Matching stray animals with foster volunteers in minutes

Zelos Quote mark

Not all animals can be directly admitted to our shelter. Depending on the level of emergency, it can be critical to quickly find a foster home available for full time care.

Zelos helps us match animals in need with our pre-screened volunteers in a matter of hours.


179 volunteers ready to foster
114 foster homes matched in 2021
4000 / year animals in shelter

Varjupaik NGO is the largest shelter organisation in Estonia

Picture of two cats - Jasja & Masja - in their temporary foster home
Jasja & Masja in their temporary foster home

Quickly locating foster homes for animals a is a daily job for the seven animal shelters of Varjupaik NGO. They have up to 800 animals under their care at the same time, summing up to 4000+ animals each year.

Since early 2019, the Varjupaik shelters have been using Zelos as their core management app for facilitating foster cats. Having a quick dispatch app in place ensures that cats that need urgent fostering are quickly matched with an appropriate volunteer.

Since 2021, Varjupaik has started temporary shelter matching also for rabbits, rats, mice and dogs.

Fostered animals can stay in the temporary homes from a day to several months, and the reasons for this could be very different – illness, trauma, pregnancy, or issues with other animals at the shelter.

This is how the dispatch program works for them:

Recruiting foster volunteers

The shelter recruits possible foster home providers on an ongoing basis.

They have the Zelos signup link up on their website, and they occasionally do targeted campaigns to onboard additional foster homes. The volunteers fill in the application form with basic questions that qualify (or disqualify) them as home providers. 

With every new application coming in, the volunteer manager calls them for an additional in-person interview. Once someone is qualified as a foster home, the manager confirms them as team members on Zelos.

Screenshot of the foster program entry form

First assignments

Once the volunteer logs back into their Zelos account, the shelter project presents them with first tasks. This helps fresh recruits get used to the volunteer management software.

The first tasks are available for everyone and present onboarding assignments like reading instruction documents, re-checking their profile information, and making sure they have the app downloaded.

Here newcomers can also interact with other volunteers, and ask additional questions in the chatroom.

Quick dispatch

Whenever a new animal needs foster care, the relevant volunteers are targeted with a new task. Depending on the information in their profile, volunteers might receive notifications about a single cat, but not qualify for hosting a whole litter of kittens. When a volunteer is currently able to provide shelter for the animal described, they will tap the sign up button to signal their availability. Usually the volunteer manager then proceeds to quickly call them up to arrange pickup details, or communicates further details directly through the devoted chatroom.

If multiple qualified volunteers signal availability to take the animal, the volunteer manager needs to make a choice – usually based on the previous adoption history that is easily viewed on the volunteer profiles.

Screenshot of a sample assignment in the foster program

Successful pickup.

For Varjupaik, foster contracts are signed on paper upon pickup, but digital contracts could also easily be linked with tasks through the task details or through the chatroom.

Once the cat has been taken home, the volunteer (or administrator) confirms the foster task as complete.

Support Varjupaik

If you’re looking to adopt a pet, or simply support Varjupaik, click through to their website here:

If you’d like to join their foster home program, fill in the application on Zelos:

Photo of two cats in a crate