How to Become a Foster Pet Parent: A Guide for Travelers

how to become a foster pet parent

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Like almost everyone else, I love animals. Puppies, kittens, horses, I love them all. Furry friends provide so much joy that it’s almost impossible to put in words how rewarding pet ownership is.

As an animal lover, I don’t just squeal over adorable pictures on social media. My experience with animals is as beautiful and fulfilling as my travel experience.

For example, at five, I rode horses. During my childhood, I grew up with a dog, and she will forever be one of my best friends – even though she crossed the rainbow bridge years ago.

I gotta say: having the unconditional love of an animal brightens your entire world.

And I’m not fabricating the social-emotional benefits of owning a pet either. Several studies exist about how pets, especially cats and dogs, reduce anxiety and depression and ease feelings of loneliness.

Without a doubt, a person who is struggling will feel the positive differences of an animal brings into the household.

foster kittens provide adventure
He is Obsessed with My Mermaid Lamp!

Pet Ownership & Travel: What to Do?

But what if you travel all the time? Or have big dreams to take long international trips? Is owning a pet even possible especially considering the expense of pet sitters and boarders?

I hate to break it to you, but owning a pet and traveling is an expensive proposition. Not many people can set aside an extra $500+ for boarding animals to take a two week vacation to Italy or France. Most pet owners don’t have the luxury of friends and family willing to petsit for weeks either.

Furthermore, pets miss their owners a great deal if they are away for an extended period of time.

Yes, even cats. 

By adopting an animal, you’re agreeing to meet all that pet’s needs and that means being present in their lives. 

What’s an animal lover with an overly active passport supposed to do?

Foster.

playing with the foster kitten
The Look on My Face When I Couldn’t Travel in 2020.

Why I Chose to Foster Shelter Animals

I’m practicing what I preach in this post!

I’m a frequent traveler who chose to foster for the foreseeable future.

As you know, I have been really angry about the COVID-19 pandemic for a whole host of reasons. I feel overwhelmed and exhausted at extremes simmering on both sides of the “pandemic debate.”

For example, people not wearing masks, ignoring public health precautions, and making anti-vaccine comments upset and scare me, as well as the condescending attitudes on social media that shames anyone who leaves their home – even for work (and if you work from home, yes, you are privileged and need to give essential workers a break).

Still, I didn’t want 2020 to be a total waste of a year consumed by anger.  

Pandemic or not, each day is still precious. Wasting time isn’t healthy. Neither is perpetual rage. 

So I decided to give back to my community, since I plan to stay in New Jersey for the rest of this year. 

Enter pet fostering. 

fostering a kitten is rewarding
My first foster: Oreo!

Fostering Pets: The Perfect Compromise for Travelers

I have been at a crossroads for a long time. We all know I have a deep and everlasting love for traveling to new cities and countries. 

Yet, I desperately wanted companionship in the form of a pet. I would seriously stay awake until midnight antagonizing whether or not I should give up my dreams of traveling to adopt an animal.

Now, I don’t have to worry about this dilemma, because fostering worked wonders for me.

So, if you love to travel, don’t give up on forming bonds with animals. Give them a temporary and loving home. 

Below, I wrote the main reasons why fostering pets is a great option for travelers who don’t want to give up collecting passport stamps, nor have tons of money to spend on pet sitters. 

Perhaps, after reading this guide, you’ll decide that fostering is for you.

foster kittens love to hide
Lurking Under the TV Stand.

Experience Pet Ownership Without the Commitment

For me, fostering was a perfect option, because I could take care of a pet without committing 15+ years to a cat or dog. I mean, some cats even live for 20 years. That’s a … very long time and not a light decision. 

By fostering, you’re perfectly able to enjoy the company of a dog or cat without dedicating over a decade of your life to that animal’s care. 

And, like I already said, owning an animal is a huge responsibility. You need to feed them, bathe them, play with them. This dedication means giving up time going out with friends and taking spontaneous long weekends.

Not to rant, but I personally feel very upset when I hear stories about people taking in animals without realizing the extraordinary responsibility of pet ownership and then surrendering that animal to the shelter again. Not cool.

As a foster, you open your home and heart for a limited amount of time and help that pet find its forever home. You also ease pressure off the shelters by freeing space. 

