Caring for foster pets is a wonderful way to bring joy and companionship to your family and home. A pet foster carer provides a temporary home for rescued animals while their forever family or home is found. This may be for a single weekend, a week or several months. The role of a foster carer can range from providing a loving and safe environment to transitioning an animal from kennel to home and assisting with medical care and training.
Becoming a foster carer is a rewarding experience and one where you can help to make a difference in an animal welfare organisation in your local community.
Many shelters and charity organisations are restricted by kennel space and human hands. By offering to take in foster pets, you can help save a life and make rescue transitions so much easier.
If pet care or foster care is new to you, one of the best ways to learn the ideal skills and knowledge to take care of rescue animals is to take an animal care course. We’ll cover this below as well as the steps to becoming a foster carer.
It's important to know whether you are personally and situationally ready for a foster animal. Rescue cats and dogs, the most common type of foster pet, will need to be treated with gentle, constant attention. You will need a home where pets are permitted, and a household that can handle pets that may be ill, injured or may experience behavioural problems such as anxiety or aggression.
Here are some basic questions to ask yourself before you decide to become a foster carer:
What kind of pet foster carer will you be? Some people are "dog people", others are "cat people" and some like both equally. Some have a knack for smaller pets, and others have the skills and temperament for delicate or exotic animals like lizards, birds, turtles or native mammals.
Knowing the type of pet you will foster helps you prepare for the experience and assist you in deciding on which pet rescue organisation to assist.
Next, look up the local rescue and care organisations in your region. These are groups that regularly handle rescued pets and need foster parents before permanent pet owners can be found. You will find a number of local shelters, but there will also be smaller volunteer-run groups in need.
Do your research, find out who each of these organisations is, how they work, and how fostering works and their approach for pet rescues and re-homing. Naturally, you want to work with a group that is both close to home and has values and a process you agree with. Their process should also work with your lifestyle and ability to foster.
Before you commit, reach out to each of these organisations and ask a few important questions. Answers to some of the following questions will give you an idea of the values of your chosen organisation, but also what your fostering experience, resources provided and expectations of each party will be like.
Animal Care & Animal Studies
Animal Behaviour and Training
Who provides the resources such as food, medicine and veterinary treatment if required.
Will you be required to help in rehoming the animal?
Does the animal have any planned veterinary procedures? How will you be involved?
What happens if you can't cope or can no longer continue to care for the foster pet?
Can you adopt the foster pet if you want to?
How long can you expect to foster the pet for?
Can the pet be left alone?
Are you expected to train the animal?
Do you have access to a trainer, behaviourist or veterinarian if you have any issues?
If not supplied, you will need to stock up on basic pet supplies such as:-
Make sure you have everything you need to welcome a new pet into your home before you sign up for the first foster. Choose your supplies based on the type of pet you have decided to foster.
Don't forget to pet-proof your home, especially for pets who might have behavioural issues. Set poisonous plants up high, lock away your cleaning chemicals, and put away any fragile breakables. Secure your bins with lock-on lids (or in cabinets).
Check your gates and fencing for possible escape points. If you are fostering a large dog or one that can jump, check your fences are high enough to prevent them from escaping.
If you are going to leave your foster pet outside, ensure they have a safe, protected place to escape from the sun, rain and wind.
Ask yourself, are you personally ready for a foster pet? Before each foster, it helps to get yourself into the right headspace and double check your skills to ensure you're prepared for what the pet will bring to your home.
Get ready to spend the first full day or two with your foster pet, making them feel safe and keeping them occupied. This may require a weekend or a week working from home.
If you have time, polish up your knowledge on animal behaviour such as identifying and understanding body language and signs of stress. You can also become versed in general pet care to ensure you can confidently care for an animal.
One of the ways you can learn this essential knowledge is by completing an animal care qualification, such as an entry-level ACM20121 Certificate II in Animal Care qualification. This course provides the tools to help with caring for animals, especially companion animals like dogs and cats. If you are interested in expanding your knowledge, you can learn more here.
Last but not least, be prepared for a foster "fail".
Many, many foster parents find their forever pet whilst foster caring and end up with a lifetime companion pet. We fondly refer to this as a very successful foster “fail”. When this happens, (as it likely will) be prepared to go through the rescue organisation’s usual adoption process for forever homing.
On the other hand, not all foster experiences will be golden. You may come across troubled pets who may have seen abuse or neglect. It's OK to burn out, to take breaks, and to have to send a specific pet to another foster carer if they have more experience. It's OK to need help. It's also OK to move on when your life changes, having helped many pets and leaving others for future fosterers to care for.
Most people don't foster animals forever. Some people take a lonely time in their life and foster until they move or other circumstances change. Some foster in their family home for many years.
Are you ready to become a pet fosterer? If your heart and home are in the right place but you need a few background skills to confidently handle foster pets, reach out to begin your animal care course today! We love helping new animal lovers become confident and capable animal rescuers.
We have been training animal care, animal behaviour, horse care and veterinary nursing students for over 20 years in Australia. Students who undertake AVT courses range from high school-aged students just starting their pre-vocational journey right through to mature-aged students seeking an alternative career path. Graduates are highly respected and sought after by industry professionals, businesses and organisations. If you want the background knowledge and skills to help you secure your career in the animal care industry, check out our nationally recognised qualifications here or sharpen your skills.
A recent NCVER VET student outcomes report for Applied Vocational Training graduates found:-