Why I Foster: The Benefits of Fostering a Homeless Cat or Dog for Nonprofit Animal Rescues

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My only “foster fail” that we fostered for several months and then adopted in 2014.

When people learn I’ve been fostering adoptable cats and dogs for various rescues for nearly a decade, they often ask me, “How can you stand to see them go once they get adopted? Don’t you get attached?”

The short answer is “yes” and “no.” Yes, I have fallen in love with each and every animal I’ve fostered over the years, but the reward of knowing they have found their forever home in order for rescues to free up space and save more lives… that’s what makes it all worth it.

I always try to encourage others to foster if they are not in a position to adopt. However, the roadblock people often reach is the fear of becoming too attached and having to say goodbye. My advice is that you’re not saying goodbye, you’re saying good luck in your new home! Foster homes merely act as temporary housing in between homeless animals being at a rescue facility to eventually finding their new home. By being a foster, you are allowing a rescue to free up space to save one more homeless pet from situations like being at a high-kill shelter or abandoned on the streets. The greater good far outweighs any attachment you may develop towards that animal in need.

Another great thing about fostering is that if it doesn’t work out (let’s say for example, your foster dog doesn’t get along with your other pets, or your foster cat has some behavioral issues that need to be corrected) you can return that foster animal to the rescue. In all my years of fostering, I’ve only had that happen once, but the rescue organization wants what’s best not only for the animal, but for you as well. If it doesn’t work out, try again and the rescue will try to pair you with a more suitable adoptable animal that fits better with your home environment.

By fostering for a nonprofit rescue organization, you also get the benefit of the rescue providing veterinary care as needed as well as any pet supplies you may need. If you need any beds, food bowls, toys, leashes, or wet and dry food, chances are the rescue you volunteer for will be able to supply you with some of those items free of charge since they rely heavily on donations. All you need to do is ask! Before you foster simply inquire what resources the organization will be able to provide you with in order to make your foster animal more comfortable.

One of the best ways to trick your brain is this: Tell yourself you are merely pet-sitting! The cat or dog you are fostering is not yours, but is simply awaiting their “person” to scoop them up and adopt them into a loving, permanent home. I always try to look towards the future and not stay in the moment with that rescue animal to keep myself from getting attached. It is my duty as a foster to provide temporary housing, food, toys, a warm bed, and safety until they get adopted out. By fostering an animal in my home environment, I am, in turn helping the rescue organization an opportunity to save more lives!

Now, what happens if you’ve bonded with your foster cat or dog so much that you just can’t bear to say goodbye? Odds are that the rescue organization will give you the option to adopt! That’s what happened to me in 2014. My one and only “foster fail” is my beloved black Manx, named Mookey. I fell in love with Mookey almost immediately and in turn he was glued to my hip since day one. My rescue contact kept encouraging me to adopt him because she could just tell that I was his person. I was hesitant at first because we already had a full house with two dogs and one cat, but after fostering him for several months with no prospective adopters, I just knew I couldn’t stand to see him go. He is the sweetest boy. Mookey still curls up with me in bed every night and loves our special lap time on the couch. He had truly “picked his person” and I love him unconditionally in return. I adopted Mookey that same year and he has been a part of our family ever since.

I see my home as a revolving door for homeless cats and dogs searching for good homes. I welcome them with open arms, but I am always relieved when they leave because they have found their family. It is truly one of the most rewarding feelings you can ever have in your heart and I encourage everyone to give fostering a try if you are able to. If you are unable to foster or adopt, keep in mind there are many other ways to volunteer and donate to your local rescues and shelters. Unable to donate or volunteer? You can be an advocate for animal organizations on social media by liking their page, sharing their content, as well as liking and commenting on their posts. We are the voice for homeless animals and they can’t do it without us.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities with our partner rescue, Paws for Seniors, email volunteer(at)pawsforseniors.org for more information or visit www.pawsforseniors.org.

To find a rescue or shelter organization in your area or to search for adoptable pets, please visit Petfinder at www.petfinder.com.

Kristen Reynolds is the founder and owner of Catfe Diem, a cat cafe and record store coming soon to Centreville, Virginia. Catfe Diem’s mission is to keep cats out of cages while providing a space for humans to interact with adoptable cats while they telework, relax, shop, and enjoy bottomless coffee with admission. You can help by donating to Catfe Diem’s GoFundMe page and following them on Facebook and Instagram.