How to Become a Kitten Foster Carer

Photo of Karen Dell

Karen Dell

Senior Editor • Backyard Cat Enclosures

02 April 2019

Before you apply
While being a foster carer for kittens is very rewarding, it is also a tough job which has a lot of responsibility and need a lot of time to do properly. In addition to you being a foster carer, your family, room mates, or anyone living with you, will have to also want to be a foster parent for kittens. It is, therefore, very important that you have the go-ahead from everyone in your home before going ahead.
Next, make sure that your home and environment is kitten-friendly.

This includes:

  • Do you have a safe room in the home to keep the kittens? (They may have to be kept separate from your other pets, depending on their age and health.) If you don’t already have a spot where you can keep the kittens, is there a safe spot that you can get ready in the meantime? Kittens can be very busy and inquisitive, so you have to make sure that your home is kitten-proof before you foster your first kittens.
  • Does your schedule suit looking after kittens — or are you able to easily change your schedule to fit in with the needs of kittens? Remember that very young kittens that are still drinking milk may need to be fed as often as every two to three hours. Even if they have been weaned and is older, kittens still need a lot of care and time to grow up into healthy, well-adjusted cats.

Application and orientation
If you are interested in becoming a kitten foster carer, you need to look at the shelters or RSPCA( s) in your area and contact them via their website to register your interest and fill in an application form.
Next, you will need to attend orientation and training sessions. These sessions will ensure that you have all the tools you need to take proper care of the kittens you’ll be asked to foster.
While it would be favourable that you’ve had some experience with cats or kittens before, it is not a prerequisite to becoming a kitten foster carer. You will be paired with kittens that are of an age and health that you will be able to take care of. For instance, your first kittens will most likely not be newborns who need to be bottle-fed every two hours unless you’re already adept at this.

How long will I look after the kittens I’m given to foster?
You’ll only look after the kittens until they are ready to be adopted. This can range from a week or two to a month or two. In select cases of rehabilitation it may be a bit longer. Although it is sometimes possible to keep in touch with the adopting family, you’ll also have to make peace with the fact that you will have to say a permanent goodbye to some of the kittens you foster when they go to their forever homes. However, just as your home was inspected to see if it was suitable for keeping kittens, the adoptive “parents” will also be inspected. You can, therefore, rest assured that the kittens are going to good homes.

How many kittens will I foster at a time?
Normally shelters try to keep litters together or keep at least two kittens together in order for them to properly learn to socialise, etc. If you have other cats (or any other pets), you will need to tell the shelter as your house also shouldn’t have too many animals in it. Older cats have been known to start playing parent to the kittens, though, if it is not necessary for the kittens to be kept away from your other pets because of illness, etc.

Can the kittens in my care die?
Unfortunately, depending on their health, one or more of the kittens in your care could possibly die. This can happen even if you take perfect care of them. “Fading Kitten Syndrome” is a very possible danger to kittens who have been orphaned or who may otherwise have had a rough start in life.
Learning advanced kitten care skills, not to mention what to look out for when it comes to Fading Kitten Syndrome, can save their little lives, however. The sooner you spot that something is wrong; for instance that the foster kitten is losing instead of gaining weight, the sooner treatment to correct whatever is wrong can begin. Fading Kitten Syndrome need not be a death sentence — and that is very comforting to know.

What if I decide to keep one of the kittens I foster?
Should you decide to keep one of the kittens that you foster, you will most likely need to go through the adoption process just like any other new kitten parent. However, it is important to remember that you are fostering the kittens and can’t keep all of them — no matter how difficult it is to say goodbye.
You can, however, look at fostering kittens as a kind of trial run for owning a cat. Not only will you learn a lot about taking care of kittens, you will also be able to tell whether a cat is the right pet for you before you make the commitment of adopting one (or two).

Ready to become a foster carer?

Here's a quick guide on kitten foster care.

And here's a guide to caring for foster kittens.


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