Dogs are predominantly fed dry food unless a special diet is needed, or they prove to be a picky eater and canned food may then need to be incorporated. Cats will often be fed a combination of wet and dry, as cats eating only dry food take in just half the moisture of a cat eating only canned food. We do our best to provide high quality animal food and ask that you use the same or a food of similar or better quality. Feed your foster animal once or twice daily; the amount will be based on the age and weight of your foster animal. Make sure the animal always has access to fresh, clean water.
You can give your foster animal treats of any kind (unless he/she has known allergies, of course); giving treats helps you and your foster animal to bond with each other. Most dogs like to chew on things, so try rawhide chews, Greenies, antlers, Nylabones or Dentabones. Keep in mind, though, that not all animals like to share, so only give these treats when your foster animal is confined to his/her own area.
Keep in mind that some people food and house plants (which cats like to chew) are poisonous to animals, so remove any plants or food from areas that a foster animal can access.
When you first take your foster animal home, take care not to overwhelm them with too many new experiences all at once. Sometimes, too much stimulation can cause an animal to behave unexpectedly toward a person or animal, which is why it’s a good idea to keep introductions to a minimum during the first couple of weeks after you bring your foster animal home (refer to the “Two Week Shutdown” section of the website). It’s also important to establish a daily routine of regularly scheduled feedings, potty breaks and walk times. Animals are creatures of habit and take comfort in having a routine they can count on.
Also, on a daily basis, be aware of your foster animal’s appetite and energy level. If they’re not eating well or seems listless, something may be wrong medically. You might want to record your observations to make it easier to notice any health issues.
House-training and Litter Box Habits.
It’s unlikely that your foster animal will be perfectly house-trained when you take him or her home. Most of the animals in our foster program have lived in a shelter for a while, often with minimal walks or chances to relieve themselves outside. At the very least, be prepared for an adjustment period until your foster animal gets used to your schedule.
Because a dog has a better chance of being adopted if she is house-trained, please help your foster dog to perfect this skill. Take your foster dog outside to go potty multiple times per day (3-6 times daily, depending on age). Initially, you may need to take them out more frequently to remind them where the door to the outside is and to reassure them that you will take him/her out for potty breaks. Most dogs will give cues — such as standing near the door or sniffing the ground and walking in small circles — to indicate that they need to go out. Keep the dog in a crate when you are not available to supervise them indoors.
If your foster animal has an accident inside the house, don’t discipline or punish the them. It will only teach them to fear and mistrust you. Clean up all accidents with an enzymatic cleaner. Nature's Miracle and Simple Solution are two products containing natural enzymes that tackle tough stains and odors and remove them permanently. For more about house-training dogs, read “House Training Your Dog” in the Resources section of this Manual.
You can help a foster cat be more adoptable by paying close attention to their litter box habits and making the litter box as inviting as possible. The litter box should be located in a place that the cat can easily access. If you have other cats, there should be one litter box for each at in the house, plus one extra. The litter boxes should be placed in a quiet, low-traffic spot so that the cats aren’t startled when trying to take care of business.
We advise against the use of covered litter boxes because some cats don’t like them, which can create litter box problems from the start. Covered litter boxes can trap odors inside the box, which is nice for you, but not for your cat. Cats are often quite fastidious; they are sensitive to the smell of urine and feces, as well as deodorizers.
You can also prevent litter box issues by keeping the litter box as clean as possible. Scoop each litter box at least once daily, and empty it completely to clean it every two weeks. When you clean the litter box, use a mild soap (such as dishwashing soap), not strong-smelling detergents or ammonia.
If your foster cat is not using the litter box, please notify your Crew Member Coordinator immediately so you can work on resolving the issue before not using the box becomes a habit. Keep in mind that a cat may miss the litter box if they have a medical issue like diarrhea or they may avoid the box if they have a urinary tract infection, which causes pain when urinating.
Mental Stimulation and Exercise.
Because play time provides stimulation, encourages socialization and releases excess energy, provide your foster animal with daily play sessions. Depending on your foster animal’s age and energy level, he or she should get at least two 30-minute play sessions or walks with you per day. Try a variety of toys (balls, squeaky toys, rope toys, etc.) to see which ones your foster animal prefers. Remember to discourage the animal from playing with your hands, since mouthing won’t be a desirable behavior to adopters.
You can also offer your foster animal a food-dispensing toy for mental stimulation. You hide treats in the toy and the animal has to figure out how to get the treats out. Try a TreatStik, Busy Dog Ball or Kong product, available online and at pet supply stores. You can also feel free to contact your Coordinator to see if we have an existing supply to assist you, or we can seek donations to help when we don’t. Don’t leave your foster pet alone with any toys that could be easily ingested or cause harm to the animal.
Foster animals must live indoors, not outside. Please do not leave your foster animal outside unsupervised, even if you have a fenced yard. We ask that you supervise your foster animal when he is outside at all times to ensure that he doesn’t escape or have any negative interactions with other people or animals. Your foster animal is only allowed to be off-leash in an enclosed backyard that is completely fenced in.
When walking or hiking with your foster animal, please keep her on leash at all times. This means that your foster animal is not allowed to go to off-leash animal parks or other off leash animal areas. We do not know how your foster animal will act in these situations, or5how other animals will react, and we need to ensure that all animals are safe at all times.
In addition, we don’t know if the other animals they encounter are vaccinated appropriately or carry diseases, so it is best if your foster animal does not meet any unknown animals. Having recently come from a shelter setting, foster animals can be vulnerable health-wise.
Also, your foster animal cannot ride in the bed of an open pickup truck. When you’re transporting foster animals, please keep them inside the vehicle safely secure.
A significant portion of the Resources sections of this website, and content therein, are reproduced from Best Friends (www.bestfriends.org). Specific authors are noted where appropriate. Resources utilized from the Best Friends website are available for use and reproduction without prior contact. Much of this content is protected by copyright, trademark, and other intellectual property laws.