We are currently accepting a limited number of foster applications at this time. Please submit an application if interested.

Below are the most commonly asked questions regarding our Foster Program. If you still have questions after reading this FAQ section, please contact AWA’s Foster Coordinator at fostercare@awanj.org


Why does the shelter have a foster program?
Some animals arrive at the shelter not ready for adoption. Foster homes provide a temporary and loving place for them to be until they can enter the shelter and prepare them for their fur-ever homes.
Who is a foster parent?

They are single people, families, seniors, college students and people serving in the military.

  • For the single person, a foster animal can be great company without the lifetime commitment a pet would require.
  • For the family, it is a great experience to share with your children – to teach them respect for life, responsibility and compassion.
  • For the senior, it is a wonderful way to have an companion animal without the cost associated with veterinary care.
  • For the college student, a way to fill the void that is left by pets still living back home.
  • For the military person, a way to have an pet but not have to worry about transfers and deployment.
What types of animals need fostering?
  • Kittens and puppies too young to be spayed or neutered
  • Orphaned kittens and puppies that need to be bottle-fed (under 4 weeks old)
  • Moms with nursing kittens or puppies
  • Animals with special medical needs (i.e. dogs undergoing heartworm treatment, injured animals recovery from surgery)
  • Kittens that require more socialization than the shelter environment is able to provide
  • Cats and dogs suffering from “shelter stress” and in need of a respite
  • Senior or “hospice” animals


What are the requirements to be a foster parent?
  • Be able to provide a safe, loving and stable environment throughout the foster period
  • Be committed to bringing your foster animal to the shelter for regularly scheduled check-ups and at the first sign of any illness
    Be financially able to provide the basics for your foster animal
  • Have all of your pets in your home spayed/neutered and up-to-date on vaccinations
What do I need to consider before agreeing to be a foster parent?
  • What kind of animals do I want to foster
  • Do I have the resources (both time and financial) to be able to do this?


I've decided to become a foster parent, what do I do next?

Fill out the foster application and you’ll be contacted within 2 weeks by our Foster Coordinator about signing up for foster training.

How do I know what animals need to be fostered?

The Foster Coordinator sends out an email whenever the shelter has animals in need of a foster home.

What do I do when to foster an animal?

Simply respond to the email or call the Foster Coordinator to communicate which animal you would like to foster.

Can you split up large litters of animals?

Yes, larger litters can usually be split up (i.e. 8 kittens into smaller litters of 4 each).  While we prefer that all littermates remain together, we understand that is not always possible.  Please do not ask to foster just one animal from a litter as socialization with their littermates is an important part of their early development.

What if I only want to foster a particular kind of animal, such as kittens?

Foster parents typically do foster a particular type of animal, such as kittens or puppies, special needs animals, etc. When you receive the email, only respond to those that you are interested in.

Does the shelter do "foster to adopt"?

No, the Foster Program is not a place for potential adopters to “test drive” animals. Experience with this approach has been problematic for both the shelter and the animal in the past.

Picking up foster animals

What do I do when I get to the shelter?
  • Tell the staff at the front desk your name, that you are a foster parent there to pick up and the name of your foster animal, if you know it.
  • Complete and sign the Foster Agreement for your animal and receive a copy of the Take Home Packet; it contains important information such as your foster animal’s name, scheduled dates for check-up visits and an emergency contact phone number.
  • Receive a Foster Parent to Adoptive Parent Information Sheet to be completed for each foster animal.  This sheet is used to pass along information to a prospective adopter to enhance the chances of an adoption; return this when you return the foster animal.
  • Make sure your foster animal has had all its vaccinations, worming and flea treatment prior to leaving the shelter; some animals may also be micro-chipped.
What should I bring to the shelter with me?
  • Drivers’ license or other form of generally accepted identification (first time only)
  • For cats and kittens – a cat carrier, if you have one (cats and kittens can only leave the shelter in a carrier)
  • For dogs and puppies – collar/harness, leash or dog crate, if you have one
  • We may be able to provide a carrier/crate depending on our supplies

While you're fostering

What are the fostering parent's responsibilities?
  • Transport the animal to the shelter for check-ups as scheduled (this is very important as young animals need to receive their vaccinations on time)
  • Transport the animal to the shelter if it becomes sick and notify us
  • Return the animal as scheduled for spay/neuter surgery
  • Respond to communications from shelter staff or Foster Coordinator promptly
How long do I keep foster animals?
  • Kittens are fostered until they are 8 weeks old and at least 2 lbs.; they may also need to spend more time in foster care if they are sick.
  • Puppies are fostered until they are 8 weeks old and healthy; they may also need to spend more time in foster care if they are sick.
  • All other animals would stay in foster care according to the situation.
What supplies do I need to foster and who pays for them?