It’s the perfect compromise.

foster kittens are too cute
Hi, Handsome Boy!

Save Lives

By taking a foster pet, you’re literally saving an animal’s life. 

Public shelters need to take in every single cat and dog, and sometimes animal control officers don’t have a choice except to euthanize an animal. Some shelters have limited space or are chronically understaffed. 

Granted, pet adoptions are at an all time high due to COVID-19, but this situation won’t last forever, and part of me deeply doubts that every homeless animal will be saved by the time a vaccine hits the market. 

By fostering, you are literally clearing space for the shelter to take in more animals. As I’ve said, volunteers are already stretched to the brink, especially if they’re required to take in every stray cat or dog possible.

If you offer to care for a few animals, you’ll ease their workload and truly make room for more animals to be taken care of. 

relaxing foster kitten
Help Your Foster Animal Relax in a Low-key Enivornment.

Find a Purpose in Each and Every Day

Lastly, by having a foster pet, you’re able to find a purpose in each day. Prior to fostering, it was easy for me to focus on my problems and forget about the world around me. 

Now? It doesn’t matter if I have a bad day. Litter still needs to be changed, food and water needs to put in the hallway, playtime needs to happen in the evenings, etc. 

Taking care of an animal forces me to focus on something other than myself. 

petting foster kitten to relax him
Awwwwww…

But How Do You Say Good-bye to Your Foster Pet?

Uh, yeah, this part is hard. Very, very, very hard. 

As for me, I’ve made peace a long time ago that I’ll unlikely own pets for the foreseeable future. I’ve worked hard to build my life around traveling, and even though the pandemic put that life on pause, I know that exploring new places will likely happen again next summer. Borders won’t stay closed forever. 

Sure, you’ll likely cry or feel sadness when your foster pet is adopted, but instead of feeling despair, focus on the great love that you showed that animal. Many foster pets show stress in a shelter environment, and possibly would have never been adopted if it wasn’t for your kindness and affection.

Not to mention, you can reopen your home to save the next animal. More pets, yay!

adorable foster kitten

How to Become a Foster Pet Parent

Research the shelters and rescues in your immediate area. I promise that organizations always need fosters. Simply fill out an application!

Keep in mind that some places are more stringent than others. Some private rescues will do a home visit prior to approving you to foster their animals. You need to decide what parts of the application process you’re comfortable with. Ask questions and cast a wide net. 

Furthermore, in order to be a foster parent, you need to be over the age of 18. Students aren’t always accepted as fosters, since you will need to provide financial stability for your new furry friend. Sure, you don’t pay as much as you would adopting an animal, but this addition to the household still needs to eat!

Lastly, if you rent, you need the permission of your landlord or leasing office to temporarily take in the pet. Never smuggle a pet into an apartment complex or violate your lease. Fostering isn’t worth fines or evictions. 

Like I said, ask the shelter or rescue about the fine details of their program. You need to know what the shelter will provide and what you will provide. 

foster pets require love and patience
Awwww, look at how content this foster kitten is!

Foster Pet Supplies

Keep in mind that every foster program is different. Some programs will provide everything. Others will only provide treats and food. You will probably spend some of your own money, but fostering is still far cheaper than adopting your own pet. 

Below, I’ve listed some basic supplies that you may need to provide for your new foster pet, but make sure to ask the humane society or shelter for clarification. 

Supplies for Foster Cats

  • Cubby Bed or Condo: Cats love to hide. They feel safe. Buy a cubby bed so your new foster cat has a designated hiding spot, but is still able to see and interact with the rest of the family. 
  • Clumping Litter: In my opinion, clumping cat litter is the best choice, because it makes scooping and cleaning the box super easy. Clean the box once a day. Cats are very fussy about their litter boxes and won’t use the bathroom if the box hasn’t been cleaned well. 
  • Wet Food: A lot of cats receive most of their hydration from wet food. So have plenty of cans to use as a tempting treat!

Supplies for Foster Dogs

how to become a foster parent requires lots of love
Oreo Hopes that You Foster Soon!

Have you ever fostered shelter animals? Would you do it in the future? Share all your stories in the comments.