Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year, but only about 3.2 million are adopted in the same period, according to the ASPCA. To bridge the gap between intake and finding a permanent home, families can give pets love, care, and attention by fostering a homeless animal.

Kit Darling, the infection control coordinator at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said fostering provides a home-like atmosphere that animal shelters cannot provide.

“A shelter or rescue group might ask for a pet to be fostered because there is not enough physical space in the shelter to accommodate all pets, a puppy or kitten is too young to be adopted and needs a safe place to stay until it reaches the appropriate age or weight for adoption, or because some pets need more socialization to increase their chance for adoption,” Darling said.

Injured or sick pets also may need to be fostered to ensure they are healthy enough for adoption. Some animals, such as those that were abused or neglected or are showing signs of stress in the shelter, also may benefit from fostering.

No matter the situation, fostering one animal also will benefit other animals in the shelter.

“When you foster a pet, you are saving that pet’s life and creating space at a shelter for another pet,” Darling said.

Additionally, fostering pets can be rewarding. By helping a pet learn more social skills, overcome issues from neglect or abuse, or develop better house manners, they are more likely to find their forever home. Fostering also gives animal-lovers an opportunity to determine if they are ready for their first pet or an additional pet.

It can be hard to say goodbye to a foster animal when a permanent home is found, but Darling said fostering animals is worth it.

“Some people may be reluctant to foster because it is hard to give the animals up,” Darling said. “While this is sometimes true, the experience is still rewarding, knowing you helped a pet find a forever home. Saying goodbye is an opportunity for the adopter to say hello. Also, it can give you the opportunity to help another homeless pet.”

Though fostering is a great way to help a local animal shelter and homeless pets, the experience may not be fitting for everyone. Before volunteering to foster, Darling said to consider your time commitment.

“Fostering may be a great option for you if your schedule does not allow for a long-term commitment or you are unsure about a lifetime commitment for a pet,” Darling said. “The time commitment for fostering could be a few days, weeks, or months, depending on the need.”

If you think you are able to provide a pet tender loving care, training to develop house manners, or any other need, fostering may be for you.

“If you are interested in fostering a pet, contact your local shelter or rescue groups,” Darling said. “They will let you know their requirements and will be excited to have another foster parent to help save a life.”

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to .

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