I’ve been a foster caregiver for dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens over the years. And often, when I discuss my experiences, I hear, “Oh, I’d foster pets, but I could never give them back…”
We love our pets, and we want that love to last forever. So I understand why “giving up” a foster pet (who is often adorable and snuggly) seems difficult.
But did you know that foster care can mean the difference between life and death for a pet? Without a foster home, some animals face euthanasia.
Their cuteness is not the problem
I recently fostered two seven-week-old pit bull mix puppies who were just too small and young to be placed up for adoption quite yet. That was the only thing holding them back.
Cute does not begin to describe them: they were chubby, roly-poly, sweet-faced, wiggly little munchkins with paws too big for their bodies and tails that never stopped wagging… and the puppy breath, my goodness, the puppy breath. They had been in another foster home for a while, but for whatever reason, needed a new place to crash temporarily.
When I brought them home, my husband took one look at them and thought I was trying to pull one over on him. He couldn’t understand why they hadn’t been immediately adopted out. I mean, look at them.
Too young = in danger
What he didn’t know was that the pups were just too young to survive in a shelter. All they needed was about a week before their vaccines (would start) to protect them and their immune systems would become strong enough to be placed in the adoption wing of the shelter.
When I explained this to my husband, he naturally wondered what would’ve happened to them if they didn’t have a foster home to go to.
I told him that puppies and kittens less than eight weeks old are generally considered ”high-risk” in shelters. This is simply because they’re extremely susceptible to disease (they’re babies!). Because of sheer numbers in spring and summer (especially if they are without their mothers and need frequent bottle-feeding) animal agencies may not have the resources to care for them. Without a foster home, they’re often euthanized to prevent them from getting sick and suffering.
Give a week to save a life
My husband’s reaction really stuck with me: “Are you serious?” he asked. “That’s insane – if you want to recruit more foster parents, you need to tell people this.” He simply could not believe that these babies would not have made it without a foster home.
His response told me something critical: most people don’t know how desperately animal agencies need pet foster parents. In addition to the wonderful adult animals waiting to be fostered or adopted all year ‘round, every spring and summer they see a massive influx of puppies and kittens (especially kittens), many of whom are underage and won’t ever make it out.
You get some love; they get to live
You have the ability to save lives by fostering pets. If you have a spare bathroom or a guest room, you have a great temporary place for one or two (or a litter) of puppies or kittens to grow strong. Got a little more room? Why not foster an adult animal and free up a space in the shelter for another to stay while waiting for a forever home?
And yes, of course it’s a little sad for you when your foster returns to the shelter for adoption, or when you meet that family coming to take him home, but really, isn’t it worth it? If that little bit of sadness for you saves his life, that’s a little heartbreak worth having.
If it helps, instead of thinking about what you’ll lose, try thinking about what you’ll gain: you get to love them forever. And they get to live.
You can inspire others to save lives. Share your experience or show your support by sharing this badge with your friends. These pups have since found their forever home, but many more need your help. Contact your local shelter today to volunteer to foster a pet.