What Should Our Person Know Before She Starts Fostering Shelter Cats?

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

ChaCha here with my big brother Tango. We adopted Mom about two years ago and live a rather spoiled life. Now Mom is thinking about fostering another feline! She says there are hundreds of babies that are not so lucky as us and we should share a room for a while in our house. Mom is worried about how we will react with another kitty in the house since we get along so well — I run the show and Tango agrees with everything I say. Mom wants to know what to consider when fostering. Thanks for helping us out!

a pair of bonded cats shares a sun puddle on a window sill.

Black and yellow cats by a window, (CC-BY-SA) by Chet B. Long

Siouxsie: It’s a good thing you’re asking on your mom’s behalf before she starts taking in foster kitties.

Thomas: Your mom is right: fostering is a noble and wonderful thing to do, and if you and Tango can be noble and welcome temporary residents in your home, those kitties will have a much easier time finding forever homes of their own.

Siouxsie: But there are some things she should think about before she starts fostering.

Thomas: First of all, she should make sure she’s working with a rescue group that will offer her all the support she needs in order to be a successful foster parent. That includes covering the cost of all the food and vet care the foster cats need, advice on how to care for foster kitties, and so on.

Siouxsie: The foster cats should have their own room. This will make it less stressful on you because you won’t have to deal with all kinds of feline invaders in your home. It’ll also be less stressful for the fosters because they won’t have to deal with your majestic presence as soon as they walk in the door. It’s also a good precaution to take, just in case the fosters have some kind of potentially contagious illness.

Thomas: You and Tango might not like this very much, but before your mom brings any foster cats into your home, you’re going to have to go to the vet for checkups of your own. You should be up to date on your vaccinations before any other cats come into your home. In fact, we’re pretty sure any rescue would require your mom to do this before any of their cats take up residence in your home.

Siouxsie: You’re going to have to accept the fact that your mom is going to need to spend time with the fosters, too. It’s crucial that they’re well socialized and not afraid of people — otherwise, they’ll have trouble finding forever homes. So try not to be jealous when she spends time in the foster room playing with your temporary roommates.

Thomas: Your mom should make sure that the foster room is free from potential kitty dangers like hanging blind cords, toxic chemicals or plants, yarn or string, or wires that are easily within reach of curious kittens. And, of course, the room should have enough toys to keep the fosters from getting bored, as well as beds, cat trees, their own litterbox and dishes and so on.

Siouxsie: A lot of foster caretakers recommend having all the necessary supplies in the foster room. That will prevent your mom from having to go in and out to get fresh litter, stain and odor eliminator, napkins and wipes, and so on.

Thomas: Cats of different ages require different considerations for fostering. The rescue group your mom’s working with can help her understand and give age-appropriate care for her temporary wards.

Siouxsie: If your mom does decide to foster, she needs to reassure you that she knows you and Tango are the permanent residents and kings of the household. That means spending as much quality time with you as she does now and making sure you continue to get all the care you need.

Thomas: When she does bring foster cats home, she should help everyone feel relaxed about the situation. We’d recommend setting up a Feliway diffuser in the foster room and one in the room where you and Tango like to hang out.

Siouxsie: Our mama has never fostered before, so she doesn’t have personal experience to offer, but she does recommend that your mom talk to people who have done a lot of fostering.

Thomas: Now we have a question for all of you: If you’ve fostered before, what advice would you give to ChaCha and Tango’s mom? In retrospect, what do you wish you’d known before you started fostering?

  • http://www.kittenassociates.org Robin Olson

    Hello! I run a small cat rescue group and have fostered for many years. This is a great overview of what a new foster home should keep in mind. There’s one thing I would like to add is that foster mom needs to make SURE she keeps her hands clean before entering and after exiting the foster room. Foster kittens can get the sniffles or pick something up from the cats in the home who have no symptoms, but may be carriers of some types of disease.

    Foster mom should be prepared to either get a set of medical smocks to wear over her clothes when she’s with the new foster kitties or be ready to change clothes and wash hands after having social time with the foster kitties. This is especially important when handling very young kittens and for the first two weeks of fostering. The first two weeks are when you might have one of the fosters break with an upper respiratory infection.

    Make certain you foster in partnership with an established rescue group so you don’t end up feeling like you have to take on the kittens you’re fostering. That’s not fair to you and it prevents you from saving more lives.

    Fostering is truly an amazing way to save lives. It’s tough to say goodbye, but it DOES get easier. You may shed some tears, but then you save another life and fall in love with that kitty, too and so on and so on..I’ve fostered hundreds of cats and it’s a wonderful experience!

    • The Paws and Effect Gang

      Thank you, Auntie Robin. We knew you’d have some good advice for ChaCha and Tango’s mom! *purrrrrrrrrrrrrr*

  • http://www.kittyblog.net Connie

    I too have fostered for many years (since 2002). I foster with a shelter that supplies all support necessary. At one point I fostered with a different shelter and while they would take care of medical necessities, food and litter was not provided. So find out exactly what you will and won’t be responsible for before you go into this.

    also VERY important is get emergency procedures spelled out to you. Find out what they would like you to do when they are unreachable and you feel that something needs to be seen right away.

    I can’t agree more with keeping litters separated. I am living proof as to why. Every time I see foster homes mixing litters with residents I cringe.

    Feel free to be choosy with litters. If you feel that bringing a mother cat into your household would be too much work, say so. If you don’t want to bottle feed, speak up. Make sure that your fostering experience is as positive as possible. Generally a shelter will give a first time foster home a set of kittens that only needs a bit of time before they are ready to go up for adoption which tends to make them easy.

    Knowing what is required of you at adoption time is also important. Some shelters just need you to bring them back and they take care of everything, some need you to transport the kittens to adoption events. One place I was interested in fostering for had no shelter so kittens would need to stay at my house until someone showed interest in them – which did not work for me.

    and last but by no means least is the one rule you must know. You can do everything right and still have kittens die. They are frail, and a lot have very poor nutrition and been exposed to illness before they can show up at your house. Be prepared and know you did not fail them. You gave them love and a chance. Which to them is everything.

  • http://randomfelines.blogspot.com Random Felines

    We agree – make sure you are with a reputable group. Having a separate space is the best way. And know your limits. We can help with kittens and moms/kittens here but we know that certain kitties (TOMMY) will not tolerate intact male cats over about 6 months old. And if you guys get stressed, you mom has to know that your needs come first. :)

  • Phyllis

    Just make sure your Mom has kept you both up to date on all your shots so just in case one of the foster kitties are sick. Your Mom is very kind and is a good Mom. You should try and welcome any new kitties that need a temporary home, you can teach them how to behave well so they all get good homes.

  • http://www.hairlesscat.org Hairless Cat

    Hi Gang,

    Having two different cat personalities around for a new foster is a good thing especially since one has an easy going personality.

    More social profiles and playing habits to choose from. More personality flavor.

    Working with a rescue group can be a big help in many ways.

    Letting the foster have it’s own room is helpful for both the foster and the resident cats. Also, mom won’t have to worry about fights during the night while she isn’t there to break them up.

    I also agree with you that if the foster has a contagious disease, it is more easily contained that way. Good point on having the residents up to date with vaccines.

    To that I would add to have separate food and water dishes until you know if the foster has anything contagious.

    Good read,

    =^-^= Hairless Cat Girl =^-^=