Top 10 reasons to foster a pet

At Best Friends, we’re working hard to make the country no-kill by 2025, but here’s the thing: Some of the most valuable lifesaving work isn’t happening at shelters and rescue organizations. It’s happening in homes. We’re talking about the important foster work done by volunteers every time they open their homes to a dog or cat from a shelter

The truth is: Foster pets make great houseguests. They’re just happy to be out of the shelter and they don’t care if there’s potato chip crumbs between the couch cushions. (In fact, they might like that quite a bit.)

Gray tabby kitten lying down on a tan chair with a pillow behind him

Fostering a pet does not require that you have loads of free time or advanced dog training skills. In fact, most shelters offer foster opportunities that fit your schedule. Of course, felines need foster homes, too. Kittens are some of the most at-risk animals in shelters, so providing foster homes for them is critical to saving their lives.

Are you thinking of fostering a cat or dog from your local shelter or rescue group? Check out our top 10 list of reasons to foster an animal. (We had a tough time narrowing this down to 10, because any reason to foster a shelter pet is a good one.)

More about the work to go no-kill by 2025

Blond dog lying in the grass with a red ball between his front legs

1. Foster homes help adopters see pets at their best. Some animals can handle a shelter environment better than others. Many get overly excited or too anxious to let their true personality shine when they’re in a kennel. In a foster home, pets can relax, so that potential adopters can get a good sense of how they’d be in a home.

Foster homes are especially ideal for animals with special needs — animals like Cletus who might require a little extra attention after surgery or senior pets needing a comfortable place to take it easy.

2. Fostering pets is fun. Taking a walk in the park is fun, but it’s a whole lot more fun strolling with a foster dog at your side. Playing with your foster cat is a great way to unwind and provide the attention she craves. And is there anything cuter than watching young kittens chase their tails (and anything else that moves)?

3. You can teach pets new skills in your home. Dogs and cats are enthusiastic students. Most of them want to learn new skill that can make it easier for them to find a home. That’s what happened to Matilda after she spent some time in a foster home. When it was time for her to meet potential adopters, she impressed them with her knowledge of basic cues and found herself a new family.

Two kittens looking out of a window

4. You could be a pet matchmaker. Every time you take your foster dog on a walk, or out to a dog-friendly establishment, it’s a chance to connect with potential adopters. For example, consider Lorenzo, a dog from the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in New York City. He was out for a stroll with his foster mom in Central Park when a woman saw him walk by wearing an “Adopt Me” vest. At once, she knew she had found the dog she wanted to adopt (and did).

5. Put your Instagram account to good use to help animals. Many pets adopted from Best Friends adoption centers find homes after a foster parent shares a post on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. Ringo, for example, found his new home after someone saw a photo of him on Instagram and couldn’t wait to meet him.

6. You’ll give them a chance to stretch their (four) legs. Just like us, cats and dogs need exercise to stay healthy and feel good. While shelters do their best to give animals adequate space to be active, there’s often a whole lot more room to play in a home.

Pet fostering Q&A

Malamute dog on a bed with two foster kittens

7. You’ll be providing invaluable insight. It’s difficult to know all the important things about a shelter animal, such as how they feel about other animals or kids. This kind of information is vital, says Rachel Fong, foster coordinator at the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in Utah. “Foster volunteers help us at Best Friends to understand who that dog is as an individual so we can match the dog with the perfect forever home.”

8. Fostering to know if you’re ready to adopt. Adopting a pet is a big decision. If you’re not sure you’re ready to take that next step, fostering is a great way to test the waters. You’ll gain experience caring for a pet, so that when it’s time for you to adopt, you’ll do so with confidence.

9. Fostering is a temporary commitment with permanent rewards. If you’re unable to adopt a cat or dog right now but want to open your space (and heart) to a shelter animal, look no further than being a foster parent. Most shelters and rescue organizations offer a variety of foster opportunities that include taking care of a pet short-term or for the weekend.

10. You’ll be saving more than one life. Every time a shelter animal is able to leave the shelter for a foster home, space is created for another deserving homeless pet who needs a second chance — until eventually, we Save Them All.

Foster a pet near you

Gray and white pit bull terrier dog with perky ears with his foster parents behind him

Photos by Sarah Ause Kichas and Jill Williams