Fostering 101

I realize I’ve written about fostering before. From my first foster dog to fostering kittens, and the heartbreak of fostering. What I’ve never done though is answer your questions about it. I get messages every week about fostering. What it is, why it’s so important, and where to start. So, I took all the questions I normally get asked an put them in a post in one place!

Q: What is fostering?

A: Fostering is the process of giving a temporary home to an animal to get it healthy, happy, and ready for its forever home.

Q: Why is fostering important?

A: The majority of the rescues that save animals are foster-based. This means they do not have a facility to house their animals, rather the animals remain in foster homes until they are adopted. Fosters are a crucial step in saving animals. These organizations can only save animals when they have an open foster home available. So, the more foster homes they have, the more animals they can save. Rescue organizations rely on their foster homes to help prepare the animals for their forever homes.

Q: How long is the foster process?

A: That depends on a few factors. The rescue organization, type of animal, age, breed, and behavior are all determining factors of how long a foster needs a home. Sometimes fostering can be as short as a week, other times it can last months or even years.

A few rules of thumb…

– If the rescue organization has a facility, it’s usually a quick foster experience. Meaning, they rely on you to get the animal healthy and happy, once the animal is, it can go to the facility to be adopted.

– Kittens and puppies usually are a shorter-foster term than adult dogs and cats. Both are ready for adoption around eight weeks old. The demand for young animals is higher than that for older animals.

– Larger rescues can have shorter term stays. If you foster an animal, the goal is they stay with you until they are adopted. However, if you work with a bigger organization and can only commit to a few weeks, they’re able to move the animal to another foster home. Smaller rescues don’t have as much backup so they hope you’ll commit for the length of stay.

– Seniors/adults/pitties – these are *usually* our longer term-fosters. I say usually because there are always exceptions but in general, these animals take longer to find their forever homes. However, my first foster was a 14-year-old dog who found his adopters within two weeks!

– Babysitting – if you’re only able to commit to a few days at a time because of your schedule, there are rescues that need babysitters. Second City Canine Rescue is always looking for temporary fosters.

The good news is that whatever your timeline, you can find a fit for you!

Q: What do I need to foster?

A: Usually nothing more than your love and patience! Most rescue organizations provide their fosters with everything they need for the animals. Food, crates, bowls, beds, collars, leashes, medications, and vetting is all providing by the rescue. You just need to be patient and provide a loving home while the animal decompresses.

Q: I only have a one-bedroom apartment, is that enough space?

A: Yep. If you have other pets, you’ll want to make sure you can separate your fosters at first. Keeping them separated by a baby gate will even do the trick! Think about it this way, most animals who are in the shelter only have a small concrete or metal cage, anything more than that is a dream for them!

Q: I have my own dog/cat/pet, can I still foster?

Absolutely! Most fosters have pets of their own. As I mentioned above, you’ll want to keep your pets separate from the foster(s) for at least a few days while they adjust. After you make sure they’re healthy, you can start doing supervised visits and slow intros! 

Q: I’ve never fostered before, I’m nervous. How hard is it?

A: Fostering is tough in many ways. You’ll be challenged emotionally, mentally, and maybe even physically. A foster home is usually the first place an animal stays after the shelter. There is definitely an adjustment period while the animal learns to trust you. Sometimes it takes a few days, other times a few weeks before you both figure out each other’s schedules and routines. The two week decompression period is the golden rule.

While it may be hard, it’s also one of the most rewarding experiences. You’ll see growth from your foster and it’ll be worth all the effort to watch them flourish with your love and support. Plus, you’ll become part of a community of people who want to see you succeed. With the right rescue, you’ll become a fostering pro.

Q: I could never foster, I’d get too attached. How hard is it to say goodbye?

I mean, for sure. I have bonded with every animal that I’ve fostered. I’ve fostered almost 50 kittens/cats and four pups. It’s always difficult to say goodbye. In fact, saying goodbye to Apricot is still something that breaks my heart.

When an animal gets adopted, it’s sad. But I’ve experienced loss in fostering and that’s one hundred times harder. The goal of fostering is getting them healthy and happy and adopted. Saying goodbye is hard, but with luck, you’ll get updates from their forever home. It is what makes me continue to foster. 

Q: How do I get started?

A: It’s easy! You have the choice here. Based on what I described above, you can reach out to a rescue that fits your needs. If you want to do older, sick cats, there is a rescue for that. If you want to foster puppies, you can find that too. Reach out to your local rescue organizations and be honest and open with what you’re looking for. Fosters are like golden unicorns to rescues and you’ll be welcomed quickly.

If you’re in the Chicago area, Rescue Chicago created a survey to help connect you to rescues that will work based on your needs.

Fostering is truly one of the most impactful and rewarding things you can do in rescue. I’m looking forward to getting back into it after some upcoming travel.

Have any other questions? Feel free to email me at Christine(at) and let me know!


Rescue in style

All of these little pups and kitties have either been rescued or adopted. You can adopt Liv through Second City Canine Rescue. She should be ready to be adopted next week. 


Another pair of glasses from my favorite company, Fetch Eyewear. This company donates 100% of their proceeds to animal rescue initiatives. Most recently, Fetch Eyewear has teamed up with Rescue Chicago! A portion of proceeds using the code “Rescueinstyle” will be donated to help Chicago pets in need and you’ll get 15% off!

This skirt is Lucy Paris and is now on sale! Thank you to RBC Showroom for lending it to me. I bought this bodysuit from Kiz Chicago.



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1 thought on “Fostering 101”

  1. OMG Liv the black chihuahua looks JUST like my rescue, Pickles! She passed a few years ago but omg I would swear she came back as Liv! Great tips/info on fostering. I think it would be so challenging letting them go. But so rewarding, you’re amazing!

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