I’ve always been an animal lover. Eventually, when I became a stay-at-home mom and a homeschooling parent, I felt it was the perfect time to put out the welcome mat for some needy four-legged friends. Fostering animals is always a win-win experience—the animals get the extra TLC they need, and your kids get the experience of a lifetime.
Our first feline foster mama was a circus clown dressed up in a black cat suit. We housed Mama Cat and her six all-black kittens in our unfinished master bathroom with a baby gate separating the new family from our bedroom. All was well until I woke up in the middle of the night to find two kittens squeaking loudly next to my head.
I turned on my bedside lamp and woke my husband just as Mama was dropping off kitten #3. This circus act went on for a couple days until my husband was able to install the new bathroom door. Then before we knew it, the kittens reached their two-pound adoptability weight and we returned them to the shelter and bid farewell to the feline family.
I often think back on that wonderful experience that introduced us all to the joys and benefits of fostering animals. When you bring a needy animal into your home, you open up a world of opportunities for your kids to learn and grow.
Animals make excellent companions. Whether your kids prefer dogs, cats, birds, horses, chickens, guinea pigs, snakes, or goats, animals love freely and with their entire being. It’s no wonder why kids gravitate toward their pets when they’re in need of comfort because they’re sick or scared, or a loyal confidant to share their innermost thoughts and feelings.
Fostering an animal can fill this need for companionship like no other. There’s nothing in the world like cuddles from a puppy or kitten, the coos of a contented hen in your child’s arms, or the sigh of a horse when your child leans in for a hug.
Animals love you no matter what. Whether your kids feel grumpy, disappointed, angry, or sad, an animal simply sees your child. The beauty of an animal’s unconditional love is the feeling of worthiness your kids feel when they realize they are lovable no matter what. Siblings may not react well to a brother or sister’s moods and parents may give a time out, but animals, simply love.
Animals are naturally funny.
Kittens have boundless energy and will race around, leap in the air, then skid to a stop, arch their backs, and do a kind of sideways crab walk. They’ll romp and chase and somersault over each other, They’ll bat at anything that catches their eyes and attempt to climb up everything, even you. Just as quickly they’ll waddle over to you, flop down, and fall asleep in less than a minute.
Our retired, racing Greyhound foster, Miata (yes, she was named after the sports car), would periodically snatch things, carry them around for a while, and then drop them whenever something else caught her curious eyes.
Lessens Stress and Anxiety
Kids are busier than ever these days, and that busyness can be stressful and cause anxiety. Spending time caring for and playing with animals is a wonderful way to lessen that stress. This quality time helps distract your kids from the things that are troubling them. It’s a quiet retreat from the busyness of their lives and it relaxes both their minds and their bodies.
Teaches Essential Life Skills
Fostering an animal is a great way to teach your kids responsibility and accountability. Animals are completely dependent upon their human caregivers to satisfy every need. This is where your kids come in. Even your young kids can replenish food and water. Older kids can walk dogs at regular intervals, scoop cat and dog poop, or tend to larger livestock outside.
Encourages Character Development
Caring for any animal takes great patience, compassion, selflessness, respect, and kindness—character traits all loving parents desire to instill in their children. And just think, opening up your home to a needy animal not only helps the animal to learn how to be a pet, but also helps your kids to develop into good people who care about and respect animals and give back to their community.
And caring for an animal well can be a big self-esteem booster for your kids.
Helps Determine if Your Kids Are Ready for a Pet
Since fostering an animal is only temporary, you and your kids get a true up-close-and-personal glimpse into pet ownership. You’ll quickly know if they’re ready and mature enough to handle the responsibility.
If you’re interested in becoming a foster family for a needy animal, check with your local animal shelters and rescues. Many are overflowing with kittens at this time of year and will be grateful for your help. And if you have the appropriate housing needs for larger animals or livestock, check with a few local farms.
Also, the shelter, rescue, and farm typically provide you with an ample supply of food, any medications and/or vitamin supplements, a cage or crate, and any other supplies you’ll need to care for your foster animal.