Every rescue group needs fosters in order to ready the kittens and cats for adoption. In lieu of a physical space or shelter, they rely on people who will foster us kitties who are deemed friendly and the kittens who are caught early enough to be socialized.
I can speak with authority since I was fostered initially by a lady who really couldn't handle my “semi-friendly” personality and temperament. She returned me to the TLC Rescue (The Lucky Cat) saying I was too difficult!
It's a good thing because a few weeks later, my purr-fect human appeared, and before I knew it I was adopted by a lady who understood cats very well and was not put off by my kitty grumpiness. Over time she coaxed out my charming personality and changed my life!
Why are fosters so important for us?
No kitty wants to spend a longer time in the pet-hospital or shelter, and foster homes are the best place to "wait" for our perfect adopter to arrive! While being fostered, each purring ball of fur gets used to living and interacting with humans – an experience that some of us stray cats never had. A good foster can turn a nervous kitty into a lap-cat, a shy tabby into a real charmer, and teach a newborn kitten the basics of the litter box.
Fosters are one of the most important links in getting us kitties off the streets and into loving fur-ever homes. But it does take a certain person with a commitment that goes way beyond just loving us cats.
So how do you know who is a good foster...someone who can be trusted and who can truly care for a cat and ready it for adoption.
To find the perfect candidate, the rescue groups agree on a few mandatory must-have qualities.
1. Someone with a deep love for animals
Even though a pet-lover is easy to spot right away, we need to make sure that your affection is not limited to viewing cute pictures or funny videos on social media. Usually, the perfect candidate would be a person who already had a pet, and is fully prepared to take care of a furry baby. The new fosters would play a crucial role for the kitten – they will be its first parents. Make sure to choose a person ready to dedicate a serious portion of their time to it.
2. Enough time for your new family member
With that said, if the foster is someone who has long shifts and no free time, they might not be the best fit, even if they really desire it. For the first few days upon arriving in the new home, we like to take our time to check it out! That includes finding safe and hard-to-reach places to hide, sniffing EVERYTHING, and exploring the top of any fur-niture. It would be a great help if we have someone around the first few days to show us the litter box and food bowls and to set some boundaries (although we like to cross them when you're not looking!).
3. Basic knowledge of cat behavior and needs
Whenever a person considers fostering, they should have a good idea of our nature and needs. A good foster would be anyone who had researched our instincts (and won't get mad or terrified if we present them with freshly hunted “gifts” such as an indoor bug.), what we might like and not like, what scares us, and how to comfort us. Remember – we can show how we feel with our ears, eyes, tail and fur, but you would need to figure the reason behind it alone. Any Rescue specialist should ensure that the feline they saved would go to a home where it would be understood and taken care of. Of course, each fluffy friend is different and has its unique character, but a well-informed and motivated foster would easily handle even the toughest ones of us.
4. No drama household
The fostering home should be welcoming for the furry feline. Constant fights, shouting, or heated family arguments can be an issue for a fluffy newcomer. Moving into a bigger home is already quite the stress for us, so any additional loud noises can make us even more nervous and scared. It’s a good idea to bring this topic to the candidates and discuss their current living situation. We are looking for a drama-free, quiet and calm family, whose members are armed with patience, love … and kitty treats!
5. Background check and house tours
Before picking a foster home it's good to have a brief "back-round" check on the person. In most rescue groups on social media there are posts/warnings about bad fosters or adopters, so make sure to give it a look. Avoid giving the kitten to a foster who has recently joined adopting/animal care groups/communities and has no other activity/no picture on social media. It would be a great idea to request a house-tour so you can make sure it is a good fit for a purring friend. Every cat needs its own space - for rest, playing, and litter box. A crowded or tiny apartment might make them feel "trapped". The purr-fect home should have at least one ”secret place” where the rescue kitty can hide if they feel threatened, a private area for the litter box, a designated “food court” (we don’t like it when you move our bowls), and enough room for our famous midnight zoom-sessions.The Rescuers also need to check if the candidate has any other pets and their behavior towards other animals - a snuggle buddy for a foster kitten would be great, but an aggressive and territorial pet would add more stress for both sides. We have seen more than a couple of cases where the newly adopted or foster kitty “falls in love” with the current “pet-host” of the house - no matter if it's a dog, another cat, and an exotic animal. But the opposite reaction is also possible - and no one wants a constant war in their home.
6. Transport and veterinary visits
When trusting a candidate with your furry rescue, assure that they have the time and a way of transporting them to the vet. The fosters should be ready to bring the cat to adoption events in a safe and non-stressful or harmful way - we want to look and behave our best for the potential adopters. In some urban locations, potential fosters may not have a car and will need to consider public transportation. While some domestic cats are okay with public transport, most stray-ones can get terrified by the crowd and the multiple voices - and believe me, stress really doesn't look good on us! Transporting a furry baby is an important task - mention that to any candidates and discuss it in depth.
7. Fosters for the injured or special needs cats
Everyone wants a cute purring kitty, that will bring joy in their life – even if it's for a brief period of time. However, some of us have been through a lot – an injury that changed our appearance, an unpleasant memory with previous adopters, or just a tough life on the streets – and we need loving fosters the most! The Rescuers should look for a foster that can handle a cat with a past - but also to make sure they know what they are getting themselves into. Injured felines usually require special care, so they might need more attention and time than a usual cat – do not forget to point it out to the foster-candidates. Abandoned or abused pets, on the other hand, might appear as "cold" and "unloving". Naturally, they are the ones that need love the most – especially to help them trust a human again. Pairing these cats with the best fosters for their needs is critical in their recovery and adoptability.
8. Fosters for a mom cat and her kittens or newborns
One of the most demanding tasks for a future foster would be taking care of a mom cat with her babies or newborns. The shelters and rescue groups are always looking for motivated and loving volunteers who can take another challenge. Just as “special-needs pets”, newborns or pregnant/mom cats should go to an extraordinary and well-prepared family that understands the responsibility they are taking on. Newborns who have lost their mom will require hourly bottle-feeding, so the ideal “transition” family should be available to become their “mom” for the first couple of months. Make sure to choose a foster that can stay at home most of the time – good candidates might also be working from home employees.
9. 6th sense
Although we already gave you some purr-ety useful tips on how to choose the best foster for a rescue pet, there is one more. When in doubt, always trust your and the cat's "gut" feeling - intuition is one of the powerful kitty su-purr powers that you have developed through the years. If you sense that the candidate is a friendly and a loving person and the animals seem to love them - you got yourself a fantastic foster!
Special THANK YOU to Mercy Garcia of TLC - The Lucky Cat Rescue group in Weehawken, NJ for helping us create this list of guidelines for selecting fosters for cats.