Foster Fail

A scenario in which pet parents take in a foster animal, but ultimately adopt them as a permanent family member. 

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foster fail

A scenario in which pet parents take in a foster animal on a temporary basis, but ultimately adopt them as a permanent member of the family.


Who is susceptible to a foster fail?

A foster fail can happen to anyone. Long-time pet parents, animal lovers, animal agnostics, dog people, and even cat people are all vulnerable to foster failure. 

Depending on how you look at it, a foster fail isn’t a “fail” at all, because everyone basically wins. Your new dog or cat has a warm and loving home, and you have a new best friend.

Should I foster an animal in need?

Heck yes! 

If you’ve ever wondered about becoming a pet parent, but can’t handle a lifelong commitment, or if you’re looking to make a meaningful impact on animals in need, you might be a great candidate for becoming a foster parent. 

 Fostering an animal before they’re permanently adopted helps to socialize a pet who may be unfamiliar with the warmth of a loving home. Foster care could help bring an animal out of their proverbial shell, allowing their personalities to really shine. After spending some time in a caring environment, your foster dog or cat might be more likely to be adopted permanently to a new home. 

Sometimes animals need to be fostered because they are recovering from a medical procedure and need a quiet place to recover. Other animals are good candidates for foster homes because they find the shelter environment stressful, or the shelter environment triggers behavioral issues. Before you take your fur friend home, get the full dossier on your potential foster pet to make sure their transition into your home goes smoothly and they can live their best life in your care.

Is fostering expensive?

Shelters or animal rescues will usually provide foster parents with food, medicine, and basic supplies to take some of the financial bite out of caring for a new animal, full-time. As you might already know, the costs of owning a dog, and even a cat, can be pretty significant. 

Once you’re ready to connect with a local shelter about getting the ball rolling with your first foster, look up a reputable animal shelter in your area on GuideStar.

What if I don’t want to foster fail?

Some people enter into a foster situation with the goal of eventually adopting—think of it as a trial run before full commitment. But if your intention was to commit to fostering many animals in the long term, foster failing can count you out of fostering in the future. That’s because if you have too many critters living in your home, you won’t have the space to comfortably welcome any additional temporary guests. 

This can be really frustrating. We often dream of living in an enormous, many-roomed mansion, with room for dozens of dogs and cats to happily ramble. But life is, generally, not like that.  

If you really want your fostering experience to be temporary, here are some ways you can prevent foster failure. 

  • Set a timeline. Before you take a foster friend home, tell the shelter how long you can dedicate to having them. A week, three weeks, two months—the exact timeline can be at your discretion, but stick to it, and check with the shelter as the date approaches, so they can prepare what’s next for your foster baby. 
  • Help with adoption efforts. If you’re fostering a pup or kitty who’s ready for their forever home, take to social media, your professional networks, and your social circles to help get your new friend adopted. Take a cue from our pal, “cat wrangler” Heidi Systo, whose Instagram is a case study in how to promote adorable, adoptable fur babies.
  • Talk to other foster parents. Set up a group chat, meet up at the dog park, or make regular phone dates with your fellow foster friends. These people will be able to relate to the highs and lows of fostering—especially the emotional burdens of saying goodbye—and can offer some support when you’re feeling low. Fostering isn’t easy, and they’ll understand that better than anyone.


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