Fostering a pet is a wonderful way to open your heart and your home to an animal in need. Before you bring a foster pet into your home however, you need to take some steps to prepare your household and any other pets that you own.
1. Make sure your pets’ vaccinations are up-to-date.
Foster animals come from all kinds of situations, including the streets and homes where they were not cared for. These dogs may carry diseases, such as worms or respiratory infections. You do not want these foster animals to pass on their ailments to your own pets. To that end, you need to take your pets to the vet and get current with all immunizations. Your vet may have suggestions for you as well, so be sure to let him know that you are bringing foster pets into your home.
2. Pet-proof your home.
Your next step is to make sure that your house is going to be a safe environment for the foster animals. If you already own pets of your own, you may already have taken some or all of any steps that you need to do this. But that's not necessarily the case. Maybe for example you own a cat and are bringing a dog into the house for the first time. Or perhaps the situation is the exact reverse. Or maybe you own a dog, but the breed of foster dog that you are bringing home is very different, and may get into trouble which your own dog would not.
Regardless of the situation, here are some things to watch out for:
- Loose electrical cords
- Small objects which could be dangerous if stepped on or swallowed (pins, paper clips, nails, needles, thread, rubber bands, and so on).
- Plants which are toxic to the animal you are bringing into your home
- Chemicals (as in the kitchen)
- Open toilet lids (close them)
- Fish, hamsters, and other small pets which may be of interest to a dog or cat
- Antifreeze (don’t use it; put it away)
After you go room to room through your house and put potentially dangerous objects away and secure loose cords and curtains, make a second round, but get down on the ground at the level of the dog and try to see the world through his eyes. Oftentimes you will catch potential hazards that you would have missed from your own point of view.
After you choose the room or rooms where you will house your foster pet, go through and disinfect everything. If possible, stick with a room with a hardwood or tile floor. Carpet can be hard to clean and can also harbor fleas and other pests. Avoid using the bedroom for your foster pet. If a foster dog or cat panics, it can try to burrow into your mattress, where it can become trapped.
You may want to consider buying a toy or two for your foster pet. Why not use your own pets’ toys? You never know what kinds of behavioral problems a foster dog brings. You do not want to risk the foster animal destroying your pet’s beloved toys.
3. Pet-proof your yard.
Your next step will be to head outdoors and take a look around your yard to make sure that it is safe. You never should leave a foster pet outside without supervision, even if you have a fence, because some animals can jump incredibly high. Be on the lookout for any holes in your fence, even holes that seem way too small for the dog to fit through. Animals that are in psychological distress (as many fosters are) can be quite adept escape artists. The first few times you bring the foster out into the yard, you will want to make sure that you have her on a leash. As you did when you were inside the house, check around for poisonous plants. If you find any, remove them before you bring the foster home.
It can take some time to prepare your home to receive a foster dog, but taking that time is worth it to protect the animal you are looking after as well as your own pets. Plus, the good news is this: once your home is foster-ready, you can take in another foster dog when the pet you are looking after finds a forever-home! Fostering is an incredibly rewarding experience, which is why many foster pet parents do it again and again!