7 Tips for First-Time Pet Foster Parents

Ready to open your heart and home?
Ready to open your heart and home?
vvvita/iStock via Getty Images

As more and more people became cooped up at home due to the spread of COVID-19, animal shelters throughout the country began reporting a higher number of foster applications than usual. Not only is fostering a pet a great way to help your local animal shelter, it's also a way for many people to alleviate some of the loneliness they may feel while social distancing. If you're considering fostering a cat or dog for the first time, here are seven helpful tips to keep in mind.

1. Get to know your local foster pet organization.

Spend some time researching the foster organization you’d like to work with. You want to make sure you've found a safe, reputable organization. Once you've made your choice, the shelter or foster organization will match you with an animal. As much as it’s important for the organization to feel comfortable with you—they’re trusting you to care for one of their adoptable animals, after all—you should feel comfortable checking in with them and asking any questions you may need answered. Most organizations will make themselves available for any emergencies or to answer any questions, and they’ll also typically handle veterinary services.

2. Know that each foster pet is unique.

A silly blue great Dane puppy plays with her pink ball
Every animal is special.
dmussman/iStock via Getty Images

Every animal has its own individual personality. As such, each foster pet will have its own needs. “Animals are in foster programs for a variety of reasons,” Joanne Yohannan, senior vice president of operations at New York's North Shore Animal League America, tells Mental Floss in an email. “They may be recovering from a surgery, pending a procedure, in need of socialization, or may be too young for adoption.” If possible, it’s best to do a “meet and greet” with a prospective pet. This way, you—and the fostering organization—can ensure you’re a good fit. If a meet and greet isn’t possible, let your new animal warm up to you slowly. Staying calm, being patient, and using positive reinforcement will help them adjust to their new home.

3. Give your new foster pet appropriate space.

Try to set up a special area for your new foster pet. Providing a quiet space will help them ease into their new situation gently. If you can, keep them confined to one small room at first. For tiny animals like kittens, you can even start out by having them stay in your bathroom (just make sure you don't leave the toilet lid up) [PDF].

4. Introduce your new foster pet to any animals you already have slowly.

Sleepy cat and dog sniff noses while cuddling
Sniff first, snuggle later.
Courtesy of Michael Bonassar

If you already have a pet, it may be tempting to want them and your new foster to become best buds right away. But don’t rush. Once your new foster pet has gotten used to its designated part of the house, introduce it to any other animals you have slowly. “Try letting them sniff each other through the door,” Carly Gove, volunteer coordinator and marketing assistant at Philadelphia's Morris Animal Refuge, says. Then, if they seem comfortable, after seeing each other, let the animals have supervised play dates. Make sure you keep their initial time together short, using positive reinforcement to reward positive interactions. It’s also important to ensure all animals are appropriately vaccinated—the last thing you want is for one animal to accidentally get the other one sick. Most animals in a foster care program have already been vaccinated. But if you’re fostering a kitten or puppy that’s too young to have been inoculated, you’ll need to keep them isolated. You should also make sure your existing pets are caught up on their vaccines.

5. Make sure you’re stocked up on the essentials.

Most foster organizations will provide you with everything you’ll need to care for your new animal. Make sure you’re prepared with pet food, cat litter, and toys. You’ll also need bedding, a carrier, and it’s a good idea to have a crate, especially if you’re fostering kittens or a dog. If you’re using a dog crate, the enclosure needs to be large enough that the dog can comfortably stand and move around.

6. Consider your future routine.

German Shepherd lying on floor with laptop and books in and gray cat lying on couch
Think ahead to the days when your home will no longer double as your office.
LightFieldStudios/iStock via Getty Images

If you’re fostering a pet while quarantined, make sure you’re still keeping your usual routine in mind. “Think about what your schedule will be like in one, two, or six months,” Gove says. Fostering a kitten or puppy can be a lot of work, so you need to make sure you can still care for them once you resume your typical, non-social distancing schedule. And it’s a good idea to prepare your foster pet for the day when people start leaving the house more. Puppies in particular can get separation anxiety, so you may want to have them spend some time in separate parts of the house so that they get used to not having a human around 24/7.

