Preparing Your Pet
The first thing you need to do when considering foster care is to protect your personal animals. Animals can come to us from unknown origins, sometimes with underlying medical issues and conditions, so it is important that you protect your family pets as much as you can. If you choose to foster puppies, you may be exposing your own pets to upper respiratory infections and worms or parasites.
Before bringing home your first foster animal, make sure your animals are up to date with their vaccinations. Talk to your veterinarian about fostering and follow their recommendations about any precautions you need to take. The veterinarian may suggest additional vaccinations/immunizations to protect your animal.
Preparing Your Home
Dogs are curious creatures. Some are capable of jumping onto high surfaces or squeezing into the smallest of spaces. To protect foster animals in a new environment and to safeguard your belongings, it is necessary to animal-proof your entire house. NEVER underestimate your foster animal’s abilities. Accidents happen!
Once you have chosen an area where you will care for your foster guests, you should “pet-proof” the area. Pay attention to any small or dangerous objects, such as pins, needles, paper clips, nails, staples, thread, string, rubber bands, caustic/toxic chemicals, moth balls, plants and any other items that are potentially dangerous. Animals are also attracted to electrical cords, TV cords, telephone cords and curtains. These items should all be blocked so they can’t get at them. A good rule of thumb is “if you don’t want to lose it, put it away”. Also, to ensure nothing is missed, get down at an animal’s eye-level. Look closely for any small holes or dangerous items that may have been missed at your first pass of pet-proofing.
- Use childproof latches to keep little paws from prying open cabinets.
- Keep medications, cleaners, chemicals and laundry supplies on high shelves or in childproofed cabinets.
- Keep trash cans covered or inside a latched cabinet.
- Check for and block any small spaces, nooks or holes inside cabinetry, furniture, floors, appliances, etc. where your foster pets may hide. Also make certain that spaces behind washer/dryer units are closed off so your foster animals can’t get in there either.
- ALWAYS keep your dryer and washer units closed!!! Make sure your fosters haven’t jumped into the dryer or washer before you turn it on! (Yes, this does happen.)
- Keep all foods out of reach and/or in cabinets. Even if the food isn’t harmful to the dog, the wrapper could be.
- KEEP TOILET LIDS CLOSED to prevent drowning. Curious puppies and kittens can easily fall in and drown.
- Place dangling wires from lamps, DVD players, TVs, stereos and phones out of reach. You can place the cords through PVC pipes or other protectors available at any office supply store to prevent the pets chewing on them.
- Keep children’s toys put away.
- Put away knickknacks that are valuable to you or understand that the foster pets can easily knock things over.
- Block any spaces where your vacuum can’t fit but a foster pet could.
- Remove dangerous items like strings, pins, yarn, etc.
- Move houseplants–many of which can be poisonous–out of reach. This includes hanging plants that can be jumped onto from other nearby surfaces.
- Put away all sewing and craft supplies–especially thread and yarn. If ingested, these items can obstruct cat or puppies’ bowels, sometimes requiring extensive surgery to reverse.
- Secure aquariums and cages that house small animals, such as hamsters or fish, to keep them safe from curious paws.
Most garages contain too many dangerous chemicals and unsafe items to be an acceptable foster site.
Additionally, the environment is pretty harsh in a garage; garages are usually not temperature-controlled, so the heat of summer or the freezing cold of winter makes for a miserable living situation in there, if not a fatal one.
- Move all chemicals to high shelves or behind secure doors.
- Clean up all antifreeze from the floor and driveway – One taste can be lethal to an animal!
- If you think your dog escaped into the garage, double- and triple-check underneath your cars for them, including in the wheel wells. A scared dog, especially a small one, will find the strangest (and most dangerous) places to hide!
Here are some other things to consider that might be an afterthought now, but are things that you should be vigilant about.
- Closet and bedroom doors
- Open doors to the outside
- Open washer/dryer doors
- Open cabinet doors
- Computer wires
- Folding chairs
- Potted plants
Keeping Your Foster Home Clean
- Whichever room you choose to make your foster animal’s new home, make sure that it is easily cleaned.
- You should be able to disinfect it between foster groups.
- Carpet and other soft surfaces can harbor disease hosts from group to group.
- It is also difficult to clean up accidents on carpet, especially when they seep into the carpet pad.
- Bathrooms and other areas with tile, hardwood or other impermeable surfaces are ideal places to house your foster animals
Preparing your yard
A fenced-in yard is the ideal situation for your foster dog.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for your foster in the yard.
- Check that there are no holes in your fence or yard where your dog can escape – some dogs LOVE digging holes!
- Check that your fence (if you have one) is tall enough – you’d be amazed how high some dogs can jump, even little ones!
- Keep your foster dog on a leash for the first few trips outside.
- Allow your foster dog some time to explore the new environment.
- Leave a foster dog unattended or unwatched outside.
- Let your foster dog (especially a small one) outside at night without close supervision – coyotes and some birds of prey can easily pick off a small dog.
- Never, ever make your yard, or the outside in general, your foster dog’s primary living/sleeping space.
We think you’ll agree that these are pretty common-sense rules. If you ever have any questions, check out our Resources page on this site (linked here).
We can’t thank you enough for considering fostering for us! It’s extremely rewarding and it helps us to save more lives.