Fostering Kittens for First-Time Foster Parents
“Awwww, kittens!” Who doesn’t melt at the sight of fluffy furballs tumbling over one another? When my local animal shelter put out a call for kitten fosters, I excitedly filled out the application. I mean, baby animal snuggles? Sign me up!
But oh boy…that first litter was a wake-up call. Don’t get me wrong, I loved having the tiny purring poop machines in my home. But between bottle feedings every two hours, keeping them from tearing up my curtains, and anxiously monitoring their health, I turned into a frazzled, bleary-eyed cat mom real quick.
Kittens 101: What You Should Know Before Fostering
“Fostering kittens will be so cute and fun,” I naively thought. Nobody prepared me for…*cue dramatic music*…the poopsplosions. And holy moly, can these tiny furballs shriek! My sweet little Lily sounded like a toddler throwing a tantrum when I gave her a bath after she somehow got tuna fish stuck between her ears.
So before you dive in, make sure you really understand what raising young kittens involves. This guide breaks down all the nitty gritty so you’ll be fully prepped and armed for your foster journey!
Gearing Up: Essential Supplies for Your Kittens
Kittens have very specific needs, so stock up on the following:
- Formula & wet food: Bottle feeding is critical for kittens under 4 weeks old. For older kittens provide vet-recommended premium wet food.
- Litter box: Low sides allow tiny kittens to easily get in and out.
- Cozy bed: Soft blankets or beds provide comfort and warmth.
- Toys galore: Kittens love to play! Stock up on balls, mice, feathers—you name it.
Preparing Your Home for Ultimate Kitten-Proofing
“Curious as cats” doesn’t even begin to describe kittens. You need to fully kitten-proof your home by keeping cords, toxic plants, and choking hazards out of reach. Tape down rugs and secure wobbly furniture and light fixtures. Check windows are securely screened.
Pro tip: keep toilet lids closed! I learned this one the hard way after finding poor Oliver sopping wet and crying after taking an unexpected plunge. Not fun for either of us.
Bonding with Your Foster Kittens
Raising happy, healthy, and social kittens is the best way to prepare them for forever homes. Spend lots of quality time cuddling, grooming, and playing with them. The more positive human interaction, the better.
Pro tip: get down on their level—literally. Sit or lie on the floor as you hang out in their space. It makes you seem less intimidating.
Maintaining Kitten Cleanliness 101
Mama cats teach their babies grooming habits—but orphaned or rejected kittens rely on YOU. Wiping them down with pet wipes or a warm, damp cloth keeps their coats clean and healthy. Pay special attention to their bottoms to avoid, ahem, residue accumulation.
Baths stress out kittens, so ask your vet before attempting. If advised, ONLY use gentle kitten shampoo.
Separating Your Own Pets
To protect all animals, keep foster kittens separated from household pets until fully vaccinated. Even if pets seem friendly, kittens are extremely vulnerable to contagious illness.
Gradually allow supervised interaction. Watch carefully and separate immediately if issues arise.
Vet Visits: Non-Negotiable for Fosters
Fosters require extra vet care for vaccines, dewormers, flea treatments, and checkups. Kittens grow fast, so health can change quickly.
Establish care ASAP with a vet familiar with foster cases. Be ready to make emergency visits if anything seems “off” with your kittens.
Why Fostering Kittens Rocks
Exhausting? Yes. Stressful? Sometimes. But fostering kittens is also incredibly rewarding. Saving vulnerable little lives? Priceless! Beyond the snuggles and purrs, you get to experience kittens blossoming into loving, adoptable pets.
Join the Lifesaving Movement
Kitten season brings a flood of homeless litter needing care. By opening your home, you create space for animal shelters to take in even more animals. Fostering is hands-on, lifesaving work for cats!
Newbie Foster? No Sweat!
Don’t let nerves stop you from embarking on this marvelous journey! Shelters offer tons of training and support. I had round-the-clock access to experienced staff ready to answer ALL my panicked 2am “Is this normal?!” calls. Other fosters also provided invaluable tips and solidarity.
Preparing Supplies: Special Considerations
Shelters often provide starter supplies like formula, food, litter, and beds. But depending on the litter’s needs and ages, additional purchases may be necessary.
Pro tip: Save Amazon boxes! Kittens LOVE playing in them.
Socializing Your Litter for Adoption Success
The work you do prepping kittens for adoption truly shapes their destiny. Socializing them to human handling, other pets, noises, car travel etc. helps them become well-adjusted companions.
With patience and creativity (treats help!), you can guide them through new experiences, building their confidence and skills.
Understanding Kitten Growth and Development
Watching kittens grow from squeaking fuzzballs to leaping, pouncing dynamos never loses its magic. However, understanding developmental stages means properly caring for their changing needs.
0-2 weeks: 100% reliant on mom or you for food and warmth. Limited mobility, ears/eyes closed.
2-4 weeks: Eyes open, they start moving around and playing. Begin socialization!
4-8 weeks: Rapid physical changes. Transition them to mushy food and provide a litter box. Lots of playtime!
8-12 weeks: Look and act more like “big cats”. Continue socialization before adoption.
Feeding Your Litter: A Delicate Balancing Act
What and how much food fosters need varies dramatically depending on age. It’s tricky getting nutrition right, but utterly vital to health.
Newborns? Bottle feed special kitten formula every 2-3 hours. Wean older kittens slowly onto wet food mashed with formula or water. Provide palatable dry food once chewing solidly.
Let hunger guide amounts to avoid over or underfeeding. Track daily appetite and weight.
Vaccines and Vet Care: Vital for Health
Preventing and treating illness is central when caring for vulnerable baby kittens. Our vet administered a series of vaccines and dewormers on a strict schedule.
I also gave prescription flea and tick preventatives monthly. Stay vigilant in checking for parasites or unusual symptoms that need a quick vet examination.
Training and Socializing for Adoption Success
The time and effort spent training kittens pays off tremendously by boosting adoption appeal. Our litter learned to use scratching posts, come when called, and walk calmly on leashes.
Ongoing socialization with people, pets, car travel, and household noises also smoothes transitions into adopters’ homes.
Bittersweet Goodbyes: Letting Go When the Time Comes
Just when you fall head over heels for them, the day comes to surrender your foster kittens for adoption. I won’t sugarcoat it—letting go felt devastating. But seeing updates of them thriving in caring forever homes filled my heart with joy.
Focus on the positive difference you made in saving lives! And take comfort knowing you’ve got more room…to foster again!
The Challenges and Rewards of Fostering Kittens
Fostering kittens is simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating. Yes, you lose sleep, scrub poop off floors, deal with vet emergencies, and shed many tears saying goodbye.
But you also save vulnerable lives through nurturance and love. Your home becomes a bridge transporting tiny kittens into healthy, world-ready cats. And that makes every chaotic, messy moment infinitely worth it!
So don’t let the work intimidate you. With adequate support, you can absolutely handle the demands of fostering kittens while reveling in the darling snuggles!