What are ‘Foster Carers’?
A foster carers for pets are people very much like you, people willing to provide temporary accommodation for a homeless cat or dog in their home. Foster carers for pets are generally used to offer temporary homes to cats or dogs who are not well-suited to typical shelter environments, such as kittens or puppies who are too young or small, cats and dogs recovering from illness or surgery, and for elderly or timid pets that would find a shelter environment too stressful. Of course, in some cases it can also be because the rescue centre has simply run out of space! Foster carers enable these pets to stay in a safe and caring environment while the rescue organisation tries to find them permanent homes.
What qualities do Foster Carers need?
Foster carers are normal people, but there are few qualities which are essential. Obviously, you need to be a genuine animal lover with experience of owning pets. You’ll need to be patient, because pets placed with you may be frightened or anxious in their new surroundings, and need a little time to settle and adjust. You’ll need to be understanding and be able to understand what the animals have been through, whether they have been abandoned, mistreated or just got lost. You’ll also need to be able to say goodbye to the pets placed with you, because over the few months that your guest will live with you, you’ll inevitably develop bonds with him or her.
Can I choose what sort of animals I look after?
Of course. Rescue organisations will only ever ask you to look after pets they consider you to be suitable for, and if you say you want to foster cats, they’re unlikely to offer you a grethound instead! If you only want to look after cats, or dogs, there are plenty of dedicated cat or dog rescue centres, so volunteering to help one of them would make sense in the first place. As long as the rescue centre understands your preferences they will invariably try to pair you with the right pet(s).
What does a foster carer need to provide?
Above all, a safe and secure environment for the pets they care for, a willingness to exercise dogs, stimulate and generally love their guests. It helps massively if you have reliable transport to fetch and deliver pets, but you don’t need qualifications, formal training or experience. If you’re inexperienced, rescue centres can be counted on to give you as much help as you need, to help you prepare for your temporary guests.
What about Vets bills?
Obviously it’s worth checking with the rescue organisation in advance, but we’ve not heard of a foster carer being asked to pay the vets bills for pets in their care. In most cases, the rescue organisation will also provide you with things like cat litter, bedding and toys.
Can I be a foster carer if I work?
Rescue organisations will only place a pet with you for foster care if you are a suitable carer. Your working obligations will play a part in that decision, but most foster animals can be left alone in a secure place at home while you’re at work, and high-care animals are normally sent to experienced foster carers who have more free time and are able to give them extra attention.
How does this benefit the pets?
Having a foster carer benefits the cats and dogs you look after in many ways, but just having a secure environment and opportunity to socialise again is a tremendous boon, and it also allows those who’ve been abandoned on the streets to get used to living a domestic setting again.
Every pet rescue centre ‘home vets’ potential carers, which means that they generally only accept foster carers who live in their approximate geographical area. In general, that will mean within a 30-45 minute driving range. Many animal welfare groups have pages explaining their foster carer requirements on their website, so it’s worth browsing the websites of those in your area to see if they are likely to have the sort of animal you would like to foster, and what their terms and procedures are.
The next step to becoming a foster carer is to get in touch with local pet rescues and discuss it with them in person!