A stack of outdoor cat houses

How to build an outdoor cat house

Cat houses give community cats a safe and warm place to rest during harsh winter weather. Follow these instructions to create an outdoor cat house.

Materials needed:

  • Large, durable storage bin that can withstand cold temperatures
  • 8 ft. x 2 ft. sheet of one-inch-thick rigid Styrofoam
  • Yardstick
  • Box cutter or utility knife
  • Straw, shredded newspaper, or other insulating material
An outdoor cat shelter that has "welcome cats!!!!" and "Stay warm" written on it

Assemble as follows:

  1. Cut a doorway six inches by six inches in one of the long sides of the storage bin towards the corner. To prevent flooding, cut the opening so that the bottom of the doorway is several inches above the ground.
  2. Line the bin floor with a piece of Styrofoam, using the yardstick and box cutter to cut out the piece.
  3. In a similar fashion, line each of the four interior walls of the bin with a piece of the Styrofoam. Perfect cuts are not necessary. Don’t make the Styrofoam go all the way up to the top of the bin but leave a uniform gap of at least three inches between the top of these Styrofoam “wall pieces” and the upper lip of the bin. There needs to be room for an interior Styrofoam “roof” to fit.
  4. Cut out a doorway in the Styrofoam lined up with the doorway that has been cut out already in the storage bin. Trace the outline of the doorway on the Styrofoam first before cutting.
  5. Stuff the bottom of the bin with straw or other insulating material to hold the Styrofoam interior wall pieces in place.
  6. Cut out a Styrofoam “roof” to rest on the Styrofoam interior wall pieces
  7. Cover the bin with its lid.

Tips: This shelter can be cleaned by taking off the lid and the Styrofoam roof. It’s also lightweight and may need to be weighed down. A flap over the doorway is optional. Catnip can be sprinkled inside at first to attract the cats.

Rosabella leans into her foster


Trapped in a crate while the winter temperature continued to drop, Rosabella didn’t have much time left. She wrapped herself as tight as she could to repel the frigid weather seeping through the wire kennel, but her emaciated body could only do so much to protect her. It’s nothing short of a miracle that a Ruff Start foster happened to be driving through the alley and noticed her. Now, Rosabella is in a safe, warm, and loving foster home.

Rosabella laying in a tight circle in a wire kennel outside
an overview picture of Rosabella that shows her malnourished body

After her arrival into our care, a medical exam revealed signs of neglect throughout Rosabella’s body. She has sores and splayed feet that suggest she’s been in a kennel for the majority of her life. And she’s only 19 pounds when she should weigh at least 45 pounds. Besides the terrible circumstances Rosabella endured, she is so loving and beyond resilient. It will take a while to safely bring her weight up to where it should be, but we are comforted knowing she has a whole community cheering her on.

Rosabella standing

Rosabella is quickly putting back on the weight she needs in her foster home. She’s also starting to play and show her endearing personality. Thanks to your support, Rosabella is well on her way to recovery and a loving forever home.

You can help Rosabella and other animals like her by donating to our Animal Care Fund.



Content warning: animal cruelty

The story we are about to tell you is one of the worst animal cruelty cases we’ve seen as an animal welfare organization. We are shocked this cat is alive. We are even more surprised that she is so happy and loving.

Her name is Isley, and she has endured and survived significant harm throughout her life. When you look at her pictures, you may think that she is a senior cat. But based on examinations by our veterinary care team, Isley is only about five years old.

We realize that sharing the details of Isley’s abuse will upset many of you but by sharing her origin story, it will make her story of hope and happiness that much sweeter. Companion animals are so resilient, and we are beyond grateful to give Isley a second chance.

What happened to Isley is extremely difficult to comprehend. If you wish to skip this part, please read on from the next paragraph. After multiple exams and x-rays, we’ve determined Isley sustained the following injuries while in her abusive home. All four of her legs, tail, skull, and hard palate have multiple old fractures. We suspect her abuser intentionally ground down her canine teeth to prevent painful bites from Isley defending herself. Isley’s front claws show signs of a botched declaw procedure as well.

