Fostering Cats and Kittens — The Inside Scoop
What is “fostering”?
Fostering is caring for an animal in your own home until a permanent owner is found. Next to owning a dog or cat, there is nothing more enjoyable or rewarding than fostering an animal from your local shelter or rescue group. Even if you have a pet at home, you might be able to fit in a temporary tenant — a dog or cat making the transition from shelter to a new adoptive family. Fostering usually means taking in animals that are not “up to standards”, not ready for adoption, and preparing them to someday be adopted into a family fit for them, hopefully one that will shower them with all the attention they will need. Most of the felines that are placed into foster home are either too small, too sick, or too aggressive.
What may be asked of foster parents and families?
There is no perfect profile of a foster family, but there are some things you should know before volunteering at your local shelter or contacting a rescue group. You may be asked to foster a dog or cat from two weeks to two months, depending on circumstances. Foster parents don’t need to be home 24 hours a day, but you might have to postpone that weekend getaway or family vacation if you’re asked to take care of an animal for a while. It could require giving them medication at certain times of the day or perhaps bathing them periodically. If you have pets at home, you may have to keep them separated if the foster dog or cat is contagious. Before taking in an animal that’s recovering from an illness or disease, check with your vet if you have concerns about your own pets.
What is the financial situation?
Fostering is not an occupation, it is not a career, one does not get paid to be a foster parent. Fostering animals is 100% voluntary, but not much money comes out of pocket to pay for the expenses of the animals. The shelter where the fosterer is fostering for will usually cover most of the expenses including food, pet beds, medicine, and any trips to the medical offices.
Well mainly it’s to help animals in need improve their health or behavior so that they can get adopted. The rest is up to you to figure out.
**THE FOLLOWING ARE PARTS OF INTERVIEWS THAT I CONDUCTED VIA EMAIL WITH TWO VERY NICE WOMEN: CINDY(C) AND SHEILA(S).
**FOLLOW THEM ON INSTAGRAM!
Cindy → @foster_kittens
Sheila → @love2foster
What inclined you to start fostering?
S: I worked as a Hospital Director for a vet for three years and met a lady that ran a cat rescue. She convinced me to take some bottle baby kittens and I was hooked.
C: We adopted our cat, Emmy, when she was five weeks old. When I took her to get spayed, I told the vet how fun it was to have a kitten in the house. She suggested that I look into fostering, and gave me the name of a couple of local shelters who had fostering programs where I could volunteer.
How intense is the competition for fostering?
S: At the beginning of kitten season every foster wants kittens and when they become available they go into homes quickly. There are a lot of animals that need foster and not enough fosters so the competition is not fierce.
C: I don’t think there’s a lot of competition. Most shelters really need the help, so if you fit certain criteria, you can foster.
How many cats/kittens have you fostered up to this date? What is the most you’ve fostered at one time?
S: I have fostered around 200, mostly kittens but adult cats too. I had two litters of kittens overlap their time here last summer so I had 11 kittens at the same time.
Have you fostered any other animals aside from felines?
S: One puppy and a squirrel.
How much money do you spend weekly to care for the cats/kittens? Monthly? Yearly?
S: I spend about $900 a year on food and litter. It’s tax deductible.
C: While the shelter provides all the necessities (food, litter, vaccinations, etc.) I do spend some of my own money while caring for kittens. I have a particular brand of litter that I prefer, so I buy that myself. Shelters often can’t afford little luxuries like fluffy blankets or cat treats, so I buy those as well. I’ve purchased air purifiers for the kitten room, lots of cleaning supplies and a carpet shampooer. I also have an Amazon Wishlist, and many of my Instagram followers have sent toys, food, kitten formula, blankets, litter, etc. so I don’t have to go out of pocket very much anymore. I might spend $20-$30 of my own money every month. Maybe a couple hundred a year, total.
What are the pros and cons of fostering?
