In the past year alone, Mary Wang has fallen in love 11 times — and that’s not even counting her boyfriend. You see, Mary is a foster volunteer for Best Friends–New York , and in the course of the past year, she has welcomed 11 kittens into her home, getting them ready for the big day when they meet the people who adopt them.
For Mary, fostering is a way for her to take volunteering to the next level. But it’s the pets who benefit the most from fostering, because it helps them on their journey to a new home in so many ways.
"Fostering a homeless pet is one of the most wonderful gifts you can provide to animals in need,” says Shannon Kirkman, foster and adoptions coordinator for Best Friends–New York. “Our foster families are truly the heart of our program because they expand our ability to do our lifesaving work, and are a critical bridge between that animal's rescue and their adoptive home.”
You don’t have to have a fancy backyard or be an experienced dog trainer or a cat whisperer to be a foster parent. In fact, this is one time when all you really need is love.
Why not make 2017 the year that you become a foster parent to a deserving pet? Here are the top 10 reasons to make it one of your New Year’s resolutions:
You’re saving more than one life. When every cage at a shelter is full and more pets keep coming in, it puts pets at risk of being killed to make space. When you foster a pet, you’re not only helping to save that pet’s life, you’ve created space for another pet at the shelter.
- You’re saving more than one life. When every cage at a shelter is full and more pets keep coming in, it puts pets at risk of being killed to make space. When you foster a pet, you’re not only helping to save that pet’s life, you’ve created space for another pet at the shelter.
- If you love someone, set him free. Some people worry that if they foster a pet, they won’t be able to say goodbye at adoption time. But it doesn’t have to be goodbye. Instead, you can see it as saying “hello” to the next pet in need that you foster. Take a cue from Mary Wang, who says, “I look at it this way: It’s not a goodbye but rather a story with a very happy ending.”
- Fostering is full of beautiful moments. Taking care of an animal gives you a profound sense of accomplishment and pride. It is incredibly rewarding. Just ask anyone who has bottle-fed a foster kitten and then watched her eat on her own for the first time. Pass the tissues.
- You may know the perfect adopter. Maybe that Facebook friend from high school has been looking all over for an American bulldog, and you just happen to be fostering one that you know would be perfect for your friend. Bingo. Boom. Mic drop.
- Pets are bad-day busters. You don’t need to hit the gym or happy hour after a tough day at the office. You just need a foster pet. The joy a shelter animal feels when he realizes his living quarters just got a whole lot bigger is contagious. And foster kittens will have you laughing at their antics, even when they’re attacking your head while you’re fast asleep in bed.
- Your pets might like it, too. Some pets are natural caregivers. Maybe that senior cat of yours would love to show a young kitty the ropes, or perhaps your dog would love a playmate to keep her company while you’re away. (Tell her you’re out buying dog treats. Works every time.)
- Fostering is a learning experience. If you’re considering adopting a pet but you’re still on the fence, fostering is a good place to start. Not only can it help sharpen your skills as a caregiver, fostering can help you determine what kind of pet would be best for you when the time comes to adopt.
- It helps pets shine. In shelters, pets usually wait in cages until they get adopted, which can be awfully confining for both their bodies and their spirits. In foster homes, pets get a chance to be themselves and reveal their true personalities.
- It helps adopters find the best match. Foster homes are not only less stressful for pets than a shelter environment, they help adoption staff learn a lot about how pets behave in a home. Couch potato or running buddy? Potty-trained or needs work? Fostering reveals how pets act when they’re living in a home, which is important since it’s their ultimate destination.
- Fostering helps to keep pets healthy. Some pets, such as kittens and seniors, are especially susceptible to illness and diseases in shelters. By fostering pets, you’re helping them stay healthy so they have an even better chance at living long and happy lives.
So, what are you waiting for? There’s a pet at a shelter right now waiting for a foster home. Why not make it yours?