It helps the animal's chances of becoming adopted with their forever family.

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One of the ways to help transition animals from the shelter is by providing a temporary home for the cat or dog prior to adoption. Animals get regular medical care while they recover from illness or injury and are rehabilitated to eventually go to an adoptive home. "Fostering animals is an absolutely beautiful experience for the foster parent and for the animal," says Sara Tiedeman who has fostered 126 cats and counting. "Caring for an animal in such a time of need brings such incredible joy and a wonderful sense of purpose."

If you feel you'd make a good candidate, here's how to become a pet foster parent.

What to Expect When You Apply

You can become a foster for animals by contacting your local animal shelter or rescue. "These organizations will provide you with all of the supplies and education you need to be a successful caregiver and start saving lives," says Tiedeman. Once you sign up and pass any background checks, you may receive additional training. You can choose to foster dogs, cats, or other animals like birds, ducks, or goats, depending on your housing situation and availability.

As a foster parent, you will be responsible for meeting the care needs of the animal you take in. That means providing adequate food, shelter, flexibility of schedule, and companionship. Many of your supplies—food bowls, litter box, leash, and so on—will be handled by the rescue, meaning that they will provide you with everything that the animal needs.

woman feeding four cats
Credit: Tang Ming Tung / Getty Images

According to the Humane Society, cat and kitten fosters are in high demand. Foster cats need to be isolated from your personal pets in the beginning, especially if they are territorial at first, and mother cats and kittens need a secure place for nursing. Dogs, on the other hand, may require a fenced-in yard and may benefit from basic obedience training. If you have pets of your own, they will need to be up to date on their vaccinations as well before you can take on any animals to foster.

Why You Should Take on the Role

Fostering animals is both rewarding and challenging. After all, what happens if a sick animal doesn't make it despite all of the medical treatment and care you provided? And it can be hard to say goodbye when it's time to find a new home for the animal. Tiedeman understands this bittersweet sentiment, but urges foster parents to find comfort in the bigger picture. "For me, embracing the role as an animal foster parent means everything. By giving these animals just a few weeks of love and care, I am able to change their future," she says. "I am able to assist in providing them a safe home, health care, constant food, and most importantly, a family to shower them with love. Fostering means everything to these animals—it means they get to live!"

When you foster animals you help to improve their quality of life. Shelters in your community become less crowded and in areas where kill shelters exist, you can protect animals from being unfairly euthanized and save their lives. The ones that are eventually adopted by others know what it's like to be loved by people and can easily be transitioned into new homes where they can be the center of their new family's world.

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