Many people rushed out to foster pets from animal shelters and rescues during these strange pandemic times and it’s happening right across the country. Why not? We’re home anyway so it’s a good time to temporarily give a dog, cat, even a bunny a loving space to be nurtured. But now that we’ve grown to love these furry friends should we consider making them a permanent member of the family?

Dr. Amanda Landis-Hanna, senior manager of veterinary outreach at PetSmart Charities offers up some important factors to consider if you’re thinking about making this commitment — especially when it comes time to return to some sort of “normal” work and home routine.

Can you establish or maintain routines?

As you consider settling into a role of permanent pet parent, implementing a routine can help provide a sense of normalcy for you and your new pet. As shelter-in-place restrictions lift and people return to work, it is important to establish schedules for feeding, exercising and socializing pets. It’s recommended to make sure they are fed at the same time every morning and night. If you live alone, with no one else to care for the pet in your absence, reach out to neighbors or family members to make sure that your pet is getting proper attention.

Consider regular vet visits and additional health-related costs:

Be sure to consult the shelter on any ongoing expenses or medication needed for your new family member. Many shelters will be available to answer questions following adoption, but it is recommended to establish a regular provider for vaccinations, check-ups and grooming needs.

Once you have officially adopted your (previous) foster, you will be responsible for all care of your pet. Consider financial planning options, including pet insurance, wellness plans, or payment plans; the longer you wait the more likely your pet is to have a pre-existing condition.

Have a designated emergency contact:

No matter what kind of pet you have, you should have someone you can depend on and call if you need something at the last minute. Having an emergency contact can also give you more peace of mind.

Also, select an emergency vet hospital appropriate for your species of pet, and put the name, phone number and address where it is easily found, and share it with your pet’s emergency contact.

Do you have a safe space for your pet when you’re not home?

As you return to work, pet-proof the space that your pet will inhabit. Many animals can jump onto high surfaces or squeeze into the smallest of spaces. To protect pets and to safeguard your belongings, it’s recommended to animal-proof your entire house. Pay attention to any small or dangerous objects, such as pins, needles, paper clips, nails, staples, thread, string, rubber bands, caustic/toxic chemicals, mothballs, plants and any other items that are potentially dangerous. Conduct a pet-eye-level check (on hands-and-knees or squatting) to ensure you aren’t missing anything.

Lucky you! Did you know about the Mental and Physical Benefits?

Pets and therapy animals have been shown to help alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Interactions with animals can help people manage their long-term mental health conditions.

Consider a scheduled daily playtime with your pet. This time is valuable for the human and pet as it can provide both exercise and quality time for human-animal bonding. Research on the human-animal bond shows health benefits to both the pet(s) and person(s)!

PetSmart Charities, the leading funder of animal welfare, has committed up to $1 million to support pets and their owners affected by COVID-19. These funds will be used to support animal shelters and organizations that are committed to helping impacted people keep and care for their pets. This support will be available across all Canadian provinces and in the areas with the highest number of reported cases in the U.S. To learn more, visit petsmartcharities.ca