How to foster kittens

How to foster kittens

You’ve decided to open your home to kittens in need. Make sure they feel welcome by creating the perfect environment for them to thrive.

If you’ve been thinking about fostering cats, and you’ve read our interviews with foster moms Nikki and Danielle, you might be ready to take the next step and get involved. But before you contact a local shelter or rescue group that has kittens in need of a foster home, check out our tips below so you can set up the perfect environment where your kittens will be able to feel safe and comfortable.

Set Aside an Area in Your Home for Your Kittens

Rather than letting your foster kittens have access to your entire house, it’s best to set aside a particular area where they can be safe and secure, and where you can easily keep an eye on them.

Ensure the space is set to a comfortable temperature for your kittens. Being able to clean the area with ease every day is definitely going to be necessary as well. And keep in mind, too, that you’ll need to thoroughly sanitize the space if your kittens are ill. Sanitization will also be required after your kittens are adopted and before you introduce a new set of foster babies.

Ideal Environments for Kittens of All Ages

Kittens at different stages of their development will have different requirements, so you’ll need to tweak the space as needed.

  • If you’re fostering bottle babies that are 0-3 weeks old, placing them in a box, bin, or carrier with an opening at the top is recommended (keep the top open). A plastic bin without a lid is a nice idea because it’s see-through, the sides are tall enough that the kittens won’t be able to get out, and it’s easy to clean. Place a soft blanket inside, along with a kitten-safe heat source, such as a heating pad that’s set to low or a microwavable heating disk, that can be placed under the blanket. A stuffed animal, such as one that has a battery-operated heartbeat, can also provide much-needed comfort by mimicking the presence of a mama cat.
  • If you’re fostering kittens that are 3-8 weeks old, a soft-sided playpen that has mesh sides and a zippered mesh top is a great place for your fosters to continue growing. The playpen should be easy to clean, and it should be able to keep the kittens confined and safe. In addition to the blankets, heat source, and comforting stuffed animal, though, you can also line the bottom of the playpen with potty pads in case messes occur. Add in a shallow litter box (this could be as simple as the cardboard tray that canned cat food comes in), and fill it with a kitten-appropriate, fragrance free, non-clumping litter. Your kittens will also start weaning during this period, so shallow food and water dishes should also be placed in the playpen, making sure that they’re a good distance away from the litter box. And, as your kittens grow, you can even provide them with a hideaway, a little cat bed, and kitten-safe toys.
  • Once your fosters are old enough to leave the playpen, they can have their own dedicated room, if you have one for them. One thing to think about: it’s best to avoid keeping your foster kittens in carpeted areas, as carpets are harder to clean and sanitize. Ensure the room doesn’t contain any hazards, such as places where a little kitten might get stuck. Even tall furniture can be dangerous to a kitten who could fall from it. You also want to remove small objects, toxic plants, strings (such as those on blinds), and cords, as a few examples of things that could harm your kittens. Set up a shallow litter box, food and water bowls, and other essentials, such as a small scratching post and cat bed, making sure everything is easy to keep clean.

Fostering to Save Lives Doesn’t Require a Ton of Space!

There are so many wonderful reasons to start fostering cats in need. And now that you know a few of the best ways to set up the ideal environment for the kittens that you’ll be caring for, you can be one step closer to saving lives and uniting kitties with their forever families.

How to foster kittens

Famed 19th-century French writer Jules Champfleury observed, “A kitten is the delight of a household. All-day long a comedy is played out by an incomparable actor.” These adorable, fluffy feline “actors,” however, require a lot of attention and care to ensure they grow up to be healthy cats. Kittens under eight weeks old are not ready for adoption due to extremely vulnerable immune systems and the need for almost constant care. Fostering kittens or adult cats is tremendously rewarding because pet foster parents ensure the well-being of the cat and provide critical contact with humans that will make adoption possible. However, the task of fostering a kitten requires a commitment, and prospective foster parents should be aware of the unique needs of kittens.

The path to kitten foster parenting can be through a shelter, rescue or agency; or by chance after finding a newborn kitten or litter outside. Regardless of how you become a foster parent, you play an essential role in animal welfare, particularly during the spring and summer, which is the peak of the feline breeding season. Sadly, an estimated 1.4 million cats are euthanized each year. 1 Providing a loving foster home for a kitten will not only help that kitten but also allow shelters to care for additional animals in need.

