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Everything you will need to know about fostering a cat or kitten

Ginger cat on the laps of his foster mum advice

Would you like to foster cats or kittens?

© Shutterstock

Fostering a cat provides unwanted kittens and cats with a temporary home, where they can receive the attention and care they need.

By Zoë Monk

If you love cats and have a spare room you wouldn’t mind lending out to a furry lodger, volunteering as a cat fosterer not only helps to give cats a fresh start but is also an extremely rewarding experience.

Why foster a feline?

Cat rescue centres are straining under the sheer number of unwanted cats and kittens that come into their care each week. Rescue centres only have a limited number of places and rely heavily on volunteer cat foster families. When you foster a cat, you help to free up valuable space in rescue centres so more cats in desperate need can be taken in and helped. Some cats don’t cope well in a rescue centre environment while others may be pregnant mothers, young kittens or recovering from abuse, neglect, illness or injury. Living with a foster family helps give them the one-to-one care they need and is the first crucial step towards them finding a loving forever home.

What does fostering a cat involve?

Cats placed in a temporary foster home can vary from pregnant females, mothers and their kittens to weaned kittens and elderly cats. You will generally foster one cat at a time but you might be asked to take a pair of cats if the feline friends are used to living together. As a foster carer, you will care for all the cat’s needs such as feeding, grooming and socialising. You may also be required to take the cat to any necessary vet appointments. Many cats placed in foster homes can often be stressed and anxious. They should therefore be kept in a separate area in the home, such as a spare room. This provides the cat with a secure and self-contained area where they cannot go outside and are away from your pets. In this room, you will need to set up their bed and litter tray, along with providing a food and water area.

foster mum with a cat
Are you thinking of fostering a cat? ©Shutterstock

Who can foster a cat?

Anyone can foster a cat as long as they are over 18 years old. There are no crucial skills or experience required when fostering a cat. But you will need to be patient, understanding and can offer a lot of unconditional love. Some people who foster cats also have cats of their own, while others only have foster cats. People who foster cats are as diverse and individual as the cats who need their care. You can foster a cat even if you go out to work or don’t have a garden. If you have other plans in the future or perhaps like to take several holidays during the year, cat fostering can be as short or long term as you like.

Should I foster or adopt a cat?

For some cat lovers, fostering is a much better alternative than adopting a cat. When you commit to fostering a cat, you are usually only committed to a few weeks or a few months at the most. You can enjoy a few weeks of feline cuddles then pass the cat on to their new family. It also gives you the chance to test the waters first if you are thinking about adopting a cat but not lived with a feline before. But perhaps more significantly, when you foster a cat on a temporary basis, you have the chance to care for so many more cats than if you adopted just one. You could help save at least five cats a year.

Is it difficult to rehome a cat you are fostering?

Some people are put off fostering a cat because they don’t believe they’d be able to give the cat up to a forever home. It can be hard to say goodbye to a cat that you have developed a bond with. But it’s also important to remember that by opening your home (and your heart) to a rescue cat, you are saving a life each time. You become an important part in giving hope to an unwanted cat and helping them towards finding their furever home.

Cat with its foster mum
Show these lonely cats or kittens what is love ©Shutterstock

How can I volunteer to become a cat fosterer?

If you feel that fostering a cat is right for you and your family then contact your local cat rescue centre. The rescue centre is likely to be a registered charity often staffed by volunteers so you may have to leave a message. However, once you have spoken to the rescue centre and decided you would like to go ahead then someone from the rescue centre will arrange to visit you at your home. They will want to assess where you would keep the foster cats and the surrounding area to ensure it’s safe.

Volunteering to foster a cat

For each cat that you foster, you will have undoubtedly made a huge difference to them, especially for those felines who have come to you from desperate circumstances. The biggest benefit to fostering for cat lovers is knowing that you have actively helped a cat or kitten to progress towards a better future. For some cats, this can be the very first time in their life that they have felt safe, care for and loved.