Fostering guinea pigs - or any other pet for that matter - is a time consuming venture. But it's also one of the most rewarding ways to help homeless animals. Small Paws Guinea Pig Rescue does not have enough room to house all of the guinea pigs that come into our care. Therefore we rely greatly on caring individuals who open their hearts and their homes to help look after guinea pigs in need until permanent adoption homes can be found. But as with adoption, the decision to become a foster carer is not one to be taken lightly. If you are considering becoming a Small Paws Foster Carer, then please ask yourself the following questions to decide if it is right for you:
Does being a foster carer fit into your lifestyle?
The health and welfare of all individuals in your home - both human and animal - must be considered befoe bringing another creature into the mix. Fostering a homeless pet should never be considered unless your home environment is happy, safe, healthy, and spacious enough to nurture the foster pet adequately and retain sanity among the existing members of your home. If any of your family members is contending with allergies, excessive stress, other physical or mental issues, career instability, financial difficulties, or housing or space restrictions, then fostering is not a good option for you at this time.
But if you believe you have the ability to foster, and the entire household agrees that fostering would be a positive experience, your next question should be “Do I have the time?”
Fostering a pet is a 24/7 job. Although you may not be physically interacting with the animal every second of the day, you will be responsible round the clock for the pet’s safety, comfort, and general well-being, and this responsibility alone can be exhausting. If your work or family schedule is already so hectic that adding another time-consuming responsibility will only create more stress, do not consider fostering at this time.
The amount of personal attention required for a foster guinea pig varies depending on the individual case, but you can expect to spend anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours per day taking care of their basic needs. This includes dedicating time to feeding, cage cleaning, supervised exercise time, lap time and fulfilling various other basic duties to keep your guinea pigs happy and healthy.
Are you willing to provide long-term care if necessary?
The amount of time that a foster guinea pig remains in your care will depend entirely on how quickly it can be adopted out into a permanent home. This may take anywhere from a few days to a few months. By committing to becoming a foster carer you must be willing to provide care, love and attention to your foster guinea pigs for as long as is necessary. Becoming a foster carer does not mean that you can care for a foster guinea pig for a few months then return it when you start getting bored or tired of looking after it. By becoming a foster carer you must be willing to be in it for the long haul.
Are you prepared to say goodbye?
The hardest part is always saying goodbye. If you find it hard to say goodbye, imagine how happy your foster pet will be in his or her new home—and remember how you helped make that happen. It’s important to remember, however, that fostering should not be viewed as a “trial adoption”. Anyone who fosters must be realistic about the expected outcome - that another family will adopt the guinea pig. While it is impossible not to become attached, it’s necessary to keep your original goals in mind and remain committed to finding the animal a new family.
What if it doesn't work out?
If you have decided that fostering is right for you and feel prepared for the experience, you may still encounter obstacles to a positive outcome for your foster pet. These may include unknown behavior problems that are difficult to modify, illness, injury or unexpected death, or existing pets’ non-acceptance of the foster pet. We at Small Paws take our foster program very seriously and try very hard to match guinea pigs with suitable foster carers. If we are aware of a behavioral or medical issue then the potential foster carer will be told about it. But often these kinds of problems don’t become apparent until an animal has had ample time to acclimatize to it’s new home. We offer ongoing support for all of our foster carers and will work with you to overcome any issues that you may encounter.