Fostering an Animal: What to Expect

So, I’m assuming you’re either considering fostering an animal OR just took home your first foster pet and started to freak out on the inside. No fear! I’m here to guide you along the way. I was in the same position a little over a month ago, bringing home my first foster cat, Melina, and feeling excited, nervous, happy and anxious all at once. I had never owned a pet on my own up until then, so it was overwhelming to take on a large commitment on top of school and work. However, I knew it was something I really wanted to do. I have learned a lot through this process, so I thought I would break it down and share my insights with you!


Luckily for me, I don’t have to pay a penny to take care of Melina. The shelter I foster her from, Paws and Prayers Rescue, thankfully provides me with litter, food, toys and pays the vet expenses. Many shelters offer this option for both cats and dogs, so it makes it easier on the foster’s end if they want to help but are restricted to a tight budget like my college-student self. I never realized this was a perk of fostering until I began applying at different shelters. It definitely made the decision to foster much easier!

House Prep

My fostering process moved fairly quick. The first time I went to the shelter I was bringing home my first foster cat the same day. I hadn’t prepared my house much that day, but as I make my way back to my apartment holding a kitten in my hands, I wish I had. I quickly learned Melina is a frisky one, running around and playing with anything she can get her paws on. Letting an animal into your home can be intimidating, especially the first few days when you’re getting to know their personality while they’re adjusting to the new environment. Some tips I wished I had known before letting my cat roam were:

  • Keep them in a common space for the first few days – Keep the doors closed to bedrooms, basements, offices, etc. Basically, anywhere you can’t keep watch on your foster pet the first few days keep blocked off. I failed to do this and spent a good amount of time trying to catch energetic and exploring Melina around my apartment and digging her out from under furniture.

    Melina's ripped up toilet paper masterpiece due to my lack of cat-proofing
    Melina’s masterpiece she created after I failed to keep tempting items out of her reach
  • Avoid having small items laying around that your pet may come in contact with. My rule of thumb is, anything you wouldn’t have available for a toddler, don’t have it available for a pet (pencils, caps, USB’s, laundry pods, Q-tips, chargers, etc.)
  • Keep food high up and out of reach for eager, hungry puppies, especially these foods!
  • Keep food and litter separate for cats – if they’re too close it could affect their diet.
  • For cats: Cover up the arms of your furniture/couches until you understand your cats scratching habits. The first few days Melina would scratch the carpet and couch, so I got her a scratchboard and she stopped. (Which I HIGHLY recommend getting by the way.)

For some other great tips that apply to both cats and dogs, watch the video below by Mowhawk flooring or visit this Petfinder article on preparing to foster a pet. 


Committing to a foster pet is a big responsibility, even sometimes a bigger responsibility than owning a pet yourself. Many of the animals are in foster because they’re not available for adoption yet, usually meaning they still have more procedures/shots to get through until they can be adopted.  On top of the daily tasks of feeding, walking, playing and litter/yard cleaning, you’ll be responsible for keeping your pet updated on their shots, possibly spaying/neutering them, socializing them and also taking them to adoption events.

For example, Melina still needed to be spayed and get two more shots before she was available for adoption. I took my free time in between classes and work to get to and from her appointments as well as keep an eye on her after surgery to make sure she was healing okay, not licking or ripping the stitches and simply eating, drinking and acting normal. Then, I took her to an adoption event that Saturday, everything falling within the same week. Adoption events are crucial to go to in order to get more exposure for your foster pet and many shelters have a quota for you to hit each month. Luckily for me, I only need to go once a month. All these factors should be strongly considered before you take in a foster pet, you’ll be responsible for keeping them healthy and expected to get them treatment should they become ill. You could be with a foster pet for a week or several months, it all depends on how fast they get adopted.



This is what I was most worried about when starting the fostering process and is honestly still something that I’m learning how to deal with. It’s a no-brainer that after sharing your home for weeks with a furry friend that you’ll grow attached. You’ll learn their silly habits and they will bond with you and grow comfortable in your home.

A picture of my foster cat, Melina
My foster cat Melina

Eventually, the day will come where you will have to say goodbye and adopt them out to another loving family. It’s okay to be sad! It’s going to be a hard process letting go if you really bonded with your foster pet, so give yourself time to recoup. The main point you need to remember is that you’re doing the right thing. Not only will you be giving your pet a forever home, but you’re now available to take in another foster pet. It’s a very rewarding and emotional process, so enjoy the ride and know that it all for a good cause. Feel like you need some extra help when separating? Read PetFinder’s tips for saying Goodbye to your foster. This article specifically talks about dogs, but it applies to any foster pet!

Stay tuned for more creature posts to come!





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