7. Remind yourself that your foster pet is a temporary guest.

In theory, fostering a pet is meant to be a temporary situation. But that doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier. To keep your expectations in check, remind yourself that you’re fulfilling an important role in the animal’s socialization, which will eventually help them find their forever home. “Think of it like you’re giving them a vacation from the shelter, or babysitting,” Gove suggests. And, if you do wind up growing attached to your foster pet, there’s no shame in becoming a “foster failure” and adopting your furry friend. “Sometimes foster parents end up choosing to adopt their foster pet,” Yohannan says, “a real win/win.”

13 Father's Day Gifts for Geeky Dads

Amazon/Otterbox/Toynk
Amazon/Otterbox/Toynk

When in doubt, you play the hits. Watches, flasks, and ties are all tried-and-true Father’s Day gifts—useful items bought en masse every June as the paternal holiday draws near. Here’s a list of goodies that put a geeky spin on those can’t-fail gifts. We’re talking Zelda flasks, wizard-shaped party mugs, and a timepiece inspired by BBC’s greatest sci-fi series, Doctor Who. Light the “dad” signal ‘cause it’s about to get nerdy!

1. Lord of the Rings Geeki Tikis (Set of Three); $76

'Lord of The Rings' themed tiki cups.
Toynk

If your dad’s equally crazy about outdoor shindigs and Tolkien’s Middle-earth, help him throw his own Lothlórien luau with these Tiki-style ceramic mugs shaped like icons from the Lord of the Rings saga. Gollum and Frodo’s drinkware doppelgängers each hold 14 ounces of liquid, while Gandalf the Grey’s holds 18—but a wizard never brags, right? Star Wars editions are also available.

Buy it: Toynk

2. Space Invaders Cufflinks; $9

'Space Invaders' cufflinks on Amazon
Fifty 50/Amazon

Arcade games come and arcade games go, but Space Invaders has withstood the test of time. Now Pops can bring those pixelated aliens to the boardroom—and look darn stylish doing it.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Legend of Zelda Flask; $18

A 'Legend of Zelda' flask
Toynk

Saving princesses is thirsty work. Shaped like an NES cartridge, this Zelda-themed flask boasts an 8-ounce holding capacity and comes with a reusable straw. Plus, it makes a fun little display item for gamer dads with man caves.

Buy it: Toynk

4. AT-AT Family Vacation Bag Tag; $12

An At-At baggage tag
ShopDisney

Widely considered one of the greatest movie sequels ever made, The Empire Strikes Back throws a powerful new threat at Luke Skywalker and the Rebellion: the AT-AT a.k.a. Imperial Walkers. Now your dad can mark his luggage with a personalized tag bearing the war machine’s likeness.

Buy it: ShopDisney

5. Flash Skinny Tie; $17

A skinny Flash-themed tie
Uyoung/Amazon

We’ll let you know if the Justice League starts selling new memberships, but here’s the next best thing. Available in a rainbow of super-heroic colors, this skinny necktie bears the Flash’s lightning bolt logo. Race on over to Amazon and pick one up today.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Captain America Shield Apron; $20

A Captain America themed apron
Toynk

Why let DC fans have all the fun? Daddy-o can channel his inner Steve Rogers when he flips burgers at your family’s Fourth of July BBQ. Measuring 31.5 inches long by 27.5 inches wide, this apron’s guaranteed to keep the cookout Hydra-free.

Buy it: Toynk

7. Doctor Who Vortex Manipulator LCD Leather Wristwatch; $35

A Doctor Who-themed watch
Toynk

At once classy and geeky, this digital timepiece lovingly recreates one of Doctor Who’s signature props. Unlike some of the gadgets worn on the long-running sci-fi series, it won’t require any fancy chronoplasm fuel.

