Foster Critter Program

Reasons to foster

Fostering is a wonderful experience for you and your family; you can feel good knowing you have helped save an animal's life. Foster critters provide companionship and purpose. Your act of kindness is repaid in rewards that are beyond words.

Critters needing foster homes

  • Critters too young and/or immature to be adopted (usually rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters).
  • Critters that require more socialization than available at the shelter (usually rabbits, but could be any critter).
  • Injured critters and/or those recovering from surgery.
  • Neglected or abused critters that need tender loving care.
  • Critters with colds or other special medical needs.
  • Momma critters with a litter of babies (rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, etc.).
  • Any critter when the shelter becomes overcrowded.

Important rules and reminders

  • Always wear your foster parent badge at all times when picking up a case.
  • Always report a new case to the Critter Foster Team Lead.
  • Foster critters must be kept indoors at all times.
  • All vet visits must be pre-approved by calling the vet hotline.
  • You must visit a vet listed on the preapproved list located in the foster critter packet.
  • Foster parents must respond within 24 hours to communications from shelter staff, Foster Critter Team members, or potential adopters.
  • Seattle Animal Shelter staff may remove a foster critter from a foster home for any reason they deem necessary.

Apply to become a foster care volunteer today!

Complete our online volunteer profile and select "Foster Care Volunteer–Critters" as your program preference.

Frequently asked questions

It completely depends on the critter and the situation. The average stay in a foster home is about 2 months. Most critters are healthy enough to return to the shelter in a few weeks. Others, recovering from an injury, may stay much longer.

It completely depends on the species and wellness of the animal you are fostering. Healthy animals that need additional socialization work may require less time than a sick or injured animal that requires medication and tender loving care. Foster parents should expect to spend 2-3 hours a day with a foster critter, perhaps more.

Foster parents provide space, food, and love for the critter they are fostering. The shelter will provide you with all the other supplies, meds and equipment needed throughout your foster experience.

No, but you may be asked to dispense medicine to your foster critter so you will have to be comfortable following a veterinarian's instructions if fostering a sick or injured critter. The Critter Foster Team Lead may also be able to offer you species dependent tips for administering medicine to your foster.

All veterinary costs are paid by the shelter through the generous donations to the Help the Animals Fund. If a foster critter becomes sick, foster parents must call the vet hotline to request an authorization for a vet visit. There is a selected list of veterinarian clinics which will bill the shelter directly.

Please be aware that critters require a vet that specializes in the care of that particular species, your Foster Critter Team Lead can recommend a veterinary clinic from the approved list.

Yes! Many of our foster dogs can live with other dogs, cats, or critters. We do our best to provide guidance on a given animal's level of compatibility with other animals, and conduct a meet and greet between dogs if you have a resident dog at home. We also have tips on how to best introduce a new animal to the home and ensure all animals remain safe during your fostering experience.

Note that there is always a small health risk when you expose your animal to other animals, whether walking at parks, visiting the vet, or fostering another animal. The health risk is minimal if your animals are current on their vaccinations, maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle, and are not elderly or very young. We encourage you to talk to your vet about any questions or concerns you have.

Finally, if you or someone in your household is immune-compromised, consult your doctor before fostering, since working or living with animals exposes humans to zoonotic diseases.

Fostering is a wonderful family experience and can build a foundation of philanthropy in your children. It's important to select a critter that is "age" appropriate with your children. You must also be diligent about providing guidance, instructions and rules to your children about caring for the foster critter.

YES! As long as foster parents meet the shelter requirements necessary for adoption, foster parents have first choice to adopt their foster critter.

Foster parents should be aware that critters are more adoptable at the Shelter. It is the Foster Critter Team's goal to get healthy, adoptable critters out of foster care and back into the shelter where they can meet the public and find their forever home.

For those critters in a foster home, photos and stories of adoptable critters are posted on and at the shelter where the public can view them. Foster critters may also be promoted at events throughout the city; the Foster Critter Team Lead will keep you informed of opportunities to promote your foster critter. Foster parents can also help promote their foster critter to their family, friends, colleagues, and the general public through a variety of means including flyers, emails, and social networking sites.

There are two ways to make a foster critter more adoptable. First and foremost is marketing. If no one knows about your foster critter, or how wonderful he is, then it will be next to impossible to find him a forever home. In addition to supplying great photos and a bio and updating these regularly, giving a foster critter additional exposure by telling friends and family about them will help create a "network effect" and will speed up the process of finding a forever home.

Since healthy and well socialized critters are more adoptable at the shelter, our goal is to return critters from foster care as soon as possible. If there is a reason you are no longer able to foster a critter, please coordinate with the Foster Critter Team Lead so that a space can be readied at the shelter or, if the critter requires additional care, an alternate foster family can be found.

We request that a foster parent provides as much notice as possible (minimum 1-2 weeks) so that arrangements can be made. Of course, in an emergency a foster parent may always bring their critter back to the shelter.

If given enough notice, we can usually find volunteers that can foster sit for short durations. We ask that foster parents always keep their case managers aware of any temporary foster sitting situations.

Much energy, love, time and vet care is devoted to our foster critters, and the shelter is committed to finding homes for ALL the adoptable animals within its care. Some critters are in foster care because they're seriously ill or injured. If, after medical attention, these critters are too young or too weak to heal and are suffering, then the shelter staff will humanely euthanize these animals. Fortunately, most critters in foster care heal beautifully. Your safety is our #1 priority. You must always inform the shelter staff and your case manager if your foster critter exhibits any aggressive behavior.