Cat Fostering FAQ

A CAT FANCY magazine and cat fostering expert answers questions from readers on caring for foster cats.

By Dusty Rainbolt

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Woman with kitten
Be your foster kitten's advocate, and you can help him find a forever home.
What is the best way to deal w/fosters when you have other cats already? How do I discourage my own cat(s) from marking territory?
Don’t simply let the foster cats into the house. Introduce the cats slowly. Feed your cats and the fosters on opposite sides of the door at the same time. This will help your cat associate good things with the scent of the foster cat. Use products such as Comfort Zone outlet diffuser with a Feliway plug-in or Feliway spray.

Try exchanging scents. Rub your cat with a clean, dry cloth. Rub the foster cat with a different clean, dry cloth. Then, swap cloths, and rub the cats with each other’s cloth. Your cat will smell like the foster and the foster will smell like your cat. Do this before a face to face introduction.

Is there any type of funding you can get to help with the costs?
Talk with the volunteer coordinator for the cat shelter or rescue group you're working with. Expect them to pay for all approved medical care for your foster cat. They may provide cat food and litter — or not. Always get approval before taking your foster to the vet. If you go without prior approval, you may end up financially responsible.

If you are an individual helping cats out of your own pocket, ask your vet if he or she will give you a discount for services provided for a rescue cat. If your vet won't, call around or look for a shelter that has a low cost or no cost neuter program. While they may be out there, I don't know of any grants for individual cat rescuers.

What about the issue of attachment to the kittens that you foster? What type of support is there?
Naming someone is a very intimate action. I never name my foster kittens. The vet techs always name them. That helps. Also, remember, if you keep every kitty you rescue, you'll eventually have to stop saving cats.

If they're getting a good home and the new home is much better than the kitties were when you took them in.

What if we end up fostering for a long time and want to take a vacation while we've still got fosters?
Again, talk to the volunteer coordinator. They should be able to help you make temporary arrangements. That could mean going to another foster home until you return, return the kitty to the shelter or having to have the cat boarded.

Who covers what costs and how?
Some shelters have on-site vets. Others have designated veterinarians. Vet bill should be covered but always call and get approval before taking the cat to the vet. When you do this, you'll know if you need to take the kitten to the designated vet or your own vet. Ask how quickly you'll be reimbursed if you have to pay upfront. Ask if they can provide food and litter. The groups I work with give you free food and litter when someone donate it to them.

What if the kittens I foster end up testing positive for FIV or FeLV?
That's a tough one. In 25 years I've only had two cats test positive for FeLV and one positive FIV case. We kept the 8-week-old FeLV kitten separated for couple of months and had him retested with a IFA test. He tested negative. That was 10 years ago. He continues to test negative. The other FeLV was a mature tom cat with battle scars. It was heartbreaking, but we had to euthanize him.

The FIV kitten is now 5 years old and still tests positive, but has never developed health complications.

What you would do depends on your own heart and the policy of your shelter. Many automatically euthanize positive cats. This is something else you need to ask your foster coordinator.

What if the foster kittens don't exactly act feral, but also don't seem friendly enough to adopt?
Taming takes time, but can certainly pay off. Hand-feed the kittens and stop free-feeding. The kittens need to know you're the food person. Sit with the kitten throughout the meal. Keep small or noisy children out of the room. Be patient. Tasty treats like pea-sized chunks of turkey make great bribes. Play classical music on low. Use the Comfort Zone with Feliway plug in inside the kitten's safe room.

Will someone help me transport my fosters on adoption day when I'm stuck working?
Your foster coordinator can help with this situation. Some groups have volunteers who transport. Get that worked out before you take on a foster kitty.

What if the foster cats don't ever seem to get adopted?
You have to work to get fosters adopted. Take good photos. Write a compelling description or bio for your foster cat. Take them to the adoption events on the weekend. Make sure they're posted on Put them in adoption cages, hang around and talk to people. You know how great your kitten is. You have to make sure other people know. I had a cat with feline herpesvirus for over two years. I taught her to sit, shake hands and sit up. It wasn't long before she went to her forever home.
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Cat Fostering FAQ

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Reader Comments

Lisa    Oak Creek, WI

11/10/2011 7:36:23 PM

Awesome tips, thank-you!

q    q, QC

11/10/2011 6:23:25 PM


Sheldon    Phx., AZ

11/9/2011 9:49:29 PM

Very good and helpful advice.

Anon    City, CA

11/9/2011 6:52:33 PM

Great article.

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