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10 Foster-Fail Stories That Will Tempt You to Do the Same

Adopting a foster pet doesn’t isn’t always the right choice. But for these families, it turned out to be the only one.

by Savannah Admire
December 15, 2022
A brunette woman holding a spotted gray kitten up to her face while its front paws rest on her chin
Melanie DeFazio / Stocksy

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Every pet deserves a loving home, and people who foster provide a safe, welcoming space for dogs and cats until they find their place to land forever. But sometimes, the family you’re looking for has been right under your nose (or whiskers) all along. Animals have a way of sneaking adorably into your heart, and foster pets can just become part of the family, unexpectedly and naturally. Soon, you can’t imagine life without this new addition, who was just supposed to be a temporary pal. 

The Wildest talked to 10 pet parents about their “foster fails” and how their foster pets ended up becoming their permanent four-legged best friends. 

Jax and Opie’s Second Chances

Photo: Samm Yates

Natalie fostered just one dog before Jax and a few more before Opie came into her life. Working with several rescues in Maryland and Virginia, she saw some of the devastating situations that dogs can come out of and was happy to lend her time and home to fostering. 

Jax, Natalie’s five-year-old Rottweiler / German Shepherd mix, was rescued from a hoarding situation and entered her home at just eight weeks old, suffering multiple wounds, a broken tail, fleas, and “the worst case of worms I had ever seen,” Natalie says. Even though Jax was just a puppy, there weren’t many people applying to adopt him, and by the time someone was interested, he had already bonded with Natalie’s two Dobermanns and found his confidence in the wide open spaces of her farm. 

Not quite three years later, Natalie fostered a 10-month-old Dobermann named Opie who quickly settled into the family as well. Natalie’s 14-year-old female Dobermann at the time fell in love with the new addition, which is when Natalie realized that Opie would be a good fit for their family. Now, Jax and Opie are irreplaceable members of the family, enjoying life in Beverly Hills, Florida.

A Cat Named Mouse

Photo: Kat Jordan

Kat and her husband had fostered multiple dogs for short-term stints when the Great Plains SPCA in Merriam, Kansas, asked the couple to take in a cat as an emergency placement. Rescued with over 30 other cats from an overpopulated barn, Mouse was absolutely terrified of people. He even hid from his new foster family for several weeks after they first took him home. 

After two months of patience and gentle care, Mouse began to grow more comfortable in his foster home — and then the big breakthrough happened.

“I decided to sleep in the guest room where we had him isolated, and he came out without prompting, curled up next to me on the bed, and started nuzzling my forehead and licking my face,” Kat says. 

During supervised playdates with the couple’s three other cats, Mouse hit it off with Oliver, who began to stay in the spare bedroom to keep the foster kitty company. A rescue cat himself, Oliver proved to be the perfect companion for the frightened Mouse, who had a calming effect on Oliver’s own anxiety. Kat and her husband couldn’t bear to separate the two cats and decided to adopt Mouse into their family. 

“He is an amazing cat,” she continues. “He loves to sit on my lap and watch TV with me in the evenings, and he sleeps with us in the bed at night. My husband and I feel we absolutely made the right choice to foster-fail Mouse. He’s the perfect addition to our family.”

Rico Was Already Home

Photo: Angie Splittgerber

Angie began fostering dogs and cats in 2018, and Rico was her “pandemic foster,” joining the family in March 2020, right before lockdown. 

A Labrador / Rottweiler mix, Rico is an incredibly social dog, getting along well with other dogs and cats alike, but he’s also very sensitive and easily frightened, especially of men. Because of his anxiety, his original family surrendered him to a rescue, where the staff insisted on frequent meetings before adoption to ensure Rico found the right fit. None of the potential adopters panned out, but Angie realized that Rico was a perfect match for her family of pets — he loved her boyfriend, too.

“He got along with my two dogs and two cats (and foster cat),” Angie says. “He met my boyfriend and, quite honestly, gets more excited now to see him than me. That could have something to do with the fact that my boyfriend makes the dogs bacon every Sunday morning for a treat.”

Angie says that the year she spent fostering Rico allowed him to grow more comfortable and showcase the playful personality hidden beneath his initial fear.

