About Our Foster Program
Welcome! Pets are placed in foster care for many reasons. They may be too young, they may be sick or injured, or need socialization or training. We also send pets to foster care to open up kennel space for pets coming in from area shelters.
When you foster a pet in need, you are saving a life. You are providing critical care for your foster pet, paving the way for their journey to a happy, healthy future with a forever family.
Please note: We typically cannot honor requests to foster specific pets. If you’re interested in “trying out” a specific pet before possibly adopting, please see Pet Sleep-Overs (AKA Dress Rehearsals.) The pets on our website usually don't need fostering - they're ready for adoption and stay at our Adoption Center until then.
Vital Foster Needs
Some pets need foster care in order to survive, and some pets don't need foster care at all. Here are the types of pets that do need the help of a foster home on their road to adoption.
The Foster Experience
Fostering animals will require consistent care. You will be responsible for providing a safe and suitable environment for the foster animal, along with food, water, basic training, and of course lots of love and socialization! Fostering pets can be a positive experience for the whole family; however, you must be 18 years or older to be the primary Foster Care Volunteer, live within the Wake County area, and sign our Foster Waiver.
Timeline: The foster experience can last a few days to several weeks, depending on the needs of the pet. If you are going out of town, or you are unable to care for your foster for the total time originally agreed upon, please let the foster coordinator know as soon as possible so other foster arrangements can be made for the pet.
Medical Care: The SPCA covers the cost of all medical care, including vaccines, flea prevention, or trips to the emergency vet. Some foster animals will need to be given daily medications. You must follow the prescription and protocols given by the SPCA medical staff. When vaccines or other boosters are due, you will need to bring the foster pet back to the SPCA for a booster appointment. The Foster Coordinator will schedule these appointments with you.
Supplies: The SPCA is able to provide the majority of items and food for all critters under the SPCA’s care. This includes crates, carriers, food bowls, bedding, towels, toys, leash/collar, food (dry and canned), newspaper, puppy pads, litter, litter box/scooper. We will also provide a heating pad, bottles, and milk replacement for very young/bottle babies. Hay, pellets, cages and other small critter essentials are provided for rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and mice/rats. As some supplies are based on availability and any donations that the SPCA receives, we ask borrowed items are returned at the end of the foster period. The SPCA is unable to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for small pets.
We recommend you have plenty of paper towels, stain/odor remover and cleaning supplies on hand. If fostering small kittens or puppies, we suggest getting a kitchen scale to weigh and keep track of their progress.
Transportation: You will also be responsible for providing your own transportation to the SPCA for pick up, booster appointments or any medical appointments. The SPCA staff is not able to go to your home to pick up pets or provide any medical care.
In 2020, we had over 300 foster families take 1,216 pets into foster care! The SPCA of Wake County is able to do this amazing, life-saving work because foster volunteers are committed to providing a temporary home and lots of love until these pets can find their forever home. We would love for you to join us and increase the impact we have in creating a humane community!
Frequently Asked Questions
YES! but we ask that foster pets and personal pets be kept separate as there is always a risk of spreading illness between pets. All foster pets that are over 6 weeks old will be up to date on vaccines, dewormer and flea prevention before they leave for foster. Of course, many pets will need booster vaccines (such as young puppies or kittens), and getting a general dewormer is not a guarantee that the pet does not have intestinal parasites!
We recommend that your own pets are up to date on vaccinations and that you keep any foster pets separate from your personal pets for at least 14 days to reduce any potential health risks. Speak with your veterinarian if you have any concerns or questions.
If you have questions about how to keep your foster pets separated, please ask us before you pick up your foster! We can give you some tips and ideas.
All foster pets (including cats and rabbits) must be housed indoors.
You will want a designated space in your home that you can easily clean and disinfect. Make sure anything hazardous is removed or out of reach — electrical cords or plants that may be chewed, glass that could be knocked over, strings or small office items or child’s toys that may be eaten. Also, make sure that you assess any hiding places that are small enough for a foster pet to crawl into. Make sure cleaning supplies are put away in a secure location.