- saving a life
- giving back to my community
- making friends with people that love animals
- being able to help an animal learn to be a better pet
- very sick kittens or cats require a lot of care and I sometimes don’t get enough sleep
- some feral cats are difficult to socialize and I know that to get adopted they need to be friendly and
- not everyone understands why I foster cats
It’s great to have the Instagram community to talk to.
- You always have little kittens around!
- Friends and neighbors ask to come over and play with the kittens.
- I’ve met some amazing people from the shelter and through my Instagram account.
- Helping homeless kittens is a great feeling.
- My two daughters have learned a lot about taking care of animals. They can use this experience on
their college applications.
- It’s rewarding to see the kittens adopted by a family that adores them. Most of their families still keep
in touch with me.
- I scoop litter boxes constantly.
- I’m often worried that my house smells like cats. I vacuum and mop very often to keep things
- I lose a lot of sleep when I have sick cats or pregnant mommys.
- Kittens are messy! Especially when they’re learning how to use the litter box and eat solid food.
- They’ve torn up the carpet on our staircase. We’re replacing it with wood.
- It’s hard to go on vacation because I have to find someone who can watch our fosters.
- Adoption time is hard — it’s sad to say goodbye to the kittens.
Tell me about your experience fostering your first cat/kitten.
C: The first cats we fostered were a pair of six-month old grey tabbies. They were beautiful brothers, with sleek bodies, long legs, and bright green eyes. Their names were Wingus and Dingus, but we gave them other names because those are dumb names. One of the brothers had hip surgery, and needed a place to recover. Shelters aren’t the nicest places to recover, so I offered to take him and his brother home with me. They were a bonded pair, and were adopted together by a very nice gentleman after a couple of months.
Tell me about a time when you thought you might have lost a cat/kitten, if ever.
S: I was called to pick up four kittens that were born and left by their mother. They were left too long in the cold and no matter how quickly I tried to warm them I was unable to save them. It was heartbreaking. Kittens need to stay warm and crash quickly if they get cold.
C: The only time I was really scared that a kitten wouldn’t make it was with our own cat, Felix. We fostered him and his siblings when they were four days old. Their mom had passed away, and they were being nursed by another cat who had recently weaned her own kittens. For some reason, this cat didn’t want to take care of Felix: she would move the other kittens away from him, wouldn’t clean him or feed him. I started syringe-feeding him and giving him regular baths. He wouldn’t gain weight, and slept all the time — I had to wake him up to feed him. I thought the mommy cat sensed something wrong with him, and was rejecting him, and every time I checked on him, I was worried that he’d passed away. By the time adoption day came around, my family and I had fought so hard to keep Felix alive that we just couldn’t part with him, and asked to adopt him. The shelter was so nice, and surprised us by waiving his adoption fee. Now he’s giant and healthy and perfect!
Tell me about your daily routine.
S: During kitten season I feed kittens first thing in the morning, clean their litter boxes, and make sure they are healthy before I go to work. After work I check the kittens, feed them, clean litter boxes, and handle them. I will eat and do chores before going back to play with the kittens and make sure they have food and water before I go to bed. Kittens are messy so there is always laundry and vacuuming to be done. If I have sick kittens I’m also medicating and weighing them to make sure they are gaining weight. Kitten season in Portland goes from April to September. During the months that kittens aren’t available I take in sick or behavioral cats.
Who did you ask for help? Who helped most? Who helped least?
S: The shelter I foster for has a lot of resources from techs, cat behavior specialists, the vets, our foster coordinator, other fosters, and a TNR program with volunteers. Everyone is very helpful. I think with good programs there are a lot of resources and everyone wants to do what’s best for the animals. A few of us on IG ask each other for advice and some of us are connected through a fostering Facebook page. The only people that I can think of that wouldn’t be helpful are people that don’t like cats.
C: The shelter has been great about helping me when I need it. I can text, call, or email with any question or concern, and they’ve always had a great response. Sometimes there are products or solutions that I’m not aware of, and it’s good to tap into their experience. There really hasn’t been a time when they weren’t helpful.