“And this is why fostering is so important,” she says. “Rico was a completely different dog at my house than at the shelter or as described by the people who surrendered him. And I realized no one could give him a more perfect environment for success than I could. I definitely did not want three dogs — and that was always the reason I was able to give up fosters before — but Rico captured my heart and let me know this home was the best for him.”

Zotz Joins the Fam

Photo: Mollie Jackman

No stranger to fostering, Mollie has welcomed 15 dogs and over 30 cats into her home over the years. When she and her friends discovered a stray cat on a float (that’s Midwestern for “canoe trip”), she didn’t hesitate to feed him and take him home, once they determined he didn’t have a family of his own. 

Flea-ridden and ill, the cat seemed like he might not make it through his first night in his foster home, but he pulled through and slowly began to feel more comfortable. Mollie named the cat Zotz after the candy and found that he made a sweet addition to her family. 

He got along well with my other cat and my dog, and since we found him at a friend's going away trip, we all wanted him to stick around,” Mollie says. 

Since Zotz’s adoption a few months ago, he’s welcomed another foster into the home — a new dog who ended up becoming a permanent family member too. 

Misty the Cat Adopts a Kitten of Her Own

Photo: Heather Tangen

In October 2017, Heather took in a medical foster kitten with a broken back named Cebu. While he was expected to fully recover from his injuries, he needed some care and a safe place to heal outside of the shelter.

Cebu was Heather’s sixth or seventh foster cat and her second with Kansas City Pet Project, and she had no intention of keeping him. But her cat Misty was immediately drawn to the new kitten in a way she hadn’t been to any of Heather’s previous foster cats.

I walked in on them snuggling on the couch and just knew I couldn’t separate them and that Misty knew they belonged together,” Heather says. “Misty is a super spoiled girl and always finds a way to get me to give her exactly what she wants.”

Five years later, Cebu is a permanent member of the Tangen family and has been (mostly) gracious enough to welcome the addition of Heather’s husband and soon, a new baby as well. 

“Cebu is such a goofy boy,” she continues. “While it wasn’t my intention to adopt him, I’m so very glad I did. I cannot imagine our lives without him.” 

Samantha and Gemma Were Meant to Be

Photo: Samantha Hsu

Samantha took her fostering experience to the next level in September 2021, taking in Gemma and her litter of five kittens. 

“I remember seeing a picture of Gemma and her kittens and being super drawn to her just with how pretty and sweet she looked,” Samantha says. 

With no intention of adopting, Samantha’s goal was to give Gemma a safe temporary home to nurse her kittens. But once the little ones were old enough to be adopted, she felt torn about whether to let Gemma go as well. After finding families to adopt all of the kittens and Gemma, Samantha assured herself it was for the best and prepared to let go. 

Then Gemma’s potential new family contacted Samantha to tell her that they’d fallen in love with and adopted another cat and had reached their pet limit for their apartment. Samantha couldn’t deny how relieved she felt and knew she had to adopt Gemma herself. 

“I started ordering bowls, beds, toys, and a tag and collar for her as soon as I brought her home,” Samantha says. “It really felt like it was meant to be in a way, and I’m really happy it all ended up happening the way it did!”

These days, Gemma plays host to Samantha’s foster kittens, showing them the ropes before they move on to their own forever families. 

Tucker Everlasting

Photo: Kimmy and Sam Walker

Kimmy and Sam had only been fostering kittens for a couple months when Tucker joined their family with two other foster cats last July. The nervous kitten was hesitant at first but soon bonded with Sam, who took the time to gain Tucker’s trust. 

The couple wanted to adopt two cats, but Tucker didn’t interact much with the other fosters and spent more time playing on his own. Kimmy and Sam tried to find a permanent home for Tucker with family members so they could still see him, and in the meantime they found a pair of cat siblings to adopt. 

The couple’s other two fosters soon found their own forever homes, leaving Tucker all on his own. To keep the foster kitten from feeling lonely, Kimmy and Sam began to introduce Tucker to their other two cats and were surprised to find he loved them! After that, adding the kitten to their family was a no-brainer.  

