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Before You Volunteer to Foster Kittens and Cats

Lesson 1 of the Kitten Foster Primer

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Photo of Litter of Tiny Foster Kittens

Litter of Tiny Foster Kittens

Photo Credit: © Laura White

Fostering cats and kittens has its rewards as well as its drawbacks, and fostering is an avocation engaged in by many of my readers. Many more have inquired how to become involved with kitten foster.

Laura White loves cats, and started by volunteering for a local cat rescue group at their Adoption Day Events at a PetSmart store. One thing led to another, and two years later, Laura has rescued and fostered four litters of kittens. She enthusiastically allowed me to "pick her brain," and readers will be able to benefit from her experiences here and in future lessons of the Kitten Foster Primer. The photo shown here is of Laura's latest rescued kitten litter.

Factors to Consider Before Taking on Kitten Fostering

The decision to foster kittens is a serious one which will affect your entire household, and should not be undertaken unless you can answer the following questions to your satisfaction. You will likely be asked similar questions if you volunteer for a cat rescue group, so it will be a good rehearsal.
  • Can I afford the costs involved in fostering kittens?
    Unless you work with a cat rescue organization which supplies the necessities, you'll likely have the cost of all the accoutrements which go along with kittens: bottles & formula, kitten food, litter boxes, a bed and/or a containing pen, scratching post, and toys. You may also have to pay for their "kitten shots" and spay/neutering.
  • Am I prepared physically and emotionally?
    First, you should have enough room in your home for an active litter of kittens to be comfortable, yet safe. You need to have the physical stamina to tend to their physical needs, which may include bottle-feeding newborns around the clock.

    Finally, although kittens can provide fun and joy, they also bring with them hard work and sometimes sorrow. Kittens do die sometimes, through no fault of your own. Also, the time will come when the kittens will be ready for new homes, and you'll have to say goodbye.

    From Laura White:

      "As for adopting them out, I'm sure it varies from person to person. Honestly, that's why we have 5 cats-4 are left from fostering litters. I think to some degree it's like working in an ice cream parlour-eventually the thought of ice cream doesn't excite you like it did. Occasionally a kitten will come through that has such a sparkling personality that it's hard to give them up, but actually those are the ones that get adopted quickly. I think what happens more often is that fostered litters don't find new families and end up staying. I think that's a BIG consideration for anyone thinking of fostering. Some groups will have the ability to find new foster homes for kittens/cats that you've rehabbed or have adoption centers where the cats can go to get some exposure. Most, however, don't, and the foster family has to keep the cats indefinitely. At that point it's a self limiting endeavor- there's only so many cats (or any kind of animal) that you can safely, sanely, and humanely keep."

  • Are there other pets in the home?
    Only you know how well your pets accept new animals to your household. For that reason, it is always a good practice to keep the litter of kittens, along with the mother cat (if she came with the package) in a safe room until the time comes for integration. Your own common sense should guide you, particularly with big dogs who are unaccustomed to kittens, and may consider them "toys" or prey. If you have any doubts at all about your current pets, it may be better to consider volunteering at a shelter or rescue group's "adoption day" events.
  • Is my family on-board with my Fostering Kittens?
    Taking care of a litter of cats will consume much of your at-home time. It could cause a conflict with your partner unless he or she is as enthusiastic about the prospect as you are. Most children are pretty happy at the idea of having kittens in the house, and older children can help with their care and socialization. However, unless your child is exceptionally mature, young kittens should not be exposed to children under the age of three.

If you have passed these self-directed questions, you can start preparing yourself for a rewarding new venture in making a difference in the lives of cats.

Reader Stories: How I Became a Foster Parent to Rescued Cats and Kittens

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