The Pet Fostering Process: Step by Step

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Learn the process for fostering a pet.

Fostering a pet is a wonderful experience for pets and humans alike. Fostering means opening your heart and home to help a pet in need. By design, foster programs temporarily place pets in loving homes until a permanent home can be found. It’s a vital step in the adoption process and can be incredibly rewarding. However, fostering a pet requires a sincere commitment and every effort must be made to find the best fit to ensure a successful foster placement. 


There are many reasons why fostering a pet may be the right choice for your family.  

1. Fostering a pet is very rewarding.

By fostering a pet, you are providing a temporary home and showing love to an animal in need. In turn, this opens space in shelters for another animal. As a result, you are helping your foster and other animals in need of shelter resources.  

2. You give your foster pet the proper attention & care they need

Some pets may need special attention that a shelter or rescue organization cannot provide. It is well known that many animal shelters are filled beyond capacity, which can unfortunately lead to a lack of resources – including food and medicine – for the animals. By opening your home, you are helping shelter workers be more efficient.  

3. You help prepare your foster pet for adoption

By spending time with a foster, you will be an excellent source of information for prospective adoptive pet parents since you will be familiar with the pet’s behavior and needs. This can be the vital information needed to secure a forever home. You may also be asked to assist with scheduling meet and greets with prospective adoptive pet parents, so make sure to ask how you can help the adoption process.  


Most shelters, rescues and pet adoption organizations have a pet fostering program. Also, many agencies have a foster coordinator that will guide you through the fostering process. For the most part, you will be expected to complete the same steps as an adoption such as submitting an application, participating in a pet foster interview, a home visit, and perhaps a supervised visit to see how the foster pet interacts with the entire family, including any other pets. 

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Each pet rescue or adoption organization will have its own process for approving foster applications. Having the correct information and documentation ready will ensure a smooth pet fostering process. Be sure to have the following available or phone ahead to confirm which documents are required: 

  • Photo ID
  • Proof of residence with your current address
  • If you are renting, a copy of your lease or a letter from your landlord
  • Any documentation or medical records for existing pets
  • Photos of enclosures or spaces where the foster pet will be kept
  • List of references

An interview and home visit are necessary before a pet foster placement. This provides an opportunity for the agency, the foster pet, and the entire foster pet family to get to know each other. Ultimately, the well-being of the pet is the primary concern of the agency and should also be the goal of the foster family. Since the purpose of a pet foster placement is to find the best temporary home for a foster pet until a forever home is identified, foster families should understand the need to assist with the on-going search for a forever home. The agency may also ask you to agree to the agency’s foster parenting rules that are designed to ensure a successful foster placement. 

Just like an adoption, in order for a foster placement to be successful, the agency will want to make sure that the pet foster family and foster home will be able to meet the pet’s needs. That means you should also have an idea of what kind of foster pet is best for your family based on the size of your home, other pets, ages of children and general lifestyle.  

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Once you have received the good news that you have been approved to be a pet foster parent, you will want to make sure that your new family member receives a warm welcome. Even if you already have pets, make sure you have adequate pet supplies for the new addition. Agencies often get donations and may be able to provide some supplies, but you may need to purchase some items in preparation of the foster pet. In addition to providing a loving home, you will be responsible for feeding and maintaining general wellness of your foster. If your foster pet has special medical needs, or in case of a medical emergency, the agency will provide you will instructions and, in most cases, you will not be responsible for the medical costs or medication.  

As with any new member of the household, the entire family including furry members, will have to be patient as the foster gets used to a new environment. Introducing a new dog to your existing dogs, if you are a multi-pet household, can take additional time. Also, if the foster has special needs such as anxiety, there will be a need for everyone to get comfortable with each other. Be patient and soon your foster pet will be part of the family. 

Ideally, a foster placement will continue until a forever home is found. While you technically can return a foster pet for good cause, obviously that is not encouraged because it can be extremely distressing for the pet. That is why every effort must be made to ensure a successful foster placement. While there is not a set duration for a foster placement, your nurturing and care will undoubtedly help the adoption process along. At a minimum, you are providing a temporary loving home for a pet in need. More importantly, you are nurturing a pet that is in need of love and attention.  

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Yes. Perhaps the best reason for a foster placement to “fail” is when the foster family decides to adopt! While that is not necessarily the goal of fostering, it is a welcome outcome. While there may be different reasons for a foster placement to become permanent, one common factor is that the agency and foster parents worked hard to find a good placement in the first place. It’s not surprising that a perfect foster placement becomes a perfect adoption because everyone is looking out for what’s best for the pet.  

Even if you decide not to adopt your foster pet, you are providing a vital service by caring for a pet until a forever home is secured. One common question about pet fostering is whether it is sad to say good-bye when a foster pet finds a forever home? While there is always some sadness in saying good-bye, there is tremendous happiness in knowing you played an important part and one more pet has found a forever home.

If a pet parent does decide to adopt, consider a Pets Best pet insurance policy for unexpected accidents and illnesses. With Pets Best pet insurance pet parents can be better financially prepared for the unexpected.

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