Foster parents are responsible for paying the cost of providing the following items:

  • Dry food
  • Canned food
  • Kitten milk replacer and bottles, if bottle-fed
  • Litter box and pooper-scooper
  • Kitty litter (non-scoopable, clay type only; also less expensive)
  • Food and water bowls
  • Bedding (can be as simple as a cardboard box with old towels)
  • Scratching post or similar item for cats and kittens to exercise their claws (carpet remnants work well)
  • Toys (simple items can be used such as ping-pong balls, crumpled paper, paper bags, empty toilet paper rolls)
  • Crate (used one can be purchased on Craig’s List or sometimes can be borrowed from shelter)
  • Baby gate, optional

The shelter relies entirely on donations and usually only has enough food and supplies on hand for those animals currently at the shelter.

What kind of food do you recommend?

The following food is what is generally used by the shelter, is of good quality and would help make the transition to your home easier on the animal’s digestive system:

Kittens –Purina Kitten Chow and Friskies pate-style canned food (this is small enough for little kitten teeth)

Cats – Purina Cat Chow and any good quality canned food

Puppies –Pedigree Puppy dry food and Pedigree Puppy canned food (and remember Pedigree makes a donation to and supports animal shelters across the country!)

Dogs –Pedigree dry food and Pedigree canned food (there are a variety of “flavors” in each type)

Why should I not use scoopable litter?

This type of litter is designed to form a hard, insoluble mass when it gets wet. When kittens use the litter box, they lick themselves clean and anything their tongues encounter gets ingested. The kitten’s digestive system is unable to handle this type of litter.

How much will it cost?

That will depend on how many animals you foster and the age of those animals.  Many items can be used over again such as crate, leash, litter box, scooper, bowls, bedding and toys.

Where do I keep my foster animals?

Your foster animal needs to be kept separate from your own pets (if you do not have pets of your own, this is not an issue).  A separate room or enclosed area with no carpet works best such as a bathroom or laundry room. A large crate is also very useful to confine the animal when it is not being supervised.

Will I have to administer any medication?

More often than not, you will need to give oral (liquid) or eye medication.  Many times kittens and puppies develop upper respiratory infections or “colds” from being exposed to other animals in the shelter.  If you are not able to administer simple medication, you may want to reconsider fostering.  This is a very common and normal part of fostering.  It is not in the best interest of the animal to be continually moved when they get sick.

How can I help make my foster animal more adoptable?
  • Provide lots of love and socialization to bring out the best in their personality; friendly, outgoing animals that enjoy being around people are the first to get adopted
  • Provide basic training such as litter box use, housebreaking, obedience
  • Provide basic grooming such as brushing, bathing, nail clipping
Can I post my foster animal on Craig's List, Facebook, etc.?

Yes, you may promote your foster animal but all prospective adopters must put in an adoption application at the shelter, be approved by the shelter staff and picked up from the shelter after spay/neuter surgery.

Veterinary care

Who is responsible for veterinary care?

The shelter has a veterinarian and vet technicians who provide all veterinary care and medication.  You must bring your foster animal to the shelter for all veterinary care.  The shelter cannot reimburse you for taking your foster animal to another veterinarian.

How often do I need to bring foster animals in for check-ups?

Kittens and puppies must come in every two weeks for vaccinations, worming, weight check and general health assessment; more often if they are sick.  All other animals come in based upon the situation.

What is done at a check-up visit?

Kittens receive a vaccination for the rhinovirus, calicivirus & panleukopenia (FVRCP); medication for intestinal parasites, weight check and general health assessment.

Puppies receive a vaccination for canine distemper, parvovirus & bordetella; medication for intestinal parasites, weight check and general health assessment

Please make sure that kittens and cats are in a secure carrier and that puppies and dogs are leashed or in a carrier when coming to the shelter for check-ups.  The unfamiliar noises of the shelter can easily scare an animal.

What are the most common illnesses?

The most common problems in puppies and kittens are an upper respiratory infection (or “cold”), eye infection and diarrhea.

At what point should I seek veterinary care?

At the first sign of anything abnormal, the animal should be brought in to be seen by either the vet or a vet technician.  Medical issues in young animals usually only get worse if ignored and will require medication to get better.

