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Why Should You Foster a Pet?

By Linda Cole

My neighbor is a crazy cat lady, like me and my co-writer Julia Williams. We are proud of our label and would do anything to help a cat or dog. My neighbor is also a foster mom who nurses litters of kittens that have lost their mom. She gives pets a quiet place to mend a broken leg or heal from the abusive home they were rescued from. Working with our local animal shelter, my neighbor puts a lost soul back together so the pet can be adopted out to a forever home. If you love pets and have been searching for a way to help out your local shelter, opening up your home to animals in need is one of the best things you can do.

I recently wrote an article about an organization called Guardian Angels for Soldier's Pet. Instead of a soldier being forced to give up a family pet, this organization helps find foster homes to care for the soldier's pet while they serve our country overseas. Because of caring pet lovers who open up their homes to these temporary pets, shelters across the nation have fewer animals to care for. The soldier can deploy knowing their pet is being well cared for, and they don't have to wonder what happened to them.

Shelters have seen an increase in the number of pets surrendered to them across the country. An estimated 8 million pets end up in shelters every year and many healthy, adoptable animals are put to sleep because there just aren't enough people to adopt them. Friends, family and neighbors have all been caught up in an economic downturn that sometimes doesn’t leave them with a lot of choices when it comes to a family pet. I've been fostering a friend's dog to give my friend a chance to get back on his feet financially. It doesn't matter how long it takes; this is one dog that will not end up in a shelter.

Becoming a foster pet parent is something you can either do on your own to help out someone you know who needs a temporary home for their pet, or you can work with your local animal shelter. Adoptable pets that are sick or injured need a quiet place to recover and heal. Pets with behavioral problems need someone who can work with them to correct bad behavior so they can eventually be adopted. When you foster a pet, you're giving them a chance to find a permanent home instead of being put down because they are sick or injured. A pet with a behavior problem needs someone who can understand and help by giving them patience, love and training. For some pets, being in a shelter environment is the cause of their bad behavior.

Imagine being locked up in a strange place with no idea where the people you love are. A more timid pet has a harder time adjusting to life in a shelter. It's a big change and scary for some pets to suddenly find themselves surrounded by strange sounds, smells and people, along with other homeless pets. They don't know why their family is no longer around. Fostering helps to keep pets socialized in a more relaxed living arrangement until they can find a new home. It's also the best way to learn who a pet is as an individual, which helps match them up with a new owner.

Fostering does have a downside – it can be hard to give up a pet when a forever home is found for the animal in your care. But knowing you made a difference and helped save a life makes it all worthwhile. You cared enough to open your home to a pet in need.

Fostering a pet isn't for everyone, but if you do give a pet a temporary home, it'll be one of the most rewarding gifts you can give to a homeless pet and to yourself. All pets deserve a forever home, but sometimes, it's the temporary home that means the most in a pet's life.

Photo by Lenneke Veerbeek

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