Crepes is still in exile, but she’ll be back soon, and by then we’ll likely have handed off our fosters to a new foster mom. We’ve had them for a week now and I’ve been thinking a lot about fostering. There are lots of people who still don’t know much about it. What is it? How do you do it? Does it cost anything? Let’s discuss.
First off, what’s the best way to get started in fostering? Simple. Contact your local rescue and ask them if you can apply for their foster program. They’ll usually ask you to fill out an application (you’ll be taking in their kittens to your home, so it’s similar to an adoption application) and then tell them what kinds of cats you’d like to foster. For instance, do you want bottle babies? Do you want weaned kittens? Would you prefer older cats? That’s something you have to decide, but here are a few things to keep in mind (and this is by no means an exhaustive list).
Fostering bottle babies requires you to:
- Feed them. If they’re under four weeks old, you’ll likely be feeding every 2 hours. At about four weeks, you might be around every 4 hours. This includes during the night, so set your alarms!
- Wash them. This might be a bath in the sink or daily with a wash cloth after they eat. They’re messy.
- Keep them warm. You need to provide a heating pad and check it frequently to make sure it’s on and not too warm.
- Hold them. Kittens love to be held. They’ll scream at you to let you know this.
- Weigh them. Kittens need to be weighed daily to make sure they’re growing properly and eating enough.
- Burp them AND assist them with pooping. Hurray! (Edit: I forgot to add this one to the list, but was reminded by Random Felines. Maybe I just wanted to forget.)
Fostering weaned kittens requires you to:
- Play with them frequently.
- Keep them out of trouble.
- Provide cleaning and love.
- Take them to vet checks.
- Care for them after their spay/neuter surgery.
Fostering adult cats requires:
- A safe place for them to live.
- Love and snuggling.
- Transportation to adoption events and vet appointments.
Fostering special needs cats requires doing things above and beyond the aforementioned items. For instance, you might need to:
- Administer medication. Are you comfortable with this?
- Administer subcutaneous fluids. Is that something you’re ok with?
- Spend extra time socializing the cat in the event that you’re fostering one with emotional needs or fear issues.
You can also specify if you want to be a long-term or short-term foster. We ourselves have done mostly short-term, anywhere from a few days to provide safety while a long-term foster is found to six weeks for Crepes and her siblings. Some people foster for a year or more if the animal is having trouble finding a home. Work with your rescue to figure out what you can do.
Vet bills, food, etc. are often covered by the rescue, as well. You can figure out what’s required of you when you apply. This is not an exhaustive list, by any means. The needs are different for every cat/litter you take in. Your rescue may also have special rules, and some may be more flexible than others in what kinds of services you have to provide.
The last part is, of course, the hardest: Letting go when it’s time. We’ve fostered maybe ten kittens thus far. Even though it’s only been a week, we’ve really started to love little Hash (Brown) and (Tater) Tot. Their faces are darling and they like us, but it’s just about time for them to move on. We’ll find comfort in knowing that we saved their lives and they’ll have a wonderful future to look forward to because we helped. We had a hard time saying goodbye to Crepes’ siblings. I cried a lot when I let them go, but they have great homes now. And, of course, I couldn’t say goodbye at all to Crepes. Sometimes that happens, and that’s ok.
Fosters are always in demand. Fosters save the lives of kitties who have no where to go.
A few weeks of your time could mean two decades of life for a kitty. Please foster if you can. It would mean the world to so many little lives.