climate, Dandrea says many organizations are looking for people who can foster an animal at least until the pandemic slows down.

"We encourage our fosters to share their foster pets with friends, family, on social media and in community groups to help give them exposure and hopefully adopted," she says. "And, of course, the best-case scenario is that the foster family falls in love and adopts. Adopting obviously gives that pet a permanent home, while also opening space for another homeless pet."

How much work is involved?

That all depends on the type of animal you get, and its age.

"While many people love puppies, adult and senior dogs are often less maintenance. They are often calmer, quieter and require fewer potty breaks than puppies," she says. "Seniors especially just want a place to crash and may require only a short walk 2-3 times a day. Puppies need to go out more often, every few hours, and may need extra playtime, which could be fun for kids while teaching them how to care for a pet."

Kittens and cats are much more independent, she says. "Some cats require very little attention while others enjoy helping you work—that is, sitting on your computer—or hanging by your side while you watch television," she says. "If you’re looking for continuous entertainment, consider fostering kittens. They do best in pairs and typically enjoy entertaining themselves."

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