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Published: Aug 22, 2012

Animal shelters across the country are overcrowded and in need of volunteers, and one of the best ways to help an animal in need is to foster one in your home. When you foster a pet, you are giving the animal a wonderful quality of life until it gets adopted by someone else. Many times, pet foster parents will adopt the fostered animal, while others will care for many pets over the course of their lives, creating space at the shelter for more animals.

If you are thinking about fostering a pet, there are few considerations to make.

Would you make a good pet foster parent?

Just like a regular pet parent, people who foster pets from a local shelter need to have ample time to provide pet care to the animal they are fostering. Additionally, foster pet parents need to have some experience with animals. Most shelters have applications on which volunteers can describe their experience with animals and what they feel comfortable caring for. Individuals who have extensive experience with animal care or behavior may be tasked with caring for a sick cat while she recovers, or puppy training an overly rambunctious youngster.

While the conditions and stipulations of a foster parent change depending on the pet, the shelter and the shelter's needs, all foster parents must be loving and patient, since the goal is to provide the animal with a consistent, stable home.

Does fostering cost a lot of money?

Most shelters will provide the pet supplies and veterinary care necessary to keep the dog healthy and happy, so fostering a pet is not necessarily a financial obligation. However, providing your foster pet with food and toys may be another way to contribute to the shelter's cause, since most are strapped for money and resources.

Saying goodbye to a foster pet

Another qualification for foster pet parents is that they be able to give up their fostered animals when the time comes. This is easier for some people than others - many may find they cannot foster because it is too difficult to say goodbye to the pet.

While it can be hard to part with an animal you may have grown attached to over the fostering period, there are some things that may help you get through the process. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reports that saying goodbye to a foster pet gets easier over time. The first time is particularly hard, but over time, knowing you may have saved the pet's life outweighs the sadness you feel in parting with it. Plus, this is one of the happiest events in the pet foster care system - when a pet finds a new forever family.

While it is impossible to determine how many stray pets there are in the United States, the ASPCA estimates that there are more than 70 million stray cats alone. Fostering is one way to make a difference in the lives of many animals - whether you are caring for them in your home and making them more adoptable or allowing space for other animals in the local shelters.