There are many would-be pet parents out there who just don’t have the time, space, or ability to commit to owning a pet. For these people, learning how to foster a cat could be the answer to their wishes—and it will certainly answer a cat’s prayers!
What Is Fostering?
Rescue groups, shelters, and adoption programs often have more animals in need of care than they have volunteers and space to care for them. This means crowded situations and stressed kitties, which can lead to sick kitties and even more stress for the animals and the volunteers.
Most shelters and rescue groups will jump at the chance to have you as a foster parent. You’ll agree to take a cat into your home, either for a set period of time or until the cat is adopted. You’ll provide the care and love the cat needs, and you may even be able to help find a forever home.
Cats that often need fostering can be:
- Kittens who are too young to be adopted.
- Cats recovering from surgery, an illness, or an injury, who need more care for a few weeks than they can get at the shelter.
- Cats who just need a break from their small cages at the shelter or who need a human lap to sit on so they can become used to people and ready to be adopted by a loving family.
- Mothers with kittens who were found or left with the shelter when the owner could not care for them all.
Can I Really Foster a Cat if I Can’t Own One Right Now?
Yes! Owning a cat can amount to around a two decade-long commitment in some cases. If you’re not sure where you’ll be living, who you’ll be living with, and if a cat will fit into your life for that entire time, fostering cats is a great way to help animals in need and fulfill your desire to love and care for cats.
What’s more, shelters who ask for foster volunteers should cover all medical expenses and some will even cover food and litter, or provide you with a stipend. How many other ways are there to take so much money out of the equation of pet parenting? You can donate your time and your love to care for a cat who otherwise wouldn’t get the care they need, and you won’t have to break the bank.
What if I Already Have Kids or Pets?
You should be sure that everyone you live with is on board with fostering a cat. You can always specify to a rescue group or shelter that you already have certain pets or that you have small children. They’ll work with you to set you up for success and give you a cat that will thrive in your home for the time needed.
How Do I Become a Cat Foster Parent?
Find a rescue group or shelter in your area and ask about their procedures. Some will require an application and maybe even a training session of an hour or two. Don’t be put off—these groups are usually run by volunteers who just want to be sure that every new foster pet parent they send cats home with is a good fit for their organization and has all the right information.
In fact, the more paperwork and information a group gives you, the more you can expect they’ll be there to take your calls and answer your questions as you embark on your fostering adventure.
What Will Be Expected of Me?
- Shelters and rescue groups should provide vaccinations and pay for medical expenses. If you foster a kitten that’s too young to vaccinate, you may be asked to take the kitten to the vet when it’s time to get their shots, but you shouldn’t have to pay for it.
- Some groups will pay for food and litter, but not all. You should be prepared for some incidental expenses, like toys, bowls, beds, and scratching posts. Be prepared to pay out of pocket for some food and litter, just in case there’s a lag between your request and the group’s ability to supply you with what you need. Keep in good communication with the shelter, and this shouldn’t be a problem.
- Be sure to get emergency information from the rescue group. Where do you take the cat if they’re sick, get injured, or need immediate care? Who pays the up-front cost at the vet office? How are you reimbursed? While known medical conditions should be discussed ahead of time, there’s always the possibility of an emergency.
- Some cats may need certain medications, and some may require those medications at specific times of day. Work with the rescue group to find a cat whose needs will work with your schedule and ability to help.
- Fostering a mother cat with new kittens will require more time and attention. You’ll likely have to hand feed kittens as they’re weaned off their mother’s milk, help them go to the bathroom, and do more cleanup than you would for a single cat. Be clear about your abilities when talking with a shelter, and you'll be given a cat or cats you can care for successfully.
- If a rescue group does not have a physical shelter or place to “show off” these adoptable cats to the world, you may be asked to bring the cat to an adoption fare once or twice a month. Find out where and how often, and ask about what you can expect.
- Be prepared to say goodbye. If you’re fostering instead of adopting, chances are you can’t fit a cat into your life full-time right now. Keeping that and all the good you’re doing in mind will make it easier to give the cat to their forever home.
- You'll need your open heart! You’re considering fostering because of all the love you have to share with pets in need, so this will come naturally. We bet you’ll love nothing as much as watching a shy or timid cat become a snuggle-bug in your tender care.
More on Caring for a Cat
When to Take a Cat to the Vet
How to Choose a Cat Litter Box and Kitty Litter
Make a Comfy Hideaway for Your Cat