Isley wearing a halloween sweater

There is nothing we can do to correct the old fractures, but we are keeping Isley comfortable with pain and arthritis medication. We are treating her for periodontal disease and awaiting results to see if she has mammary cancer. If the test results come back positive, we are hopeful that we caught it early enough to start treatment. We will remove her four canines through a dental procedure as they are causing her pain and are diseased. Our veterinary team has already spayed Isley and treated her for a UTI.

What does justice for Isley look like?

What Isley endured is unforgivable. We know, wholeheartedly, that we’d like to see the person that did this to her to be prosecuted. And that honestly wouldn’t be enough. While that piece of Isley’s story is out of our control, there is something that we can do. We can give Isley the best life to live starting now.

Watch a video compilation of Isley in her loving foster home.

Here’s where we need your help. We are creating a bucket list for Isley to make up for lost time, and we need your ideas to add to the list. We’re thinking of throwing her a birthday party, taking her to an aquarium, and giving her a gourmet meal. We know there are more ideas out there to help Isley squeeze every enjoyable moment of her new life. Please add your ideas here.

We are also raising money for Give to the Max Day to support our Animal Care Fund to help cover medical expenses for all animals in our care, including Isley. If you are in a position to give, please consider donating today! We will continue to update you all on Isley’s progress and her bucket list. 
a dog smiling at the camera

2022 Ruff Start Rescue Calendar Contest + Fundraiser

Here’s how it works

Everyone is welcome to submit photos of their dogs, cats, or critters. Once submitted, you’ll share your submissions with friends and family to try and get the most votes. The top 13 pictures with the most votes will be featured in Ruff Start’s 2022 wall calendar.

a picture of a dog
a picture of a cat and a picture of a rabbit

Here are the details

  • Each photo submission requires a $15 donation (multiple entries encouraged!)
  • Entries should be high-resolution horizontal photos and only include animals (sorry, humans)
  • Animals don’t need to be a Ruff Start alum to participate
  • For each photo you submit, you’ll get a unique link that you can share with friends and family encouraging them to vote for your photo!
  • Every dollar donated towards your photo counts as one vote
  • The top 13 pictures with the most votes will be featured in our 2022 wall calendar (the calendar cover + a photo for each of the 12 months)
  • ALL photo submissions will be featured in a collage in the calendar

Photo submissions and voting run from TODAY through Sunday, October 30th at 8 pm.

Calendars will be shipped out in early/mid-December making it the perfect holiday gift!

five kittens sitting on a couch

The Wanderlust Litter

The Wanderlust Litter – Krakow, Vienna, Frankfurt, Tallinn, and Zurich were welcomed into Ruff Start on May 23rd, 2021, from one of our South Dakota Reservation partners. They were young and tiny – weighing in at half a pound each and just shy of 4 weeks old. Shortly after arriving, their foster mom realized something was wrong.

They were immediately seen by Ruff Start’s vetting staff, where they, unfortunately, tested positive for feline panleukopenia (also referred to as panleuk). Panleuk is a highly contagious and fatal viral disease that primarily impacts young, unvaccinated kittens – and it wreaks havoc on their little bodies. There isn’t a cure for panleuk. Instead, we give animals as much supportive care and fluids as possible to help them fight through it.

The American Veterinary Medical Association shares that “Virtually all kittens and cats are exposed to the virus at some point in their lives. The first visible signs an owner might notice include generalized depression, loss of appetite, high fever, lethargy, vomiting, severe diarrhea, nasal discharge, and dehydration. Sick cats may sit for long periods of time in front of their water bowls but not drink much water.”

What was supposed to be an easy litter of kittens that could be adopted as soon as they were old enough turned into a months-long, white knuckled battle to keep these kittens alive.

