What it Means to Foster a Dog or Cat
Springtime is in full session, and you know what that means… kittens and puppies are EVERYWHERE! With Covid-19, things this year are a little tougher for animal shelters. Many places that could take in overflow are closed, and foster parents are needed now more than ever. Memphis Pets Alive! is a local organization that is taking in many of these animals, and they could use your help! There are so many reason to foster a dog or cat, especially if you want a pet but can’t commit long-term right now. It can also be a great litmus test to see if your family is ready for a pet, or if you should wait a little longer. Plus, who doesn’t want a new friend to socialize with right now? If you’ve never fostered an animal before, you’re probably wondering what is expected of you. As long as you do your research, you shouldn’t have too many surprises and you can feel confident in your abilities.
The most important aspect of fostering is providing a safe environment for your dog or cat. Cats need a litter box (preferably one per cat, plus one extra), a food dish, and a water dish. If you’re able to provide a water fountain, that’s even better! Cats are picky about their water, and they can be prone to dehydration. They prefer fresh, flowing water, so make sure you keep the water clean. The cat will likely be a little nervous at first (and perhaps the whole time) so make sure you set up a quiet, secluded area where they can feel safe.
Dogs, on the other hand, are usually a bit more outgoing. While you should certainly monitor them and provide a secluded area if they seem anxious, they may be more comfortable sitting with you on the couch or sleeping in your bed. If you don’t prefer the extra cuddles, provide a soft dog bed and a blanket. They will need food and water dishes as well, and usually they are not picky about the presentation or brand. You’ll be responsible for their potty time, so if you don’t have a large fenced-in yard, you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of time throughout the day to walk them around the neighborhood. As a foster parent you should never leave a dog outside for extended periods of time, especially in the summer or winter. You are responsible for making them feel safe and welcome!
When fostering a cat or dog, you will be expected to provide enrichment to their lives. For cats, you’ll want to provide a scratch post, toys, and plenty of room to run around and exercise. A few toys you should consider are feather wands, balls with bells in the middle, and stuffed mice. Set some time aside each day to play and socialize with the cat. Dogs are needier when it comes to enrichment. Active dogs often want to play all day, so you should provide plenty of toys and time for play. Chew toys, bones, tennis balls, and stuffed animals are just a few of the many varieties of toys you can choose. Always be there to supervise during play to make sure they don’t swallow pieces of toys or bones. Dogs are very social, so you should walk them daily and give them plenty of attention throughout the day. If they are well-behaved, don’t be afraid to take them out to a patio or park. You could even find their future fur-ever home out there!
When you agree to foster a dog or cat, you agree to keep them safe and healthy. While this seems like a no-brainer, it comes with many different responsibilities. You should have a plan in place before you foster. Find an animal hospital near you and have their information nearby at all times. You need to have reliable transportation to and from the vet for any necessary appointments or emergencies. Pet-proof your house before the initial pick up. Hide any wires that kittens may be tempted to chew, put away any small toys that could be a choking hazard, and keep food out of paws reach. Imagine there is a two-year-old running free in your house after eating five cookies, and remove anything that you think could be hazardous. You’ll have to keep an eye on the animals as they settle in, because they truly can turn anything into a mess. Fostering is fun and extremely helpful, but you are responsible for a life. Make sure you are prepared for that!
If you mentally and physically prepare to foster a dog or cat, you’ll have a blast with your new temporary companion. Take lots of pictures and write down notes about their behaviors, as it will be important in finding the best possible family for them. Above all else, have fun and spend as much time as you can loving on your new friend, and know that you are making a difference.