PREPARING YOURSELF AND YOUR HOME FOR A FOSTER KITTEN

Welcoming any new pet into your home requires preparation, and your entire family including any furry family members will need to make adjustments. First, you should consider the time and commitment necessary to care for a foster kitten. While pet foster placements are meant to be temporary, there is no way of knowing when a forever home will be identified. Every effort should be made to foster until an adoptive home is found to avoid the trauma of moving a foster kitten unnecessarily.

Second, your home must not only provide a safe environment for a foster kitten, but your lifestyle and schedule must be able to accommodate the new member of the family. Because kittens are so vulnerable to disease, kittens should not be exposed to other pets until core vaccines have been administered beginning at about six weeks old and boosters until 16 weeks. 2 To keep young kittens healthy requires a safe, warm space away from other animals. You may also want to create a nesting box or small bed for maximum comfort. Also, depending on age, kittens need attention every 2-3 hours. This includes bottle feeding and stimulation to encourage urination and defecation. At about five weeks, kittens will no longer need stimulation, but will still require feeding every 6-8 hours until they reach eight weeks, which is also the age that kittens are ready to be adopted.

Finally, foster parents will need to have kitty supplies to go along with the foster family’s love and attention. Make sure to have a heating pad with a soft blanket or cover, a shallow water dish, a shallow litter box, and an area clear of anything dangerous to a curious kitten. Foster parents should also be aware that kittens can start eating moist cat food at approximately five weeks old and will start showing interest in cat toys around seven weeks.

HOW MANY TIMES A DAY SHOULD YOU FEED A FOSTER KITTEN?

After you have welcomed your foster kitten home, you should establish a routine. Most importantly, a kitten must be bottle-fed kitten formula regularly based on age and size. Never feed a kitten cow’s milk or human baby formula. The following chart provides a general guide for feeding, 3 but you should consult a pet care specialist to discuss a schedule based on the kitten’s weight:

  • 0-1 weeks: every 2 hours
  • 1-2 weeks: every 2-3 hours
  • 2-3 weeks: every 3 hours
  • 3-4 weeks: every 4 hours
  • 4-5 weeks every 5-6 hours
  • 5-6 weeks: every 6-8 hours
  • 6-8 weeks: every 8 hours

Kittens can become dehydrated very easily, so it is important to stick to the feeding schedule and monitor weight and growth. Also, be careful not to overfeed the kitten because kittens can only take small amounts of food at a time. As mentioned, you will need to stimulate your kitten after each feeding until about 4-5 weeks old, when the kitty should begin using the litter box. Also, it is important to introduce your foster kitten to the litter box as early as possible.

MAKING SURE YOUR FOSTER KITTEN IS HEALTHY

Healthy kittens should see a veterinarian for a wellness exam and vaccinations no later than eight weeks old. If your foster is from a shelter, rescue, or agency, your foster kitten should have already been examined. The foster care program coordinator will advise you of any special medical needs, medications, and the schedule for follow-up visits.

In the case that you found an abandoned kitten, you should make sure that the best decision for the kitten is to take the kitten home. First, check to see if the kitten is truly orphaned or abandoned. If the kitten looks clean and plump, then a feline mother is probably providing care. However, if the kitten looks dirty, underweight, or sick, you should take the kitten to a veterinarian for evaluation. Stray kittens, especially newborn kittens, may need immediate medical attention and there is a possibility of spreading disease to other animals, so always have a medical evaluation before bringing a stray kitten inside your home.

Second, you should also be aware that feral cats are not the same as stray cats. A feral cat is a wild animal, and has not had human contact. Feral kittens, however, may be tamed with early contact with humans and socialization. Often, it is difficult to tell if a kitten or cat is feral, so you should be careful when approaching, especially if you are trying to remove a kitten.

If a feral kitten seems to be well cared for by a mother cat, then you should probably not try to take the kitten away since there is no need. However, you can report the feral cat family to an organization that helps feral cats. These organizations provide humane care and services to feral cat colonies including T-N-R (trap, neuter, return) and greatly improve the lives of feral cats and kittens.

On the other hand, If the kitten appears to be feral and has been abandoned or looks unhealthy, the kitten may need to be trapped to ensure your safety and the safety of the kitten. This can be difficult because a feral kitten will be instinctively afraid of humans based on genetics. 4 Most animal rescue organizations or local animal control agencies will be able to assist you to ensure a safe capture. Fortunately, feral kittens can be tamed if socialized before eight weeks old. With a nurturing and patient foster parent, tamed feral kittens can be adopted and grow to be wonderful family pets.