While we did everything we possibly could, we lost Tallinn and Zurich to this horrible disease.

three kittens sitting on a chair

Vienna, Frankfurt, and Krakow spent two months recovering, gaining weight, and getting back to the playful, monstrous kittens that they should be.

Where are they now?

Vienna at 4 weeks and 10 weeks old


Vienna was adopted by her foster family – they just could not let her go!

Her foster mom says, “As a veteran puppy foster, I never thought I would “foster fail” on a kitten. Little Vienna snuck into our hearts. There was no way we could see her go. Vivi gets along seamlessly with all of our resident animals and even tolerates the foster puppies! She brings us so much joy, and we are so so so thankful Ruff Start gave us the tools and resources to help her and her brothers survive panleukopenia.” 

Frankfurt at 4 weeks and 10 weeks old


Krakow at 4 weeks and 10 weeks old


Frankfurt and Krakow went to one of our adoption centers, where we asked for them to be adopted together. They were so bonded their foster family could not separate them!

Their adopter says, “My boys are the absolute best-tempered kitties I’ve ever had. Every night they curl up next to me in bed and seriously purr all night. They do everything together ALWAYS. They are so loved and will never want for anything.”

Vienna celebrating her 'gotcha day'

Animal rescue work never gets easier, but when we can see these incredible animals complete families and live wonderful lives after what they’ve been through, it makes all the hard days a little easier.

As for feline panleukopenia, prevention is the best medicine. We highly encourage cats and kittens of any living environment to be vaccinated for this deadly illness on a regimen recommended by your pet’s veterinarian. Left untreated, 90% of cats and kittens will die, and emergency medical care can decimate your wallet.

chad laying on the ground with Rocco

In memory of Chad: a friend of animals

Have you ever met someone who had an undeniable, unspoken bond with animals? If not, you’re about to.

Ever since Chad was a child, he had this precious view of all living things. He loved birds, fish, cats, dogs – any animal you can think of. Chad had the rare gift of being able to see life through an animal’s eyes. Chad’s family believes this connection began with Chad’s childhood cat, Mandy. One of his first memories with Mandy is bringing the young kitten to his kindergarten’s show-and-tell to show off his devoted companion.

Chad and his kitten Mandy

Mandy was happiest curled up next to Chad throughout his childhood until she passed when Chad was in college. Chad could truly feel what an animal felt, so much so that years later, you could find his wife, Sharon, gently holding him back from rescuing a fish from a Seagull.

Sharon, also an animal lover, had a dog named Rocco. A little West Highland Terrier that thoroughly vetted every single person in Sharon’s life. As you might imagine, Rocco didn’t think anyone was good enough for his mom.

Can you tell where this story is going?

Rocco was loyal, spunky, and had a fierce dedication to his mom. At 9-weeks-old, Sharon’s vet told her that Rocco was indeed sassy and true to his terrier breed. She also warned her to, “be careful, he’ll steal the keys to your car and take it for a joy ride.” Sharon was in for a wild ride with both Rocco and Chad.

rocco sitting on a bar stool with chad

Not many would have the patience to coax an animal to like them, especially when you first start dating. And not many animals are too keen on sharing their humans. But Rocco saw something different with Chad.

Chad had this electric energy about him, magnetic to both humans and animals. It didn’t take long for Rocco to (lovingly) kick Sharon to the side and become Chad’s baby. We’re not kidding. Chad and Rocco became best friends. Chad could even give Rocco his diabetes medication!

When the loves of your life are taken too soon.

chad and rocco sitting on the floor

An unthinkable thing happened on June 23, 2019. Chad passed away from injuries sustained in a car accident at only 49 years old. Three weeks later, Rocco passed away.

Sharon found herself absent of the two greatest loves of her life. A pain no one wants to know.

Rocco was my little sentinel.  A big dog in a little dog’s body. But also so patient and gentle. We used to live in a condo above Trader Joe’s in St. Louis Park. Little kids would love to come up to Rocco on the street.  My dog would wag his tail and reach up on his hindquarters to give the kids kisses. He also proudly walked in the St. Louis Park Parktacular Parade one year and was a hit!  People were drawn to the cute little white dog full of spunk, personality, and energy.

