During the holiday season, many adorable kittens find a loving home. Every year over 4 million cats and dogs are adopted from shelters. Some, unfortunately, aren’t able to find their fur-ever homes, requiring extra attention due to a health issue, age, or behavioral issue. Shelters are often overwhelmed, lacking the resources they need to give round-the-clock attention to orphaned kittens.
If the season of giving has motivated you to give back at your local pet shelter, and you feel you are ready to foster a feline friend, read the TofuKitty guide to introducing your new pal to your home.
To start your fostering journey, you will first need to develop a relationship with a shelter. Generally speaking, it’s best to foster kittens from a shelter you know and trust. Often, you will need to get approved from a foster coordinator before you can establish yourself as a certified feline foster home.
Kitten foster families must:
Sometimes it can be a good idea to volunteer at a local shelter before onboarding to their foster program. You always want to get to know your fellow feline fanatics since you will be in constant communication with other volunteers while you are fostering one of the shelter’s kittens.
You could end up forming lifelong bonds with your fellow cat lovers--if you take the time to get to know them before jumping into this big responsibility. Fostering cats is an incredible learning experience so you’ll need friends to get through it. In addition, it will ensure that your cat fostering goes as well as possible, lowering the chance of miscommunication and strengthening your ability to communicate, cooperate, and ameliorate should things go awry.
One more thing to consider is the amount of time you will need to commit to your new foster kitten. If they are very young, only one to four weeks, for example, they will need to be bottle fed every two hours or so. They have similar needs to a newborn baby, needing nutrition on demand for the first two months of life. In addition, many shelters like to match multiple kittens with one foster home so they can be socialized with other animals so it’s important to consider your schedule.
Don’t worry -- if you have full-time commitments, such as a full-time job, your local cat shelter can usually coordinate with you, matching you with an older kitten that can live more independently.
Now that you have found a local pet shelter, created relationships with the people who work there, and completed your training, it is time to do some shopping. Let’s jump into the key items you will need to buy to foster kittens.
You will need:
If you already own a cat, you likely have most of the supplies you need. If you don’t, the pet shelter may be able to provide you with the above supplies. Be sure to ask. Fostering kittens shouldn't be prohibited simply because of budgetary concerns. Shelters often have resources to cover any costs you may incur.
If you plan to foster a very young kitten (one that is one a few weeks old) then you will require a specialized bottle. As you have probably already surmised, a regular baby bottle will not do. You will need to acquire a bottle used by breeders and cat nurseries.
We also strongly recommend plant-based cat litter. Crystal and clay litters are deleterious to the health of your cat (and to the environment). Considering how damaging traditional litters are, and how fragile a small kitten is, it is recommended to use all-natural pellet litter like the kind we supply at TofuKitty. It’s easier on their paws and is exponentially less harmful to their fragile, growing bodies.
Bringing home your foster kitten is exciting. Before celebrating your new feline friend, you should do some basic cat-proofing. Firstly, you need to cross-reference this list of toxic plants and be certain to remove them from your home before you pick up your new kitten.
Cats are curious, so be sure to lock up cabinets, secure windows, and stow away breakable items. Cords, electrical or otherwise, should also be put out of paw’s reach as kittens can easily get tangled up in them and hurt themselves.
Cats like a lot of vertical space so glass vases, or anything else that’s fragile for that matter, should be forcibly secured or removed entirely. Be mindful of any other toxic cleaning supplies, medications, and harmful chemicals. Be mindful of standing water, which can make cats sick, closing toilet lids and moving potted plants with standing water out of reach.
When you foster or adopt a new pet, especially a cat, you want to be very careful with your introductions. For small kittens, it’s extremely important that they be adaptable, getting socialized with cats, dogs, and children to increase their chance of being adopted. Therefore, you want to be mindful of their first meetings with other pets. While you want to encourage them to interact, you want to make sure they are not traumatized in the process.
If there’s another pet in the house, it’s a good idea to take it slow, putting the resident pet in a separate room while the new kitten gets adjusted. As the foster kitten gets more accustomed to its surroundings, you can begin monitored meetings.
If your children are old enough, allow them to slowly approach the new kitten. Letting the foster kitten dictate the terms. If they aren’t old enough, simply show by example, and intervene if your child is too rough with them or if the kitten becomes aggressive.
With a little bit of patience, your foster kitten will acclimate and even learn to love your entire family.
Are you thinking of fostering a cat? Do you have experience fostering kittens? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!