5 Reasons to Foster a Pet During the Holidays

Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP
By Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP on Nov. 10, 2022


As the holiday season nears, it brings with it the excitement and chaos of parties, family get-togethers, shopping, and cooking. It also stirs up in us the spirit of giving and helping others. By now, you are likely thinking about what gifts to buy a loved one, or how to help your local charity or animal shelter. Donating money to an animal shelter or buying items on their wish list is always a good idea, but have you thought about giving the ultimate gift—fostering a pet to give them a break from the shelter during the holidays?

When you foster a shelter animal—for a night, weekend, or the long term—you are helping them get away from the hustle and bustle of a crowded shelter environment to have some one-on-one time with human companions.

Fosters Help Clear Capacity at Shelters

By taking home a foster animal, you are helping the pet as well as the shelter. Especially during the holidays, shelters are usually overwhelmed and in need of extra help and space. The shelter benefits when it has fewer dogs to walk and litter boxes to clean. Fostering a pet also reduces labor and supply costs for the shelter and frees up a space that can be filled by another needy animal.

Foster Homes Provide Comfort and a Quiet Place for Pets

As much good as shelters do for the welfare of animals, they are still considered a stressful environment for those housed there. Most facilities are crowded, and the sounds and smells of other animals are always present. Just like people, animals sometimes need their own personal space to unwind and relax. A foster home can provide just that.

As many animal lovers know, pets thrive on consistency. Many shelters lack this consistency because they are usually staffed by volunteers, which means that the person caring for each animal may be different from meal to meal and day to day.

A foster animal is still considered up for adoption and is still part of the shelter system. Fostering allows the animal to live in a lower-stress environment, a private home, much like their ultimate adoptive home, where they will see the same people every day and have a familiar schedule and the opportunity to develop a routine.

Foster Homes Are Great for Information-Gathering

Another valuable aspect to temporarily housing a pet is that, as a foster parent, you get to know the animal very well and can provide valuable insight into the pet’s personality.

Many animals don’t exhibit their true temperament in the shelter environment, and the constant change in caregivers means that no one really knows how the animal behaves. Foster parents learn all about their pet, their likes and dislikes, and how they fare with other pets and children. All of this information-gathering can eventually lead to a more successful match with potential adopters.

Fosters Can Help Get Pets Adopted

Shelter animals are usually adopted by those who go to the shelter looking to adopt.  Animals in foster care, on the other hand, get a much wider exposure to potential adopters through their foster parents.

Foster pets often go for walks and play dates in the park. Perhaps they get to attend an event or a photo shoot with Santa. Many foster pet parents have photos and videos of their pets that they share at work or on their social media pages. This added exposure broadens the circle of people who might meet the animal, and increases the likelihood that a match is made with an adoptive parent. It also showcases the shelter and foster program, and might make friends and acquaintances more likely to adopt, foster, or provide support.

Fostering Is a Way To Give Back (and Keep a Pet Safe)

When you foster a pet, you are doing a good deed by offering the pet a safe environment and lending the shelter a hand. If you have children, you are also teaching them the responsibility of caring for animals and the importance of giving back by helping others.

Check With Your Local Shelter About Their Fostering Needs

Interested in fostering an animal? Contact the shelters near you to find out what their policies are for fostering a pet. Be aware that each shelter might be different. Some may foster dogs and cats. Some may even foster exotic pets. Some provide the supplies needed to care for the pet, while others require you to purchase them. Regardless of how you choose to give back to a shelter pet, you’re making a difference in their lives, especially during the holiday season.

Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP


Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP


Sandra Mitchell is a 1995 graduate of the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine. Since graduation, she has worked in many fields...

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