One of Sharon’s favorite memories of her boys is a few weeks before she and Chad got married. They were vacationing near the Cornucopia/South Shore area.

While Sharon was making some last-minute adjustments to their wedding day, off in the distance Chad and Rocco were lounging on the beach like a couple of beach bums – not a care in the world.

They soaked up the sun while enjoying each other’s presence and the bond they shared with their love of Sharon.

I miss both Chad and Rocco so.  But I know they are together and happy. -Sharon

Chad is many things, but one of his most special qualities is that he is a friend of animals.

chad and rocco on the beach

We are humbled and honored by Sharon’s gift to sponsor a Ruff Start transport on August 28th and October 23rd that will save the lives of many at-risk dogs and puppies from Texas.

She hopes this transport sponsorship in Chad’s memory will inspire others to do one thing: be kind to all creatures.

Ruff Start will post updates during these transports on their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.

Not on social media? No problem! Sign up for our e-newsletter for email updates on these transports and all things Ruff Start Rescue. Be sure to follow along to be a part of these life-saving transports!

Ruff Start's transport van
Debunking Animal Rescue Myths

Debunking Rescue Animal Myths

While adopting an animal from a rescue or shelter is becoming a common trend, especially for those transitioning from plants to pets, some age-old rumors prevent families from adding a rescue pet to their homes. Rescue animals come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities, completing families and bringing an abundance of joy to our lives. Pesky myths shouldn’t be the reason an animal lives or dies. Check out the following most common rescue myths we hear and why we’re debunking them.

Myth 1: Rescue dogs and cats are untrainable. Especially adults and seniors.

Here at Ruff Start Rescue, we strive to set up rescue animals and adopters for success in their new homes. This involves having conversations and setting the expectation that patience and routine are key when bringing a new animal into the home. No home or animal is the same, so there’s bound to be an adjustment period when adding a new addition to your family. With a little consistency, patience, and grace, any animal of any age can learn and be trained.

Consider the 3-3-3 rule for how a new pet will act in your home:

3 Days

Your pet may:

  • Feel overwhelmed
  • Be scared and unsure
  • Be uncomfortable and not “themself”
  • Not want to eat or drink
  • Be shutdown and want to hide
  • Test new boundaries

3 Weeks

Your pet may:

  • Start to settle in
  • Feel more comfortable
  • Realize this might be their “forever home”
  • Figure out their new environment
  • Let their guard down
  • Start showing their true personality, including behavioral quirks

3 Months

Your pet may:

  • Finally feel completely comfortable
  • Have built trust and a true bond with new family members
  • Have gained a complete sense of security in their forever home
  • Be set in a routine unique to your family

Myth 2. Rescues have health issues and are sick.

Reputable animal welfare organizations like Ruff Start Rescue ensure that each animal is fully vetted before being adopted. This includes spay/neuter surgery, age-appropriate vaccines, dewormer, preventatives, and anything else they may need to live healthy lives in their new homes. And that’s all included in their adoption fee! Some animals do come into the Rescue in rough shape, but they quickly receive the care they need.

Puppy playing with man outside

Myth 3. There are no purebreds or designer dogs in rescue and getting animals from breeders is safer because the breeders know the animal’s bloodline and family history.

There are lots of purebred animals in rescues. There are even breed-specific rescue organizations. The biggest thing to think about is WHY you want a purebred animal. Is it because you want a certain “look”? A certain deposition? We obviously don’t encourage humans to interbreed, so why would we want our companion animals to be restricted to a limited gene pool? Mixed breed animals are significantly less at-risk for genetic disorders and medical ailments that come from over-breeding. For example, around 60% of purebred Golden Retrievers die from cancer.

