Melissa Burgin liked the idea of rescuing a shelter animal, but she wasn't ready to commit. So she opted for the next best thing: fostering a kitty in need of a temporary home. "I figured I could satisfy my desire for a cat--and free her from the pound until she could be adopted," Burgin says.
Her experiment became a passion--to the tune of four foster cats, plus Pippa, the kitten she later adopted.
Waffling over pet ownership? Fostering may be the answer. Some foster animals don't need a permanent home. Their owners may be temporarily unable to care for them due to illness, disaster, or military deployment. Other animals who haven't been around humans or other pets might just need to be socialized before they're ready for a permanent home. Before you sign up, consider:
Your Current Crew
Think about how your own pets might react to a newcomer whose habits are unfamiliar or even aggressive, says Mendi Hill, DVM, chief of staff at Banfield Pet Hospital of North Dallas, TX, who has fostered a few hundred animals herself.
Consider your human family too. Will everyone understand that the pet may be only temporary? And if you have youngsters around, they'll need supervision around animals whose behavioral quirks are unknown.
The Kind Of Pet You Can Handle
Turtles, birds, reptiles, or even pigs might need to stay a few days--or forever.
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"If you've had exotic pets, you'll be an in-demand foster home," says Sara Kent, Petfinder.com's director of shelter outreach.
Hook Up With a Group
"Most animal welfare organizations have foster programs that welcome potential 'parents,' " Kent says. Try petfinder.com to filter fosterees by size, species, and breed.
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Newbies should seek a group like the ASPCA that will help them find compatible pets.
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If the pet is up for adoption, you should have the option of giving him a forever home if he's a good fit.
"We lovingly call these cases 'foster failures'--one of the few times when failing is a great thing!" Kent says.