Cuiyan Liu

4 Reasons Fostering A Pet Is The Perfect Way For Millennials To Give Back

Fostering a pet is the best of both worlds. You get to love and spoil an animal in need, but with a fraction of the responsibility of owning your own pet.

Animal rescues and shelters all over the country have foster programs in need of more volunteers.

Fosters provide temporary homes for animals including infant kittens, rambunctious puppies and 16-year-old grumpy cats that need a vacation from shelter life.

While it is life-saving work, fostering also has some surprising perks:

Fostering offers all the benefits of having a pet without the life-long commitment.

You can cuddle with them at night, show them off to your friends and spoil them with treats and human food. And when their stint in the shelter is over, you get to watch them go home with their forever family.

Sure, you may cry every time you drop your foster pets off at an adoption event, but there's something special about knowing you were the person who taught this animal — which may have had a rough life so far — humans can be trusted.

Plus, as you chase after your foster puppy cleaning up accidents, you can look at the silver lining. And that silver lining, for you, is that this chaos is temporary.

There's something special about knowing you were the person who taught this animal humans can be trusted.

Fostering is like Tinder for potential pets.

The foster dog that eats your couch cushion feels oddly reminiscent of the Tinder guy who stood you up at ACL Festival in 2014.

OK, maybe not quite, but fostering does allow you to get to know all sorts of animal personalities so you can determine what will work long-term with your lifestyle.

Even if you aren't planning to adopt eventually, fostering gives you the chance to have short-term matches with pets that are perfect for the various areas of your life.

One month, you might need a mellow, cuddly cat for a "Netflix and Chill" phase. The next month, you might be seeking an energetic buddy to accompany you on hikes as the weather cools off.

While I've enjoyed my time with every foster animal I've ever had, the variety of personalities I have cared for taught me a thing or two about what I wanted in the dog I would someday adopt.

When I met that dog (foster pet number 27), I knew I needed him as much as he needed me.

When I met that dog (foster pet number 27), I knew I needed him as much as he needed me.

Fostering offers companionship without the cost and pressure.

At many shelters, food, toys and medical care are covered by the shelter. You can foster as frequently or infrequently as you would like, so if you have a vacation or busy time at work coming up, you can decline to take on a new foster.

Many shelters just send out email blasts to their foster networks when a foster is needed, and you respond if you are available.

For college students or young professionals, this is the perfect situation if you aren't sure you can commit to taking care of a pet forever because of a frequently changing schedule.

One semester you may have the ability to come home and relax between every class. That could be the semester you can answer the call for puppies or bottle feed baby kittens in need.

Or, if you are fresh out of college and working unpredictable hours at a new job, a pair of self-sufficient, elderly cats might be ideal.

Though you can foster again and again, each time is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

From staying up all night to nurse a sick puppy back to health, to watching the joy of a family as they adopt your foster pet (from a safe distance because you're crying like a jealous toddler watching someone play with their toys), fostering is a humbling and surprisingly profound experience.

On top of all the fun, the pee, the cuddles and the puppy breath kisses, when you foster, you are both improving a life of the foster pet in your home and saving the life of the animal taking its place in the shelter.