Buy it: Toynk

8. Wonder Woman 3-Piece Grill Set; $21

Wonder Woman three-piece gill set
Toynk

At one point in her decades-long comic book career, this Amazon Princess found herself working at a fast food restaurant called Taco Whiz. Now grill cooks can pay tribute to the heroine with these high-quality, stainless steel utensils. The set’s comprised of wide-tipped tongs, a BBQ fork, and a spatula, with the latter boasting Wonder Woman’s insignia.

Buy it: Toynk

9. Harry Potter Toon Tumbler; $10

Glassware that's Harry Potter themed
Entertainment Earth

You can never have too many pint glasses—and this Father’s Day, dad can knock one back for the boy who lived. This piece of Potter glassware from PopFun has whimsy to spare. Now who’s up for some butterbeer?

Buy it: EntertainmentEarth

10. House Stark Men’s Wallet; $16

A Game of Thrones themed watch
Toynk

Winter’s no longer coming, but the Stark family's propensity for bold fashion choices can never die. Manufactured with both inside and outside pockets, this direwolf-inspired wallet is the perfect place to store your cards, cash, and ID.

Buy it: Toynk

11. Mr. Incredible “Incredible Dad” Mug, $15

An Incredibles themed mug
ShopDisney

Cue the brass music. Grabbing some coffee with a Pixar superhero sounds like an awesome—or dare we say, incredible?—way for your dad to start his day. Mom can join in the fun, too: Disney also sells a Mrs. Incredible version of the mug.

Buy it: ShopDisney

12. Star Wars phone cases from Otterbox; $46-$56

Star Wars phone cases from OtterBox.
Otterbox

If your dad’s looking for a phone case to show off his love of all things Star Wars, head to Otterbox. Whether he’s into the Dark Side with Darth Vader and Kylo Ren, the droids, Chewbacca, or Boba Fett, you’ll be able to find a phone case to fit his preference. The designs are available for both Samsung and Apple products, and you can check them all out here.

Buy it: Otterbox

13. 3D Puzzles; $50

3D Harry Potter puzzle from Amazon.
Wrebbit 3D

Help dad recreate some of his favorite fictional locations with these 3D puzzles from Wrebbit 3D. The real standouts are the 850-piece model of Hogwarts's Great Hall and the 910-piece version of Winterfell from Game of Thrones. If dad's tastes are more in line with public broadcasting, you could also pick him up an 890-piece Downton Abbey puzzle to bring a little upper-crust elegance to the homestead.

Buy it: Hogwarts (Amazon), Winterfell (Amazon), Downton Abbey (Amazon)

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

How to Watch the Great Smoky Mountains' Synchronous Fireflies From Home

QEYES/iStock via Getty Images
QEYES/iStock via Getty Images

Each June, thousands of synchronous fireflies put on a stunning light show in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. People won't be able to view the spectacle in person this year due to the COVID-19 crisis, but for the fireflies, it will be business as usual. As CarolinaCoastOnline reports, the nonprofit Discover Life in America found a safe way to share the event with as many people as possible by streaming it online.

The fireflies of Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains are the only fireflies in the Western Hemisphere that flash in sync. For two weeks in June, the males above ground blink for the females on the forest floor below, creating a rhythmic, hypnotic display.

In a typical year, thousands of people would gather to witness the phenomenon, but in April 2020, Great Smoky Mountains National Park canceled the event after determining that social distancing would be impossible. The synchronous fireflies are so popular that the park has to distribute tickets for shuttle access by lottery. Whether you had plans to see the show this year or you're hearing about it for the first time, it's now easy to view it from home.

Discover Life in America, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting biological diversity, streamed its virtual firefly-watching event to YouTube on Monday, June 1. After an introduction explaining the science behind the insect's behavior, the feed cuts to footage of the Great Smoky Mountains at night. The fireflies can be seen flashing over a stream, a hiking trail, and an open field in the park. There's even a clip that shows the insects performing the mating ritual as a thunderstorm brews in the background. You can watch the full video below.

If you're looking to relax with more wildlife content, check out these animal webcams you can watch right now.

[h/t CarolinaCoastOnline]