Ditch the need for papers and take a chance on a mixed-breed rescue animal. And if you’re still set on finding a specific breed, check out our website or petfinder.com and search for which breed you’re looking for. And don’t forget to browse all of the other available animals. You never know; you might find exactly what you’re looking for in a mixed-breed animal.

Myth 4. All rescues were abused and will have issues because of their past.

Companion animals often find themselves in the care of rescues and shelters to no fault of their own, and it is usually due to a change in their owner’s circumstances. These animals need a place to stay until they find a new home, and that’s what we’re here for. A small percentage of animals enter animal welfare organizations due to abuse or neglect.

Most rescue animals are just fine and need a little time to adjust to their new homes. While in foster care, fosters can observe for more problematic behaviors that rarely occur. If an adopted rescue animal does need training help, Ruff Start provides those necessary resources.

Rescue dogs, cats, and critters have SUCH appreciation for their new loving and caring home. And that appreciation really shows. Once they know they are safe and loved, you can just tell how much they appreciate you and their new family. It’s a very rewarding experience.

Puppies in a red wagon

No rescue animal is perfect, but they deserve a loving home just like any other animal.

We hope debunking these myths brought a little insight into why we’re so passionate about saving these animals that need us most. There’s nothing inherently wrong with rescue animals. They often just need a place to stay due to unforeseen circumstances. Take a chance on a rescue animal today! You can view all of Ruff Start’s available animals for adoption at www.ruffstartrescue.org.

Watch Ruff Start executive director and founder, Azure Davis, talk about rescue myths on WCCO.

Separation Anxiety

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety in pets

If you’ve added a few extra paws to your family over the past year, you may be wondering what steps you can take to set your new pet up for success as your routine begins to change. Despite your pup’s adorable face and desperate pleas to break the rules, it is imperative to start implementing a routine with your pet right away to avoid separation anxiety. Plenty of resources are out there, but where do you start? Read below for what you need to know about separation anxiety and how to prevent it.

What is separation anxiety?

Pets can experience anxiety and panic just like humans do, and for those of us that know this feeling, it can be pretty scary. Here is the general list of behaviors associated with separation anxiety in pets:

  • Pacing
  • Whimpering
  • Excessive panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Excessive barking
  • Urinating/defecating
  • Destructive behavior that can harm the pet or damage property

These behaviors will vary with each pet experiencing separation anxiety. Something to consider is that our pets view time differently than we do, which is why they can be so excited seeing us after only being outside for 30 seconds. So if a pet is in an anxious state for four hours, they’re not going to think, “huh, I’ve been anxious for over four hours now. Maybe I should take a break.” Animals with unaddressed anxiety will exhaust themselves after being in an anxious state for hours – this is not healthy.

Take baby steps and find which set up works best for your pet.

Since each animal handles separation anxiety differently, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. And that’s okay! We’ll show you a couple different options to try. And remember to give you and your pets a little patience and grace during this transition period. Pets communicate through body language and will likely pick up your stress and frustrations during this process. Keep an open mind and find out which positive reinforcement system works best for your pet, whether it’s treats, pats, or telling them they’re a good pup. Time apart from your pet will make your time together even more special. You very well could get to the point where your dog will push you out of the door to get a little R&R.

When you’re not working on training, reward your pet while they’re in a relaxed state when you’re at home. For example, they could be calmly looking out the window, relaxing on their pet bed, or casually walking around the house. If you give them a reward during emotional distress, they won’t make that positive connection.

Whichever method you decide, start with a few minutes away at a time and build up to longer intervals. Keep your emotions neutral when exiting and entering your home. We know this part is hard because it is so fun when your pet is excited to see you, but by keeping your emotions neutral at least a few minutes before and after you leave and return home, you’ll be helping your pet stay relaxed during this change.

Step 1: Finding a place for your pet to stay

Wherever you plan to have your pet stay while you’re away, you want to make sure that it is safe. Some options are crating your pet, dedicating a room or space set up with baby gates, or letting them free-roam the house. Whichever option you choose, we recommend making sure there’s nothing they could get into that could cause harm, such as toxic plants or obstacles they could get caught on.

