A Guide to Fostering Kittens

You don’t need much to be able to help homeless kittens: just a spare room and lots of love in your heart!

How to foster kittens - Three tabby kittens playing in a cardboard box.

Shelters or rescues often need foster parents because they don't have enough space to care for kittens.

Everyone loves kittens, but not everyone is in a place to adopt all of them. What if you know you’re moving next year, or you’re not sure if your older cat will accept a kitten? Maybe you just don’t think you can afford another set of vet bills. The good news is that you don’t need much to be able to help homeless kittens: just a spare room and lots of love in your heart!

You don’t have to adopt all the kittens. There’s an easy solution: fostering. You may be wondering how to foster kittens and how to care for foster kittens. It’s easy!

All Shelters and Rescues Need Foster Parents

If you ask your local shelter what they need the most, chances are, they won’t say money. They’ll say fosters. Becoming a kitten foster parent means that you agree to take a kitten or litter of kittens into your home for days, weeks, or sometimes months in order to prepare them for adoption.

Often, shelters receive kittens who are too young, sick, or unsocialized to be adopted. These kittens simply cannot stay in the shelter for a number of reasons: there isn’t space, there aren’t enough staff to care for them and raise them properly, and they are more susceptible to illness and behavioral problems when growing up in a shelter cage. They need out – and fast. That’s where you come in. You may be asked to bottle feed tiny newborns, give fuzzy babies antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection, or help teach a scaredy-cat that humans aren’t so scary after all. You could have a singleton, a whole litter, or a mother cat looking for a quiet place to rest and care for her kittens. It’s your choice.

How to Foster Kittens

  • How to foster kittens - Mother cat and kittens in basket.

    A bathroom or a spare bedroom can make for a good foster space.

    Step 1. The first step is locating a shelter or a rescue near you. That should be easy. Let them know you’re interested in fostering kittens! And remember – even if kittens aren’t for you, they may have adult cats, dogs, or even puppies available to foster , too. Most rescues will pay for all medical expenses, and many will help you cover the cost of food, kitten formula, litter, and other supplies. Be sure to ask plenty of questions to determine what is expected of you.

  • Step 2. Set up your foster room. You should expect to keep your kittens completely separated from other pets, at least at the beginning, to lower the risk of transmitting any diseases. A good foster space depends on the age of the kittens. Bottle babies will just need a warm and comfy box. Older kittens or a family with a mom might do better in a bathroom or spare room. Don’t worry if all you have is a bathroom. It’s better than a shelter cage, and you’ll be spending plenty of time in there giving them lots of love and attention. The room you pick should be easy to clean (kittens are messy) and contain everything your kittens need. If you’re fostering feral or under-socialized kittens, starting them out in a large dog crate or playpen can be helpful. Make sure they have somewhere to hide and feel safe!
  • Step 3. Give your kittens tons of love! Each group of kittens will have different needs. They may need to be nursed back to health, or they may need to learn how to live inside a home with people. They may just need a place to hang out while they grow up and get big enough to find their forever home! Whatever the case may be, now is the time to enjoy them. Give them names, discover their unique personalities, and help them grow into the best kittens they can be.
  • Asian girl lying with tabby cat.

    Hard letting go? You may get to meet the adopter and watch them fall in love with the kitten just like you did.

    Step 4. Once your kittens have reached eight weeks, it will likely be time to say goodbye. But is it too hard to give them up? Won’t you get attached? While it is true that you will likely form a special bond with each and every kitten, you shouldn’t let that stop you from letting them move on. You were just a temporary stop in a wonderful adventure! Many rescues allow their foster parents to be a part of the selection process, so you have a chance to meet the adopter and watch them fall in love with the kitten just like you did. And when one litter goes, the next one is always waiting. More kittens will always need you!

If you’ve been on the fence about fostering, now is the time! Rescues and shelters need foster parents the most during kitten season, which is generally April – October. All you need is a bathroom to save lives and make a difference.

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