foster kitten spotted belly napFostering is one of the most selfless acts you can do to help homeless pets. You take an animal into your home, give them all the love and care you would lavish on your own pets, often nurse them through being sick, or train them through adjustment behaviors. Then when they’re ready and the right adopter comes along – like a child going off to college or getting married, your heart breaks with both happiness and sadness as you usher them into their new loving fur-ever home! So… once you’re convinced you want to save an animal’s life by fostering, how do you pick the best type of pet to foster? This article is here to help!

The criteria for picking a good pet for your home to foster can be similar but is not the same as if you were adopting the pet as your own. We speak from experience! We’ve fostered and helped others foster thousands of pets in our decades of rescue and shelter work. But we can’t pick a good foster for you: you know your home best. What we can do is help you understand the Time, Space, Cost and Experience the most common types of foster pets need, to help you decide on the type of foster pet that will most likely be a good fit and make for happy fostering!


You may be wondering what the silly photo of one of our former foster kitties is doing on this article. Muggles is demonstrating one of the most important aspects of foster care: relaxation time! How much free time (or time spent on expendable activities, like maybe watching TV) do you currently have in your day, every day, over the next few weeks or months? How much relaxation time and activity time do you have where you can include the foster pet?

When you are looking to adopt a pet, you look at this criteria too, but for FOSTERING you likely only need to consider this for the time it takes the rescue or shelter to find a new home for that pet, or get those pets ready for adoption (like underage kittens and puppies). Between jobs or on summer vacation? You might be able to foster a more time-intensive pet that wouldn’t be a good long-term match for your life in the future.

Below is a general guideline showing how much time a FOSTER animal takes daily. Now some of the “time” could be just hanging out like Muggles is doing or on the couch/chair next to you while you do other things, but we’ve counted mostly for “active” time you’ll need caring, cleaning, training and loving these types of foster pets!

Also… pairs of pets always take less time than a single pet.
#1 is below requires the LEAST amount of time:

  1. adult/senior cats
  2. adult/senior dogs (trained)
  3. puppies
  4. adult/senior dogs that need basic training
  5. kittens 8 weeks to 6 months old
  6. bottle babies

Space & size

Pick a pet that you have room to isolate in your home. Cats are fine in smaller spaces temporarily (think: bathroom), while even tiny dogs need to get out several times a day – can they do that without crossing paths with your other pets space? If you are fostering a pet that is coming straight out of most animal shelters, and if you have other pets, you will need enough space to keep the new foster totally separated.

Isloation space is good for three reasons: One: shelter pets can appear healthy, but can be incubating sickeness or parasites, and most vets will advise keeping them separate for 2 weeks. (Many experienced rescues with fosters and their vets know their shelter’s common illnesses, and how effective vaccinating foster’s own pets is against them, and may guide you otherwise.) Two: it can take time for your current pets and the new pet to learn to get along, and keeping them totally separated while doing a slow introduction may be the safest and least-stressful path. Three: sometimes, the pet you are fostering may not get along with other pets in your home. Be prepared for a ‘worst case’ senario to have a¬†comfortable, separate room where your foster pet can live until he or she is adopted.

We hope these general guidelines help you pick the right kind of pet to foster. Thank you for helping pet adoption by opening your heart and home to foster a pet! You can register with the Volunteer database so that shelters and rescues near you can see you’re interested in being a foster home, and you can also use the Shelter Search to find a shelter or rescue near you to ask them if they could use your fostering help.