Note: If you plan to crate your pet, they ideally should get a break every 4-5 hours. This may be a good opportunity to hire a pet sitter, dog walker, or have a relative/friend let them out to relieve themselves and take a stretch break.

Step 2: Meeting your pets needs

Now that you’ve decided where your pet will stay while you’re away, you’ll want to look at the space through your pet’s senses. Try asking yourself the following questions:

  • What will my pet see?

For example, if your dog has a stressful reaction to seeing the mail carrier every day, it would be best not to give them access to a window. On the other hand, if your dog is totally fine watching the world through the window without having a stressful reaction, then you might want to set up a bird feeder outside of the window to encourage this more relaxed behavior. You could also leave the TV on at a lower volume for your pet to watch.

  • What will my pet hear?

Will these noises stress them out or relax them? Consider playing soft music to fill the space. Any noises that overstimulate their senses could perpetuate an anxious state.

  • What will my pet smell?

Consider using a low concentration of lavender, Adaptil, or Feliway, to help calm your pet through their sense of smell. Any scent that’s too strong is comparable to smelling unpleasant perfume or cologne, which is definitely not relaxing for your pet.

  • What will my pet feel?

You’ll want your pet to have a comfortable surface to relax on throughout the day. You’ll also want to avoid any surface they are uncomfortable with, such as tile floor.

Step 3: Keeping your pets entertained

Now that your pet is in a safe and comfortable space, what will they do while you’re gone? A nap sounds ideal, but not all pets can sleep the day away. Boredom can equal destruction. Here are a few ideas to help:

  • Hide a few of your pet’s favorite toys and treats in the space they’re staying in. They’ll put their nose to work when a nap won’t do.
  • Stuff a Kong with peanut butter or your pet’s preferred filling and let it freeze for about an hour. When you give this to your pet before you leave, it’ll keep them busy for much longer than a regularly filled Kong.
  • Put your pet’s mind to work with purchased or DIY puzzle toys.
  • If you don’t mind a little clean-up, leave around welcome destructible items like a cardboard box or paper bag – as long as they don’t ingest the items.

Note: Purchasing a pet cam might be a worthy investment for those looking to monitor their pets. These often connect through WiFi and an app on your phone.

What if my pet needs to work on other training?

All pets of any age or breed can work on training! Check out Ruff Start’s top picks for pet training basics here.


When you prepare your pets for changes in the routine, you’re actively setting them up for success that will keep you and your pets stress levels down. It’s important to remember that there will be an adjustment period for you both. Take things slowly. Give each other a little grace. Changing routines takes time.

2021 Fostering FAQs with Ruff Start Rescue

Fostering at Ruff Start Rescue

Ruff Start Rescue is a foster-based animal rescue located in central Minnesota. Because Ruff Start doesn’t have a shelter to house animals, they rely on generous folks to open up their homes to foster them. In a foster home, animals get one-on-one care, and some often experience what it’s like to live in a home for the very first time. Fosters intimately learn their foster animal’s personality and what type of home they would thrive in once adopted. Thanks to this generosity, Ruff Start Rescue has saved thousands of animals since 2010.

Think you’re not qualified to be a foster? Think again! No foster home is the same, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all foster. 

Girl reading a book with her foster dog

What to Expect When you Sign up to Foster

You’ll complete a virtual training session to learn the ins and outs of the program.

You’ll join our online community of fosters, staff, and volunteers to share successes, ask questions, and support each other.

You’ll keep an eye out on available animals to foster until you see one that you’re comfortable fostering.

Once you pick an animal to foster, you’ll visit a supply house or stop by the rescue office in Princeton, MN, to pick up any supplies needed for your foster.

You’ll help your foster learn what it means to be loved and cared for and take them to and from vetting appointments.

If you don’t fall in love and adopt your foster animal, you’ll help them find their forever family.

