Fostering an Animal

Penny and Portillo, foster kittens
Penny and Portillo, foster kittens

Are you an animal lover? Do you have room in your home and heart to provide a temporary home to an animal in need?

Ask yourself and members of your household the following questions to determine if you are ready to become a foster care provider:

Does fostering fit into my life and home?

 In addition to the joy of helping an animal in need, there are some responsibilities involved in providing foster care.

  • Transport the animals between home, shelter and/or veterinarian's office
  • Must be able to say goodbye to animals when the time comes to return them to the shelter for adoption
  • Must be a resident of Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William or Arlington Counties or the Cities of Alexandria, Fairfax or Manassas

What are some of the fostering opportunities?

  • Cats and Kittens - Cyclically, the shelter overflows with felines and temporary homes are needed for these terrific tabbies. Foster parents will provide individualized care for nursing feline mothers and their babies, young kittens who need to be bottle fed or weaned kittens less than 8 weeks old (not old enough for adoption). Older cats, or those with medical needs, are also available for fostering.
  • Special Needs Dogs - On occasion, the shelter has dogs that need to spend time in foster care to prepare for adoption. These dogs may benefit from a loving, social environment, or special training.
  • Small Mammals - Discover the joys of providing temporary care and socialization for a variety of small mammals, such as rabbits and guinea pigs.
  • Puppies - Young puppies without a mother sometimes need a stable home environment to begin learning basic housebreaking, how to walk on a leash and socialization.
  • Reptiles - Occasionally, there are aquatic turtles, snakes or lizards that grow larger, are recovering from emaciation (or may have other minor medical ailments) or have special needs that prevent them from being put up for adoption for a certain time period.

How can I get involved in the foster care program?

  • Complete a foster care application, including a form authorizing the Animal Shelter to perform a background check
  • Submit the completed foster care provider application to the Fairfax County Animal Shelter at 4500 West Ox Road, Fairfax, VA 22030
  • The application may also be faxed to 703-830-0318
  • Once the application is received by the shelter, it will be submitted for a criminal background check. 
  • Foster applicants will be contacted to set up a home visit from shelter staff.
  • Contact the Volunteer Coordinator at 703-324-0241 or e-mail

What is the greatest need of the foster program?

  • Kittens!
  • “Kitten season” typically begins in May and continues through October.
  • Volunteers help these little ones start their lives in the best way possible: in healthy, positive, loving homes

Do you provide training or reference materials for foster providers?

  • Each new foster receives a manual that contains important information, including phone numbers for questions or emergencies.
  • Volunteers interested in bottle-feeding kittens must attend a training class as these little ones require extensive care.

How long does the foster period last?

  • From a few days to a few months, depending on the needs of the animal.

Are there other ways I can help?

Consider a donation to the foster care program:

  • KMR (milk replacement for kittens)
  • Cat toys (especially toy mice)
  • Royal Canin "Baby Cat" dry food
  • "Timothy" hay
  • Carefresh (for small mammal bedding)
  • Nylabones for all sized dogs, including puppies
  • Pillowcases


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