After spending a year travelling the world and witnessing some heartwrenching sights of sick and injured animals (who had no chance at veterinary care or a loving home), I returned home desperate to snuggle our fluffball of a cat, Charlie.
But I couldn't forget what I saw, and wanted to make an even bigger difference to the lives of animals.
I just didn't know how, until I remembered both my brother and sister had opened their homes to care for pets through foster organisations. It seemed like a worthwhile activity I could definitely do to help. And it's something you can do too.
It doesn't matter what your circumstances are — a big family, a single parent family or a single person. All that matters is you're willing and able to care for a pet. Without foster carers, cats, kittens, dogs, puppies and other animals are simply put down without much of a chance. Even whole litters of kittens can be discarded, along with their mother.
Foster organisations have a no-kill policy, but in order to help more pets, they need more foster homes.
Why Your Family Should Foster A Pet (Or Two)
Here are 10 reasons why your family should consider fostering a pet… or two… or more:
#1: You Get To Help Save A Pet From Death Row
This has to be the single, biggest reason why fostering an animal is so important and rewarding.
Despite government funding and big fundraising drives, many large and well known animal shelters have high kill rates.
Thankfully, no-kill organisations are popping up everywhere, helping animals to have a second chance at life – and a loving home.
Around 900 Australian foster organisations and shelters use the Pet Rescue website to help abandoned pets find a home.
#2: You Can Try Before You Buy
If you're thinking about getting a pet (permanently), fostering is a great insight into what life might be like, so it can help you to make a decision.
If you adore animals and have lots of love to give, but are unsure if you want a pet on a permanent and long term basis, fostering is a great option. Especially if your children are nagging you to get a pet — it helps introduce them to what is involved.
You may even decide to adopt one of your foster pets – sometimes you just can't help falling in love. And as they say, don't shop… adopt!
#3: It's Temporary, So There's No Long Term Committment
Love the idea of having pets, but can't offer a long term committment? Fostering might be a perfect solution for you. Some people travel, or plan to in future. But don't underestimate what you can do – even a short term home can mean the difference between life and death.
Animals are often saved from a shelter at the 11th hour. A quick stay in your home while a longer term foster carer or adoption is arranged can make all the difference. You can stop fostering at any time, if your circumstances change.
#4: Children Learn About The Importance Of Volunteer Work
One of the most important life experiences I belive we need to offer our children is volunteer work – doing something for the benefit of others, without expecting anything in return.
Not only is the act of fostering a volunteer situation, but foster organisations rely on critical fundraising to help pay for expenses, especially those sky high vet bills.
Foster organisations tend to hold sausage sizzles, adoption days or other fundraising events, requiring help from volunteers. Getting older children involved (if possible) is a great way to teach a priceless gift.
#5: Your Children Learn About Caring For Pets
This is another wonderful gift you can give to your children – learning about responsibility and what care and effort is required when committing to a pet.
If your children are old enough, you can teach them how to feed and groom your foster pet(s).
It also teaches them about unconditional love, compassion, patience and trust.
It's important to adequately prepare them for letting go though – pets will come and go. Sometimes a foster may stay for only a week or two, and sometimes it may be a few months or more.
#6: Pets Are Matched To Your Circumstances
It's important to place these vulnerable animals into suitable homes, in order to achieve the best outcome.
Foster organisations will take a look at your application form and match a pet to your family. For example, if you have a toddler, they may not place a big, excitable dog with you. Or if a pet has shown fear or anxiety with other pets, they will seek a home with no other pets.
Everyone wants the foster to work out for as long as required, so they will do their best to make sure it's a match.
#7: You Can Specify What You're Willing To Accept Or Not
Only want to foster small dogs? Easy, you can let your foster organisation know. Usually they ask these questions on their application forms.
Of course, you can't be too fussy and only want to take on cute kittens, or you may find yourself without any offers. And remember, just like human babies, it isn't all cuddles and fun 24×7. Baby animals poop (a lot!), eat more frequently than adult cats and can be cheeky at times too. But this is all part of the foster process.
There are lots of specific foster groups who rescue certain breeds of animals too. For example, some groups only rescue chiuahuas, bulldogs or burmese cats.
#8: Money From Adopted Pets Goes Back Into Saving More Pets
With every animal that is adopted from a no-kill shelter or organisation, the adoption fees go right back into saving more animals, instead of paying corporate pay cheques or putting animals down. The more animals going into foster care, the more money can be made from adoptions, allowing no-kill organisations to keep running and even grow.
Older pets can be especially expensive to rehome. They need to be priced low to encourage adoption, compared to the more popular baby animals. But they often require expensive vet work in order to be ready for adoption. Samantha McKernan from Maneki Neko Cat Rescue says,
“An 8 year old cat is likely to cost us between $200-$800. We would generally do a blood test on a cat of this age to check kidney function and others things. Most cats this age will need dental at a cost of around $400, more if there are extractions to be done.”
This is why fundraising is so critical.
#9: Healthcare Costs Are Covered
Medical care can be expensive for pets. But when you foster, you wont need to worry about epensive vet bills — they will all be covered by the foster organisation. Just make sure you use their affiliated veterinarians, unless it's an emergency and you have spoken to the organisation.
Of course, any costs you're able to cover helps the organisation to help more pets. They are not for profit organisations, and vet bills are their biggest expense. Just one operation can cost around $1,500, and like anything, there are no guarantees. However, you don't have to worry about such expenses, which may offer you peace of mind.
Expect to pay for food, kitty litter if you have a cat, and any toys and bedding you'd like to buy. Often generous donations are regularly made to foster organisations, including toys, bedding, food, kitty litter and more, so they get divided up amongst foster carers.
#10: You Are Fully Supported By Your Organisation, When You Need It
Many groups have private Facebook pages for their foster carers, and communication is fantastic. Everyone is there to support one another, be it for advice, helping with transporting pets and sharing experiences.
If you need someone to help while you're out of town for a few days or a week, sometimes other foster carers can step in and help. Many groups offer a well supported set-up for foster carers, full of people who have come together with a common interest of saving the lives of animals who desperately need a roof over their heads, and a bit of love.
Be prepared that you may end up being a FF – a foster fail! It happens. When you foster so many beautiful animals, sometimes you fall in love and want to keep one… or two. But it's the best thing you could ever possibly fail at.
Fostering is SO rewarding. When that frightened pet finally trusts you. When they decide to snuggle on the couch with you. When your children giggle with delight playing with them. When the pet's forever home finally comes along and you see a wonderful match between pet and owner.
Even if you decide fostering is not for you, consider donating to these organisations so more lives are spared. Many are registered charities, meaning donations of over $2 are tax deductible.
To give you a visual, here are some pictures of our first two ever foster pets – they left a mark in our heart and we'll never forget them.
Susie (8 years old)
Want To Find A Foster Organisation Near You?
Awesome! If you're in Australia, contact PetRescue and they can let you know which foster organisations are in your area.