“Between Sam’s bond with Tucker and him having a much higher opinion of our cats [than the fosters], it was an easy and obvious choice,” Kimmy says. 

Ruthie and Lolly Beat the Odds

Photo: Shannon Slagg

Kara was only 15 years old when she fostered three-day-old kittens and learned how to tube-feed to help them eat. Unfortunately, only one of the kittens in the litter survived: a small female named Ruthie. Ruthie and Kara bonded quickly, struggling through the kitten’s many health issues, including an eventual diagnosis of congenital hypothyroidism and several major scares.

“There were several points we thought she wouldn’t make it, but she pulled through,” Kara says. “I was so attached to her at that point, I couldn’t let her go.”

A little over three months after she came into the home as a frail kitten, Ruthie became a permanent member of Kara’s family. After her experience with Ruthie and fostering over 100 animals, including dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and rats, Kara was certainly no stranger to fostering when she took in a feral kitten named Princess Lollipop in early 2021. Kara knew when she met the tiny kitten with a broken pelvis that Lolly, as she came to call her, would need plenty of time and attention. 

Lolly lived with Kara as a foster for almost an entire year, working through physical therapy to regain her strength, and quickly felt at home with both Kara and her cat Ruthie. 

“At that point, Lolly wasn’t my cat, she was Ruthie’s,” Kara says. “So, I had to keep her! She turned into my little alarm clock that licks my nose every morning to wake me up.

Juniper Finds a Family

Photo: Ruby Petterson

Ruby decided to become a foster pet parent last spring, and she took in Juniper (and three of her kittens) in June. The feline quartet was only supposed to be a two-week placement, but Ruby soon found herself drawn to Juniper, loving everything from her sweet temperament to her fluffy tail. Only a week into fostering Juniper, Ruby realized that she wanted to adopt the cat and give her the better life she deserved.

“When I got her, it was also obvious she hadn’t been taken care of,” Ruby says of Juniper. “A lot of her fur was matted, and she was skinny. When I got her first cat tree, it was obvious she had never seen one before and didn’t know what to do with it. I wanted to be the one to turn her into a happy and healthy cat, because she deserved to have a good life after having a rough start and having to take care of six kittens all on her own.” 

Ruby was already a pet parent to three other cats, and Juniper, with her limited experience around other animals, has been slow to adapt. But Ruby has noticed gradual progress and continues to work with her newest cat to help her and the other three feel comfortable with one another. 

Cut to today, and Ruby can’t imagine her life without Juniper — the perfect addition to her family: “She’s always so excited to see me, even when I’ve only been gone a short time. She comes over and rubs against me, and she does this thing where she stands on her back legs and brushes up against you so you'll pet her neck. She’s extremely playful and is definitely a busybody, but she also settles down really well and likes to curl up next to me.” 

Milton Makes Himself at Home

Photo: Dan Mahoney

Dan and his wife, Nancy, dove into the world of fostering for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic, happy to provide a temporary home for a cat who needed one. Their first foster was an FIV-positive cat named Milton who just needed a quiet place to recover.

“When we got to the shelter, we met this very tired, very scared cat,” Dan says. “He had been living on the streets for a while and had been hit by a car, mauled by a dog, and shot multiple times with a BB gun. A good Samaritan found him on the street and brought him to the shelter, where the second vet exam showed that he was FIV-positive and had heartworm and mycoplasma.”

While the couple gave Milton his own private space in Dan’s home office, the cat had other ideas. He soon figured out how to open the office door and discovered the other cats in the house, particularly Fred, one of the couple’s former strays. The two cats began playing, chasing each other around the house, and that was all it took for him to join the pack.

“Nancy and I quickly decided that we could never give Milton back, so we adopted him,” Dan continues. Two years later, Milton remains Fred’s best friend, Dan’s snuggle buddy, and a permanent fixture in the household. “I just can’t imagine life without him,” Dan says.

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Savannah Admire

Savannah Admire is a writer, editor, and pet parent to two dogs and a cat. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, playing Animal Crossing, or being an obnoxious nerd about her favorite movies and TV shows. She lives in Maryland, where she constantly debates whether or not to get a third dog.