You will need to consider the size of your space when thinking about the type of pet you want to foster. For example: for a mom cat with kittens, a large dog crate works well. The crate will keep the kittens safely confined, and there will be enough room for mom to take a break from the babies if she needs to. A litter of puppies will need more space, such as a large crate and a playpen area. Adult dogs will need to have access to the outdoors for exercise and potty time.
You must call the Foster Program Coordinator right away.
If your pet is sick or injured, you will need to provide details about the symptoms. For example: if the kitten has diarrhea, you will be asked when it started, what color it is, whether there is blood present, whether the kitten is lethargic, whether the kitten is eating and drinking, etc.
We may want you to bring your pet to the Admission Center or the Adoption Center to be assessed by a member of our medical team. Sometimes the pet will be able to get assessed then go home with you the same day. Sometimes pets will need to stay at the SPCA for medical observation. Sometimes pets will need to go offsite to one of our vet partners (usually the case of emergencies or after hours issues). If an offsite vet appointment has been authorized, you will be directed to take the pet to the vet for drop off. The Foster Program Coordinator will contact you about arrangements for picking the pet up once it is ready for release from the vet. Remember, if you take a pet to a vet without prior authorization from the Foster Program Coordinator, you will not be reimbursed for those expenses!
No, but you may be asked to give medication to your foster pet. You must be able to follow the medical instructions provided by staff. We also recommend that you really get to know your foster so you are able to pick up on any changes that may signal if your foster pet is sick or injured.
Depending on your residence's location in relation to the SPCA of Wake County and our veterinary partners, we may not be able to utilize foster families that live in neighboring counties. The SPCA relies on foster parents to get pets to a vet in the event of an emergency as quickly as possible, which isn’t feasible if the pet is 45 minutes or more away. We provide any and all medical care for pets in foster and all of our emergency vet partners are in Raleigh or Knightdale. If you are still interested in helping homeless pets through fostering, we recommend googling and reaching out to your local shelter about their needs.
We request that you give the Foster Coordinator as much notice as possible as it does take time to make alternative arrangements. We can either find an alternate foster home, or the pet can stay at the SPCA Admission Center while you are away. If you know of an upcoming trip out of town, please do not take any fosters who will need extended care — keep the Foster Coordinator up to date with your schedule so we can find pets who match your schedule. We also understand that sometimes emergency trips come up. We are unable to work with personal pet sitters for liability reasons and medical safety for young puppies/kittens that need round the clock care.
The SPCA of Wake County is committed to finding homes for all adoptable animals within its care. Some animals are in foster care because they are ill or injured. Some animals have behavior issues and cannot be safely housed at the Adoption Center. In some cases, the pet is too ill or injured to heal, or behavior issues are too serious, and the SPCA staff and medical team will make the decision to humanely euthanize the pet. In some instances, kittens or puppies may “fail to thrive”, they become weak, refuse to eat, and in some cases will pass away. Failure to thrive typically happens to very young pets, and unfortunately can be common.
The SPCA will provide a crate or carrier for your foster pets. Cats and kittens must be transported in a secure carrier. Puppies usually ride well in a carrier or crate also. Adult dogs can ride in a crate if it will fit in your vehicle. Most adult dogs do fine just riding in the back seat. Keep in mind that traveling pets may get car sick! The SPCA can also provide towels and blankets for crate bedding and for clean-up. Never let your foster ride in the bed of a pick-up truck!
If you’re not sure of the best way to travel home with your foster, please ask staff for some advice when you pick up your foster pet.
Ready for the next steps? Fill out the form below!
P.S. After you submit application, please watch for an email with instructions for next steps!
Thank you to PetcoLove for partnering with us to provide critical funding for the SPCA of Wake County foster program!