Fostering cats is very rewarding. Even though kittens need a lot of attention, they also provide tremendous joy. Since there are so many stray cats in need of homes, every kitten foster placement makes a big difference. Opening your heart and home to a foster kitten is a wonderful opportunity to help a kitten grow to become a healthy cat and find a forever home.

ACC relies heavily on our network of foster parents to help decrease our on-site population and work with the amazing pets we have at our three full-service shelter locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Get involved today and find yourself a furry friend to share your home with!

Take your first steps with the ACC Foster Team by signing up for one of our Virtual Foster Orientations! If you’re interested in fostering a cat or kitten, click here. If you’re interested in fostering a dog, click here. At this time we do not have specific orientations for rabbits or guinea pigs – please sign up for the cat orientation if this is what you’re interested in.

If you don’t see an available date that fits your schedule, check back often! We will be hosting virtual orientations at least once per month.

We look forward to working with you soon!

Kitten Season:

Kitten Season is here! While it sounds adorable, Kitten Season is a time when we’re flooded with thousands of boroughbred kittens that need YOUR help. Our first Virtual Kitten Season Foster Orientations is on Saturday, July 10 at 11am. Click here to sign up!

Foster FAQ:

Who can foster? Just about anyone! You must be at least 18 years old to participate in our Foster Program. Additionally, if you lease or rent, you must get permission from your landlord prior to signing up to foster a dog.

What animals can go to foster? We work with each animal individually to find the best placement and set them up for success. The greatest need is usually for large breed dogs, adult cats, and seasonally for underage kittens (under 8 weeks old).

What does ACC provide to foster parents? We will provide basic supplies for your foster pet including food, toys, cat litter, harnesses & leashes etc. We will also send you home with any medication your foster pet is on. We are available for behavior and medical support, as well as helping you find adopters for your foster pet.

How do I get my foster pet? We are not able to transport animals to and from foster homes unless there is an emergency, so we do require that our foster parents be able to pick up pets from one of our three full-service care centers (Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island) and be able to bring the pet back if a medical emergency arises.

How long will I be fostering for? We generally ask for a minimum of two weeks and the maximum is open ended. For shorter commitments, we have BoroughBreaks which allow you to take a dog out just for the day, or Straycations that help us get animals out of the shelter and into a home for a few days!

Can I foster if I have other pets? Yes you can! We do require that you separate your resident pet from your foster for the first 2 weeks. We are happy to provide advice on safe and slow introductions once the separation period is over.

How to foster kittens

If you haven’t already planned to keep all the kittens from the litter, you’ll need to start thinking about placing them in permanent loving homes when they are eight to twelve weeks old. You will want to find potential adopters for your kittens who will love, care for, and appreciate them as much as you do.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Rehoming Kittens

There are a number of positive things you can do to help ensure the people you are entrusting your kittens to will be responsible cat parents.

Here are some things you should do to get ready to find your kittens homes.

Make Sure the Kittens are Completely Weaned

The mother cat will usually start weaning the kittens somewhere around three or four weeks old.   However, some kittens are needier than others and will continue to suckle for several more weeks. They should all be trained to eat canned kitten food, to use the litter box, and be well-socialized before releasing them to new homes.

If Possible, Have the Kittens Spayed or Neutered

Most kittens can be safely spayed or neutered at the age of six weeks, by a vet familiar with early spay/neuter techniques.   If you have no such a vet locally, consider asking for a spay/neuter deposit, to be refunded when the adopter of a kitten presents evidence the spay or neuter has been done.

Have the Kittens Vet Checkup and Vaccinations

You don’t want to count on the kittens’ adopters to take care of this. The kittens should also be tested for ear mites and worms, and treatments were given, if necessary. At the same time, if the mother cat has not already been tested clear of FIV and FeLV, this should be done now.   Both of these diseases can be transmitted to the kittens in utero.

Do Charge an Adoption Fee

You can base it on your out-of-pocket costs but include enough to cover a refundable spay/neuter fee when applicable.

Make a List of Requirements for Adoption

At the least, potential adopters should agree:

  • To make the kitten an Indoor-Only pet. Had the mother cat been kept indoors-only, this litter would likely not exist.
  • To spay/neuter before 5 months of age. Assuming this wasn’t done prior to adoption.
  • To return kitten to you if it can’t be kept. After being a surrogate for these kittens, you wouldn’t want one dumped out on the street or in a kill shelter.
  • NOT to declaw the kitten. Print out and hand this information to all potential adopters.  