Once your foster is off to their new home, you can take a break or find another animal to foster!

Over time, some fosters find their niche.

After you’ve tried fostering a variety of animals, you may realize you have the most rewarding experience fostering a certain type of animal. These could be rez puppies, Texas transplants, owner surrenders, bottle babies, international rescues, critters, bully breeds, sassy small dogs, the list goes on. If this does happen, staff or volunteers may reach out to you directly to foster animals that fit your preference.

Over time, some fosters find their niche.

Daschund foster

“Fostering for me was a perfect option because while I want a second dog, my boyfriend and I just aren’t ready for that kind of commitment. Fostering gives you all the best parts of having a dog without the financial and time constraints that owning a dog does. You get to choose what animals will work for your family and lifestyle, and after a short period of time, they head off to their forever homes, which as a foster you get to choose and decide if they’re a good fit. You’re never required to take an animal and can take as many breaks as you need. Plus you get the added bonus of knowing you saved a life and can feel good knowing you are a part of something bigger than yourself, and making the world a little bit better place. ❤ Plus you get first dibs on adoption if you find one you absolutely can’t live without.”

RSR Foster & Volunteer

Common Questions About Fostering at RSR

Do I get to pick which animals I foster?

Yes! You always get to choose which animal you foster. Only you can know what type of animal would fit best in your home and schedule.

Do I need companion animal experience to foster?

Nope! Some animals require more experienced fosters, but there are A LOT of animals out there that would do just fine in a first-time foster home. Plus, Ruff Start is with you every step of the way, providing guidance and resources as you need them.

Foster dad holding his two dogs

Do I have to be located near the Rescue to foster?

Nope! Ruff Start happily accepts foster homes throughout Minnesota and has supply homes across the state to accommodate them. One thing to keep in mind is that some travel is required to get your foster animals to and from vetting appointments and to their forever families.

Kitten on her foster mom's shoulder

Do I need to have a specific type of home to foster?

Nope! Your living situation shouldn’t prevent you from fostering an animal, but it may impact which kind of animal you can take in. If you don’t have a fence, an escape artist dog likely isn’t the best choice. If you have resident cats, then a dog with a high prey drive isn’t a good fit. Don’t worry, you don’t have to make this choice on your own! Ruff Start staff and volunteers can help you find the right foster animal for your home.

Do I need to pay for supplies or vetting?

Nope! All supplies and vetting for fosters are covered by Ruff Start Rescue.

Can I foster with kids and a full schedule?

Absolutely. Fostering is a great learning experience for kids, and they can be very helpful, whether it’s cleaning up, socializing, and tiring out your foster animals. It’s also important to remember that these animals will be going into forever homes that likely have busy schedules as well. As long as you’re able to provide for your foster’s basic needs while they stay with you, that’s all we ask.

How long do foster animals typically stay in foster homes?

It depends on the animal, but the average length of stay is around one month.

Can I foster if I have resident animals?

Of course! All we ask is that you take proper precautions and do slow introductions when you bring a new foster home. We have lots of resources on how to do these safely and effectively.

Can I pick the adopter?

100%. You know your foster animal better than anybody and will be able to select the applicant that fits best. Some adopters send regular updates to their fosters in case you miss your foster animal. Ruff Start staff and volunteers are always available for guidance on which home is best as well.

Children and their foster puppies
Puppy in the grass

“Who wouldn’t want a puppy to snuggle and then hand off to their new family? Kind of like babies that aren’t yours, puppy fostering is awesome for us as our resident dogs are picky with their friends, and we can safely and easily separate them. Fostering teaches our kids responsibility, compassion, and the importance of helping animals in need – and it is fun for us all!”

Kelly B.
RSR Foster & Volunteer

What kind of animals are available for fostering?

If it’s a companion animal, it’s likely available for fostering! Dogs, puppies, cats, kittens, rabbits, and guinea pigs are the most common animals Ruff Start rescues.

Where does Ruff Start rescue animals from?

