Learn why fostering cats – especially during kitten season – is an important step in the rescue process.
A three-year-old black and white cat named Big Boy was found in the parking lot of Los Angeles County’s Baldwin Park Animal Care Center. He’d been living there for several months before the ASPCA staff noticed he might not be a feral cat, just a scared outdoor cat. He was receptive to being petted and allowed the veterinary team to conduct an exam and eventually neuter him.
You might think the next crucial chapter in Big Boy’s story was adoption, but it wasn’t. Big Boy went to foster caregiver Brigid Harmon who helped him come out of his shell. After developing an upper respiratory infection, Big Boy went to another foster pet parent, Dan Edwards. Dan helped Big Boy overcome the URI and socialized him to a home environment by training him to go into a carrier and teaching him the joys of human affection. After several weeks, Dan’s friend Samantha expressed interest in Big Boy and gave him a permanent loving home.
Helping an outdoor cat adjust to domestic life is one of the many reasons fostering is a vital part of homeless cat rescue. Other reasons range from providing neonate kittens with lifesaving care to exposing long-term shelter residents to new groups of potential adopters. In some communities, the need for foster caregivers can be even more important than the need for permanent adopters.
Whether taking in temporary pets is your personal passion or your only option, it’s important to know and share why fostering kittens and cats is so crucial, especially during kitten season, the high-breeding period between Spring and Summer. Seven key reasons are listed below:
1. Fostering saves the lives of neonate and pee-wee kittens
Neonatal (0–4 weeks) and pee-wee (4–8 weeks) kittens are extremely vulnerable and often don’t survive without dedicated care. Some shelters and rescue organizations run fostering programs, in which they train and supply foster caregivers with what they need to keep kittens healthy enough to be spayed/neutered and ultimately adopted.
2. Fostering provides a safe and healthy environment for kittens to grow
With weaker immune systems, kittens are more prone to getting sick in shelter settings where they are exposed to various animals. Kittens under eight weeks old – who cannot survive on their own without continuous care – are especially vulnerable.
3. Cats living in a home often receive more attention, which helps relieve their stress
Studies show that increases in socialization and play time are good for kittens’ mental and physical health, which also increases their chances for eventual adoption.
4. Fostered kittens are likely to be better sensitized to the world they’ll face when adopted
Spending time with people and children, and being exposed to other domestic dynamics in a temporary home enables cats – especially kittens – to become comfortable with similar stimuli in a permanent home.
5. Fostering helps prevent the births of more unwanted homeless cats
In addition to being safely indoors, fostered kittens are typically spayed and neutered, which helps control cat populations and save more lives.
6. Fostering cats creates space in shelters for other animals in need
Whether a shelter is crowded or not, each cat and kitten in their care requires time and resources that could be conserved if those animals were in foster homes.
7. Fostering introduces cats and kittens to new pools of prospective adopters
Fostered cats and kittens benefit from exposure to the caregiver’s friends and family, and the caregiver can offer trusted and enthusiastic assessments of the cat’s personality and needs. At their best, foster caregivers are their cats’ parent and publicist.
You can learn more about fostering and fostering opportunities at the ASPCA’s “Meow For Now” kitten fostering campaign. And if you are or know a shelter that can use help establishing or improving its fostering program, please visit the “Meow For Now” page at ASPCAPro.org to watch a webinar with expert advice and examples.
Cats like Big Boy are fortunate to come from communities where animal fostering is valued and encouraged. How much your community values fostering can be up to you. Please consider contacting your local shelter and asking how to become a foster caregiver for kittens or cats in need – it will undoubtedly be a joyful experience for you and one of the best things you can do for them.