Places to Advertise Kittens for Adoption

  • Your Local Veterinary Clinic. Your veterinarian, vet techs, and other employees are usually aware of clients looking for kittens, or others who have recently lost a cat and might be looking for another.
  • Local Cat Rescue Groups. These dedicated volunteers usually include fosterers and show cats and kittens for adoption at local pet supply stores. Even if they can’t take your kittens, they may be able to share useful tips.
  • Petfinder.com.   This organization is a clearinghouse for thousands of shelters, rescue groups, and individuals involved in the rescue. The site is searchable by area, so your chances of finding responsible homes near you are good.

If a prospect looks good so far, consider asking for a home visit, so you can see if they are equipped to care for a cat. If they have very young toddlers or large dogs, a kitten might not fare well there.

Things to Avoid

“Free Kittens” Ads. We emphasize charging an adoption fee for your kittens. This is to avoid any of the tragedies that can go along with these ads. “Free Kittuns,” by Jim Willis, although fiction, is an excellent description of the very real pitfalls of these ads. For the same reasons, do not attempt to give away kittens from a box outside your supermarket, nor post “Free Kittens” signs on poles. The hard and fast truth is that many people set little value on anything that is free, and the kittens may eventually be treated badly.

If this cat was a stray, or your first experience at fostering a pregnant cat, by now, you are well on your way to becoming an expert. Take a break or look for the next cat to foster. But before that, you still have one thing left to accomplish: spay the mother cat if it has not already been done.

Molly

January 8, 2021

How to foster kittens

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.

Things to consider before you commit to fostering

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:

  • Provide a safe and loving home
  • Have access to reliable transportation to veterinary and wellness appointments
  • Be consistent with examinations, scheduling vaccinations and spay/neuter operations with a trusted provider
  • Provide cuddle time with humans and socialization time with other pets
  • Make time for regular bottle feeding for very young kittens
  • Meet other application criteria such as completing a training session
  • Be willing to cat-proof their home

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.

How to foster kittens

Finding the right match

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.

How to foster kittens

Getting the right supplies

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:

  • Pet bowls (one for water, one for dry food)
  • Kitten chow
  • Kitten formula (for infant kittens)
  • Kitten bottle feeder
  • Litter box
  • Non-toxic plant-based litter
  • Cat bed
  • Scratching post
  • Kitten-safe, sanitized cat toys
  • (Optional) Heating pad

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.

How to foster kittens

If you haven’t already planned to keep all the kittens from the litter, you’ll need to start thinking about placing them in permanent loving homes when they are eight to twelve weeks old. You will want to find potential adopters for your kittens who will love, care for, and appreciate them as much as you do.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Rehoming Kittens

There are a number of positive things you can do to help ensure the people you are entrusting your kittens to will be responsible cat parents.

Here are some things you should do to get ready to find your kittens homes.

Make Sure the Kittens are Completely Weaned

The mother cat will usually start weaning the kittens somewhere around three or four weeks old.   However, some kittens are needier than others and will continue to suckle for several more weeks. They should all be trained to eat canned kitten food, to use the litter box, and be well-socialized before releasing them to new homes.

If Possible, Have the Kittens Spayed or Neutered

Most kittens can be safely spayed or neutered at the age of six weeks, by a vet familiar with early spay/neuter techniques.   If you have no such a vet locally, consider asking for a spay/neuter deposit, to be refunded when the adopter of a kitten presents evidence the spay or neuter has been done.

Have the Kittens Vet Checkup and Vaccinations

You don’t want to count on the kittens’ adopters to take care of this. The kittens should also be tested for ear mites and worms, and treatments were given, if necessary. At the same time, if the mother cat has not already been tested clear of FIV and FeLV, this should be done now.   Both of these diseases can be transmitted to the kittens in utero.

Do Charge an Adoption Fee

You can base it on your out-of-pocket costs but include enough to cover a refundable spay/neuter fee when applicable.

Make a List of Requirements for Adoption

At the least, potential adopters should agree:

  • To make the kitten an Indoor-Only pet. Had the mother cat been kept indoors-only, this litter would likely not exist.
  • To spay/neuter before 5 months of age. Assuming this wasn’t done prior to adoption.
  • To return kitten to you if it can’t be kept. After being a surrogate for these kittens, you wouldn’t want one dumped out on the street or in a kill shelter.
  • NOT to declaw the kitten. Print out and hand this information to all potential adopters.  

