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“I would love to foster a cat.” Which cats and kittens need fosters?

It doesn’t matter who you are or what your lifestyle looks like, the rewarding experience of fostering is possible for almost everyone!

Below are the different populations in need of fostering, roughly ordered in terms of most to least time commitment.

Neonatal bottle-fed kittens (without a mother)

Orphaned neonatal kittens or “bottle babies” are the most time-consuming population of felines to foster. These are kittens under five weeks of age who don’t have a feline mother. They need a surrogate human to bottle feed them around the clock, stimulate them to go to the bathroom, and maintain their temperature. Kittens this young have a weak immune system and are the most fragile population with which to work. It takes time, dedication, and experience to successfully help these little ones, but with that comes an emotionally-fulfilling reward. You become their surrogate “mother” and save their lives. And, with each kitten, you build the skills and knowledge to be able to foster the next in need.

We are hoping to expand our neonatal kitten program and need more fosters to do this. Don’t have experience with orphaned kittens? We are happy to teach you the skills you will need and mentor you.

Cruton at three days of age

Nursing mother cat and kittens

Want to foster the tiniest kittens, but don’t feel ready for the responsibility of bottle babies? You should consider a nursing mom. Mama cats are wonderful and usually do a great job of taking care of their kittens. Your job will be to provide for mama cat so she can nurture her kittens. You will also need to monitor the kittens to ensure they are gaining weight and growing. Sometimes we rescue mother cats who need a bit, or a lot, of help taking care of their kittens. There are times where the kittens are not being taken care of by mom (or maybe she’s not producing enough milk) and will need supplemental feeding and stimulation.

Sick/injured cat or kitten

The level of care required for a sick and/or injured feline will vary greatly depending on their medical needs. It could be a kitten with an upper respiratory infection who will need antibiotics twice a day orally, or a cat recovering from an open wound. We will walk you through the care necessary for your cat or kitten.

We transferred Hazel and Love from a partner who picked them up after they were thrown from a car. They arrived in Chicago dirty and underweight with upper respiratory infections. Thanks to a wonderful foster they are now in their forever home.

Undersocialized kittens

Picture a hissing, spitting tiny fluff ball who thinks they are a fierce and scary adult tiger, but in reality, you just want to scoop them up and boop them on the nose. Most of the undersocialized kittens we rescue were born outside and have had very little to no experience with humans. They are scared, but have the potential to become a loving companion with some attention, time, persistence, and lots of tasty treats.

Shy/undersocialized adult cat

Fostering an undersocialized cat has different requirements than fostering an undersocialized kitten. It is important to remember that there is a difference between a cat who is hiding and may take a while to feel comfortable in a new environment with new people, versus one who is undersocialized and has had little contact with humans. Sometimes we won’t know if a nervous cat is just shy or if they are undersocialized. Either way, a shy/undersocialized cat will hide for the first few days or weeks. They will need a quiet environment where they are given places to hide, but are encouraged to come out and begin to feel comfortable with humans. Maybe that means that you hand feed them, or sit with them for an hour or two each day doing computer work. The process is varied for each cat, and maybe a slow one. But it is incredibly rewarding when they begin to trust you and come out of hiding while you are in the room or purr for the first time. This population is overlooked much of the time, but is so deserving of foster homes and a chance to enjoy human company.

Kittens/cat waiting to be put up for adoption

Many of our cats or kittens (weaned) are socialized and ready to be put up for adoption and just need a safe place to crash until they find their forever family. Sometimes, if we have just rescued them we will want them to be in a foster home for a couple of weeks so we can learn a bit more about their personality and likes/dislikes before they are put up for adoption. This is especially the case if they have been in a shelter as it is hard to truly know what a cat will be like in a home. These are typically the least time-consuming and the easiest population of cats/kittens to foster as they are happy and healthy, and are the closest to making the final step to their ultimate home. The amount of time they need in a foster home will vary, but usually, they are the shortest foster length.

So there you have it, the main fostering categories!

Some felines will fall into multiple groups, e.g. undersocialized nursing mom, sick and injured hissy kitten. A few of our fosters choose one category/population to foster and stick with them, while others like to go from fostering a sick kitten to fostering an undersocialized adult to fostering a mother with her kittens. No matter who you choose or what type of time you are able to commit you will be saving a life or two or three. Fostering is deeply rewarding and a great experience.

Clem and Tine enjoying their foster home while they waited for their forever family to adopt them.

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