People who foster do so because they love animals and want to see them find loving homes. As an animal lover, you may already have several pets in your home and want to continue helping by fostering a local cat or dog. Safety concerns can hold people back when it comes to fostering animals in the same space as their pets. If you want to foster but you’re worried about your dog or cat, below are three helpful tips for keeping all of your animals safe while fostering.
Put your foster pets in temporary quarantine
One of the biggest problems that can occur when fostering is the spread of disease and illnesses among your animals. When dogs and cats are held in shelters, they’re often in very close proximity to other animals and confined to small spaces. A lot of these animals are also being nursed back to health after being on the streets or in abusive homes. All this to say, a foster animal’s health might not be in tiptop shape.
You can reduce the risk of spreading any illnesses to your pets by placing your foster pets in quarantine for two weeks after bringing them home. A mudroom is an excellent space for temporarily confining foster animals while you determine if any infectious diseases are present. Two weeks is recommended because infectious diseases have an incubation period of up to 14 days. After this time period, you should know if your foster animal is sick.
Schedule vet visits
Before bringing in a foster pet, take your permanent pets for a veterinary check-up. Discuss fostering with your vet and make sure your pet’s vaccinations are all up to date. This is also an opportunity to talk about any health risks hosting a foster pet could pose to your regular pets. If your cat or dog is already immune-compromised then fostering a pet might not be the best option right now.
Introduce the animals
Bringing in a strange new animal without warning is not a good idea. Following a few tips for introducing animals can make the first meeting between your permanent pets and foster animals run much more smoothly.
If you’re introducing dogs to each, it’s best to bring them both to a neutral meeting ground. This way you can avoid either of them feeling territorial. Keep both dogs on a leash when they see each other but allow the lead to be loose so they don’t sense any tension. Let the dogs sniff each other for a little while and watch their body language. It’s okay if they make a little noise or posture a bit. You just want to make sure they’re not going to get aggressive and violent. If they seem to be friendly while on a lead, the next step is introducing them to an enclosed space and letting them off-leash to play and interact. If that goes well, you can bring them both back to your house.
Cats are a different matter. Felines can be territorial, as well, so an important step is setting up separate spaces for each cat to call its own. When separating your cats for the first couple of weeks, you can help your foster establish its own territory by providing a scratching post, cozy hiding box, and natural light in its temporary quarantine space. Later, introduce the new cat’s scent to your pet and vice versa through bedding blankets. You can also put your pet in a carrier while you allow your foster to explore the rest of the house in a non-threatening way.
Fostering animals is a noble endeavor, but it’s important to think of the safety of your permanent pets, as well. Being prepared to introduce the animals and ensuring they’re all up to date on their vaccinations will make you feel more confident about the fostering experience.
A note about adoption fees
When it comes time to finally rehome your foster pet, it’s important to include an adoption fee. You might we willing to say “free to a good home,” but this is not a good idea. Unfortunately, there are people who prey on animals and who will take advantage of your offer for a free pet. It’s also a warning sign if someone tells you a story about how they really want a kitten but can’t afford to pay the adoption fee. Animals are expensive and if someone can’t pay $50 to adopt your foster pet then what will happen if a larger issue arises and the animal needs to be taken to the vet?
Rescues typically require adoption fees already, so if you’re working with a rescue during your fostering process you shouldn’t have to worry. The goal is to find a loving and safe home for the sweet animal you’ve taken in, and a truly caring family will be willing to pay a small fee when adopting a new pet.