Places to Advertise Kittens for Adoption

  • Your Local Veterinary Clinic. Your veterinarian, vet techs, and other employees are usually aware of clients looking for kittens, or others who have recently lost a cat and might be looking for another.
  • Local Cat Rescue Groups. These dedicated volunteers usually include fosterers and show cats and kittens for adoption at local pet supply stores. Even if they can’t take your kittens, they may be able to share useful tips.
  • Petfinder.com.   This organization is a clearinghouse for thousands of shelters, rescue groups, and individuals involved in the rescue. The site is searchable by area, so your chances of finding responsible homes near you are good.

If a prospect looks good so far, consider asking for a home visit, so you can see if they are equipped to care for a cat. If they have very young toddlers or large dogs, a kitten might not fare well there.

Things to Avoid

“Free Kittens” Ads. We emphasize charging an adoption fee for your kittens. This is to avoid any of the tragedies that can go along with these ads. “Free Kittuns,” by Jim Willis, although fiction, is an excellent description of the very real pitfalls of these ads. For the same reasons, do not attempt to give away kittens from a box outside your supermarket, nor post “Free Kittens” signs on poles. The hard and fast truth is that many people set little value on anything that is free, and the kittens may eventually be treated badly.

If this cat was a stray, or your first experience at fostering a pregnant cat, by now, you are well on your way to becoming an expert. Take a break or look for the next cat to foster. But before that, you still have one thing left to accomplish: spay the mother cat if it has not already been done.

How to foster kittens

Fill out a “Foster Information Form” today!

Types of Foster Scenarios

  • Litters of kittens too young for adoption
  • Bottle-baby kittens who require round-the-clock care
  • Adult cats who need socialization before adoption
  • Adult cats who don’t cope well at the adoption center and require a home environment
  • Sick cats or kittens who need time and TLC to help them recover

Requirements to Foster Kittens and Cats

  • Have the ability to keep foster cats or kittens indoors and separate from your household pets.
  • Be able to make a minimum commitment of 2 weeks for an adult cat or 2-3 months for kittens. Have at least 30 minutes twice a day to spend caring for and socializing foster cats or kittens.

Transportation Requirements

Foster homes with kittens must have regular access to a car. Kittens must come into the adoption center regularly for check-ups and appointments, normally 2-4 times per month. Foster homes must also be prepared for the possibility of driving a sick kitten across the city on very short notice.

Foster homes without regular access to transportation are welcomed for adult cats in longer term foster situations. These cats usually respond best to potential adopters in a home environment, so please be open to hosting potential adopters, accompanied by an adoption counselor.

Ready to Foster?

Thank you so much for your interest in becoming a foster home for SAFe Rescue kitties. You are a valuable part of our community and allow us to save more animals. Please read through the handbook and then fill out the Foster Information Form. This form will give us an idea of what types of kitties you are interested and able to foster. We will be in touch.

Adoption Center Hours

Thursday: 1:00 – 7:00PM
Friday: 1:00 – 7:00PM
Saturday: 1:00 – 7:00PM
Sunday: 1:00 – 7:00PM
Monday: closed
Tuesday: closed
Wednesday: closed

NOTE: the online waitlist opens at 12:15PM, 45 minutes prior to the first visit of the day.

Because Adoption Center capacity is limited, we suggest that you check wait times and sign up on our adoption waitlist before coming to SAFe Rescue. Learn more >>>

By: Chris Brownlow Published: October 6, 2020 Updated: August 6, 2021

New Pet > Think You’re Ready to Foster Kittens? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Think You’re Ready to Foster Kittens? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

When Veronika Guttenberger volunteered to foster two orphaned kittens, she knew caring for them would be a big commitment.

“It really was like caring for an infant,” she says, adding that both foster kittens needed to be bottle fed every two hours. “I had to get up in the middle of the night to feed them.”

But she also knew the joy of helping baby cats would be well worth the hard work. “It’s rewarding,” she says. “You’re helping them become healthy so they can be adopted into their forever homes.”

If you share Veronica’s dedication to caring for cats, fostering kittens just might be your calling—but it’s not a decision to take lightly. Read on to learn everything you need to know about caring for foster kittens.

What Is Kitten Fostering?

Animal shelter and rescue staff might not always be available to, say, bottle-feed baby cats at 3 a.m. That’s where foster kitten volunteers come in. Essentially, kitten fostering is when kittens from local shelters are placed into temporary homes where they will be safe and cared for until they are ready to be adopted, says Randa Richter, media and partnership relations at SPCA Florida Adoption Center in Lakeland, Florida. This helps shelters provide the best care to kittens, who need lots of attention in their first few months.