Ruff Start takes in animals from local impounds, reservations, owner surrenders, internationally, and southern states with pet overpopulation.

What if I’m not ready to fully commit to fostering?

We totally get it! It can be a big commitment. We are always looking for short-term fosters that can watch fosters over a set date like a weekend.

Foster holding a bunny rabbit

“I thought for sure I wouldn’t be able to give them up and that they would all be staying but I’m 130+ in and only 3 stayed! It’s so much easier than people think it is and knowing that you helped complete a family while saving a life is the best feeling ever.”

RSR Foster & Volunteer

Can I foster more than one animal at a time?

You sure can! Litters of puppies and kittens, pregnant moms, and bonded pairs frequent the rescue as much as individual animals. If you have space and capacity, you can foster more than one animal as long as you can successfully care for them. Over time it gets easier to foster, so lots of veteran RSR fosters take multiple foster animals.

If I did foster-to-adopt (FTA) with an animal, can I foster other animals?

YES! If you have gone through the FTA process within the last year, you are approved to foster any incoming animals with Ruff Start. A refresher course is available if needed.

Won’t I want to keep every animal I foster?

You might! But it gets easier over time, especially when you see families get completed first-hand. And we won’t be mad if you adopt your foster! It saves a step.

Puppy sitting on foster mom's back

Who do I talk to if I have questions?

Various staff and volunteers are available for any questions or concerns during your fostering process. You can always email foster@ruffstartrescue.org for any questions you may have before signing up.

2021 Heartworm Prevention Tips

Heartworm Prevention

What is heartworm disease? 

Heartworm is a parasitic worm carried by an infected mosquito. Once a dog is bitten, the heartworm larva makes their way to the dog’s heart and eventually grows into large, spaghetti-like worms. Heartworm disease is a severe condition that can result in heart failure, organ failure, and death in pets if left untreated. Other pets and people can’t catch heartworm from their heartworm-infected pets.

Photo provided by the FDA.

The risk of infection is a threat to every unprotected dog across the United States, particularly in southern states with warmer climates where mosquitoes thrive.

How is heartworm diagnosed? 

Heartworm infection is diagnosed with a heartworm antigen test. Heartworm proteins can be detected in a dog’s bloodstream about 5-6 months after bitten by an infected mosquito. The severity of the disease is related to how many worms are living inside the dog’s heart. 

What are the symptoms of heartworm?  

Sleeping dog

Symptoms of the disease may not be obvious in dogs that have a low worm count or are not very active. Dogs with a heavy worm count or who have been infected for a long time often show apparent symptoms of heartworm disease. These include a persistent cough, fatigue, decreased appetite, weight loss, and a swollen belly as the disease progresses. 

Since these symptoms may not appear right away, it’s important to have your dog tested once per year by a licensed veterinarian.

We can’t stress this enough: If left untreated, heartworm will progress and cause damage to the dog’s heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys, eventually causing death. 

How is heartworm treated?

Treatment of heartworm-positive dogs includes 30 days of antibiotics and a series of three deep muscle injections given 30 days apart. These injections can be painful. Following treatment, dogs are placed on activity restrictions while the worms die for 6-8 weeks. Ruff Start’s vetting team ensures each animal going through heartworm treatment is kept as comfortable as possible. After heartworm treatment is complete, dogs must remain on heartworm preventatives for the remainder of their life. 

Prevention is the best medicine. 

There are multiple products to prevent heartworm disease, and most are given monthly. Giving your pet preventatives year-round is best and offers great peace of mind. Talk to your dog’s veterinarian to decide which preventative and schedule will work for you. There are generic versions of heartworm preventatives to help be more cost-effective. 

Dog taking medicine

How is Ruff Start helping animals infected with heartworm? 

Not every animal welfare organization can help heartworm infected animals. Thankfully, Minnesota allows us to bring animals in need over state lines so we can save them from euthanasia, treat their disease, and help them find loving homes.

Ruff Start Rescue