What do I do if my foster animal gets sick (non-emergency)?

The shelter is open 7 days a week; you should call the shelter to verify that either the vet or a vet technician is there to see your foster animal.  Check the website for shelter hours.

We also have an email address that you can send non-emergency, general questions to that is answered by a veterinary technician.  You will receive a response within 24 hours.

Each time you foster an animal, you will be given a Foster Agreement that will include the shelter extension number and vet tech email address to contact.

When can I take a sick foster animal to the shelter to be seen; do I need an appointment?

There is no appointment needed to be seen, but to avoid an unnecessary trip, verify that someone is there who is qualified to see your foster animal.

What do I do if I have an emergency (problem breathing, bleeding, non-responsive)?

Each time you foster an animal, you will be given a Foster Agreement that will have an emergency phone number listed.  Please try to anticipate any potential problems and go to the shelter during regular hours; only use the emergency phone number as you would a hospital emergency room. It is important that you call the emergency line. We cannot reimburse you if you go to your own vet or an emergency hospital.

What happen if my own pets get sick?

If your own pet becomes sick or injured due to interaction with a foster animal, you will be responsible for all veterinary care required for your pet.  AWA will not reimburse you for veterinary costs that you incur for your own pets even if the source of the illness or injury was your foster animal.  To reduce the chance of your own pet getting sick, keep foster animals separated, wash your hands after handling and keep their area as clean as possible.

Returning foster animals

How do I know when to return my foster animal?

You will be given a schedule to return animals for checkups and vaccinations.  At the point the animal is able to return to the shelter, you will be given a date for spay/neuter surgery.  Please make sure that kittens are at least 2 lbs. and healthy before dropping them off; if they are not, they will have to go back into a foster home.  Animals under 2 lbs. or with health issues cannot have anesthesia.

Will I have to find a home for my foster animal?

Although we encourage you to promote your foster animal to family, friends, neighbors and co-workers, all animals are returned to the shelter to be adopted and the foster parent is in no way responsible for finding the animal a permanent home.

When do I drop off my foster animal for spay/neuter surgery?

You will be given a date for surgery.  You can either drop off the night before surgery or on the morning of surgery (you will be given the time).  For kittens and puppies, they are not to have food after midnight but may have water.  As a reminder, please make sure that kittens and cats are in a secure carrier and that puppies and dogs are leashed or in a carrier when returning to the shelter.

Do I take my foster animal back home after spay/neuter surgery?

No, foster animals remain at the shelter after surgery and are placed in the adoption area.

How can I tell potential adopters some specific things that only I know about my foster animal (such as food likes/dislikes, favorite toys, etc?)

When you picked up your foster animal, you received a “Foster Parent to Adoptive Parent Information” sheet to be completed for each foster animal to pass along information to a prospective adopter.  Although optional, we highly recommended that you complete it to promote the unique qualities and little personality that only you know.  Many times animals do not show well in a shelter environment due to the noise and activity.  This information sheet may give the prospective pet parent some insight into the animal’s true charm!

What if I can no longer foster my foster animal?

If you cannot foster the animal until the end of the foster period, we ask that you give us as much time as possible to find another foster home. Our foster parents are volunteers and it sometimes takes a day or two to orchestrate a transfer.

Can I adopt my foster animals?

Yes, you absolutely can adopt your foster animal. You just need to return the animal to the shelter for spay/neuter surgery and fill out the adoption paperwork.

What if a friend or relatives wants to adopt my foster animal?

Wonderful!  Just have your friend or relative go to the shelter and put in an adoption application for your foster animal.  If approved, they will pick up the animal after spay/neuter surgery.

Do all foster animals get adopted?

Yes, all animals are adopted; some just may take longer than others.

How will I feel when i return my foster animal for adoption? Isn't it hard to say goodbye to my foster animals?

Part of the joy of fostering is knowing that YOU were personally responsible for providing a temporary home until the animal could get into the shelter and then into a loving, permanent home.  Our foster parents many times kiss their babies goodbye with tears in their eyes.  Their love and sacrifice are the reason these animals are able to find their fur-ever homes.  And if you get lonesome, there will always be another animal that could benefit from your love and care.

Other things

Are my expenses tax-deductibles?

Out-of-pocket expenses when you serve a qualified organization as a volunteer are tax-deductible.  You may also be able to deduct a standard mileage rate of 14 cents per mile.  Check with your tax advisor or IRS Publication 526 Charitable Contributions for more information.