Foster kittens can range in age from neonatal to a few months old. The size of the litter varies as well. Sometimes a volunteer is asked to foster just two kittens, and other times it’s a whole litter along with the mother cat. Naturally, the level of care required also changes from litter to litter. “Some kittens in need of fostering are malnourished and underweight or require medication,” Richter says. “Fostering is especially important for kittens that need around-the-clock care.”

While it is preferable for foster caregivers to have some experience with animals, it isn’t a requirement, Richter says. If you’re interested in kitten fostering, Richter recommends reaching out to local animal shelters, rescues or welfare agencies to see if they have foster programs and take the next steps to get involved. At SPCA Florida, for instance, prospective foster caregivers fill out an application on their website. Afterward, a foster coordinator contacts them to get a better idea of what level of care they’re comfortable with, Richter says. Then, when the need arises, they can match the foster caregiver with kittens based on their care needs.

Foster Kitten Supplies

Fostering kittens requires time in your schedule and space in your home, such as a bathroom, office or extra bedroom, Richter says. While SPCA Florida provides foster caregivers the supplies they need, not every shelter may have the resources to do that. In that case, you’ll need:

  • A cozy bed
  • A heating pad, especially if the kittens are orphans and don’t have a mama to keep them warm
  • A carrier for transportation and vet visits
  • Kitten milk replacer, soft kitten food, or kibble depending on the kitten’s age (Get a complete guide to feeding kittens here)
  • A nursing bottle, if needed
  • Food and water bowls
  • A litter box
  • Litter
  • Kitten toys
  • A cute cat-themed mug filled to the brim with coffee to keep you going (OK, this one is more of a suggestion.)

Be sure to ask your shelter or rescue which supplies they will provide and which you are responsible for obtaining.

Caring for Foster Kittens

While the level of care will depend on your foster kittens’ age and health, all kittens require proper nutrition, regular veterinary visits, socialization and of course, lots of love, Richter says.

Many shelters and rescues will check on foster kittens regularly to ensure all their needs are being met. For example, SPCA Florida has a veterinarian on staff who their foster caregivers typically see weekly to ensure the kittens are gaining weight and growing, Richter says, and the cost is completely covered. Prospective foster parents should ask how often they’ll need to check in and about any related expenses.

Foster kitten caregivers will also need support, as they’re sure to have questions. SPCA Florida, for example, provides an emergency foster phone line 24 hours a day and an active Facebook community where foster caregivers can seek advice from other, more experienced foster caregivers. Many other shelters and rescues offer similar services, and advocates like Hannah Shaw, aka the Kitten Lady, provide tips and advice online.

One of the most frequently asked questions Richter says she gets from first-time foster pet parents is how long they will have their foster kittens. Basically, kittens will stay with their foster caregivers until they’re healthy and weigh 2 pounds, she says. Kittens usually gain about a pound a month, but she notes that it can vary.

Other common questions pertain to bottle feeding and weaning kittens, litter box training and common health issues, she adds.

Dr. Robyn Barton, DVM, adoption center veterinarian at the SPCA Florida, says upper respiratory infections and parasites are the most common medical conditions to expect. Kitten foster parents should reach out to their shelter veterinarian if they notice sneezing, eye discharge, congestion or worms in the stool. If a kitten has diarrhea or isn’t eating or drinking, caregivers should see their shelter veterinarian immediately, she says.

“Kittens are extremely susceptible to dehydration because they’re so tiny,” she says. “They can be normal one day and within 24 hours, take a turn for the worse.”

Finding a Fur-ever Home for Your Kittens

Guttenberger ultimately adopted one of her foster kittens, a “foster fail” that Richter says isn’t uncommon. But while it is definitely a happy ending, she adds, it shouldn’t become a habit.

“Giving up your foster kittens to adoption is bittersweet,” she says. “I foster a lot of kittens and if I adopted them all, I wouldn’t have enough space in my home to foster the next baby that needs my help.”

At SPCA Florida, adoptions take place through their foster coordinators, not the foster caregivers themselves, but caregivers have plenty of ways to help get the word out. Some take charming photos and videos of their kittens to share on social media. Others recruit family, friends, co-workers and neighbors to spread the word. One volunteer even rented an RV and drove her foster kittens to their new homes in Illinois and South Carolina, says Megan Allan, foster care manager at SPCA Florida.

“Foster caregivers are really dedicated animal people,” she says. “They want to find the perfect match for their baby.”