Advice for Beginners
Read everything you can get your hands on and talk to lots of people. Most importantly, when working with kittens pay attention to their body language. Cats will tell you everything if you pay attention.
Most Rewarding Aspects of Fostering
The first time a kitten purrs at you is an incredibly heartwarming experience. I work with feral kittens so the first time one willingly comes to me is a wonderful moment as well. And seeing a kitten with a new family is wonderful as well.
Saddest Aspects of Fostering
The saddest part is when a kitten dies. With ferals I can not bring them inside until they are completely weaned so in addition to illness they are sometimes hit by cars. Finding one dead or just missing completely is heartbreaking.
Temptation to Keep Cats and/or Kittens
When a tiny ball of fluff curls up next to you and gazes into your eyes like you are their lifeline its soooo hard to not keep them forever. However, eventually you just can't have any more cats inside.
How I became a foster parent to cats and/or kittens
I don't work with any particular rescue group (every one in my area is "full"). When I moved into my home a few years back there was an out of control feral colony due to a neighbor feeding indiscriminately without making any effort at socialization. Numerous arguments later she at least stays off my property (and has stopped opening my crawlspace for the cats). I've spent the last few years socializing adult and kitten ferals and trap/fix/release for the ones completely wild. The population has mostly stabilized now and I'm hopeful it will decrease soon as more are tamed.
How I learned to care for my foster cats & kittens
I tried calling local rescue groups but everyone had the same answer...some variation on ferals will never really be tame. And the local "humane" society put an adult to sleep immediately rather than following the 7 day law (posted on their wall). With no support group I read everything I could find. I have had cats for years so I already knew a fair amount about their behavior. The biggest thing I had to learn was about kittens themselves. How long until weaned, when they would start being interested in food (best time to catch them), illness symptoms, etc.
- Cats view your hands as paws - never reach directly for a wild cat's head - they believe you are attacking them
- Sit will the cats when they eat - do not leave food out all the time - once you are associated with food the cats will begin to stop seeing you as a threat
- Record the mother cat when she calls for her kittens - the recording can help you locate them later
- Pay attention to the mother when working with the kittens - some will accept you touching the kittens, some will not
- Pet the kittens while they eat - they will be hungry enough to put up with it when they start to wean
- Be patient!