Why should I foster a cat?

  • Fostering creates space in a shelter for another cat in need, allowing organizations to save more lives. 
  • Fostering is important work that provides so much value for cats and shelters: Care, training, and socialization for the foster cat, plus information and photos. 
    • What do we mean by information and photos? In order for organizations to match cats with forever families, they need to know about the cat’s behavior in a home, their likes and dislikes, their personalities. And they need photos and videos to show potential adopters how cute they are! Fostering gives you time to get to know a cat, in a home environment, which helps organizations learn as much as possible about that cat in order to make a great match for their new home. Fosters learn all about their foster cats, and it’s nearly impossible to resist grabbing adorable photos.  
  • Fostering is a more natural way for a cat to live during the transition period between a past family and their new forever future. An environment that feels like a home instead of a shelter is usually best for cats. 
  • When you become a foster, you positively impact your community instantly. Fostering opens the door to a giant network of pet lovers throughout your community, and all over the nation, and expands adoption marketing opportunities outside of the shelter’s usual network. 
  • By providing a safe and stable environment for a pet, foster families can help pets heal from any physical or emotional trauma they might have experienced, and develop into the best family member they can be.  
  • By opening your heart and home, younger family members can experience the value of helping others, while learning the best ways to care for a pet in need.  The lessons learned through fostering a pet, translate to different situations throughout life.

What kind of cats need fostering?

  • Nursing moms: They need quiet and safe places to care for their kittens without fear of predators or environmental challenges. 
  • Motherless kittens: From itty bitty neonates to toddlers learning to play, young kittens need an extra set of eyes on them while they grow healthy enough to be adopted. Have a specific question about this?  Check out The Kitten Lady, Hannah Shaw, who has an entire library of videos all about caring for wee kits!
  • Sick and injured cats who need medical recovery: These felines often heal and recover more quickly in a home than in a shelter environment. Having a quiet, safe home to relax and be loved, allows the immune system to focus on the body’s needs.
  • Stressed cats: Often adult cats struggle to make the sudden adjustment from home life to a kennel. There are strange sounds and smells, their favorite blanket is gone, the food is different, and there’s no sunny window spot! That can be really stressful. For those cats that end up shutting down in a shelter environment, a foster home is the opportunity for them to adjust and to be themselves while the foster parent helps get them ready for a forever home. 
  • Shy cats: Many cats have only lived with one owner their whole lives, and when they arrive at a shelter they are terrified! Fosters can teach a fearful feline that new people and places are ok! Using techniques from The Jackson Galaxy Project, you can teach kitties to high five and simultaneously build their confidence!
  • Hospice cats: No pet should spend the end of their life in an impersonal shelter environment. As great as your local shelter may be, a home is typically better. A fospice (foster/hospice) home keeps a kitty comfortable, for as long as they can, until they can’t. Many times, a cat who was predicted to have weeks left, ends up sticking around longer due to the love and care they receive in a foster home. 
  • Cats displaced by emergency situations: During times of crisis, shelters may be overwhelmed with pets in need. Emergency fosters pledge to step up and provide a temporary safe space to alleviate the need for shelters to create space through euthanasia. This may be during an extreme weather event like a hurricane, a sudden expansive wildfire, or even, a pandemic.
  • Cats that shelters need to learn more about: There are some things that organizations just can’t learn about a cat in the shelter. The role of the foster caregiver is to learn as much as possible, and share that information with the shelter/rescue group, and all the friends and family you know, in order to make a great match with their new forever home.

Will I have to buy anything in order to become a foster?

Many shelters and rescue groups will provide food, supplies and medical care for pets in foster care. They’ll talk to you about items you might need to provide, if any. And if they’re providing supplies and medical care, they’ll tell you how and when to obtain them throughout the time your foster cat is at your home. 

So, I don't keep my foster cat?

As a foster parent, you are taking care of a cat that belongs to the shelter or rescue organization. Now, the cat in your home doesn’t know the difference between foster and adoption, but the organizations in your community do. Knowing they have you as a foster home helps them to plan their lifesaving efforts and set their goals. Foster parents can, if they choose to do so, potentially care for many cats during a year as they nurture one cat through to adoption and then take in the next cat in need. That means reliable foster homes play a huge role in developing lifesaving plans. Remember that after your first foster cat finds a home, there’s another one that needs you!

Ready to be a hero? Sign up through this form be connected with rescues and shelters in your area that need help!

Can I foster a cat to see if she would be a good permanent fit for my family, like a trial adoption?

Foster homes are intended to be temporary, transitional homes between a cat’s past and her future forever family.  If you’re hoping to find a permanent family member, then adoption, rather than fostering, is for you.  A “trial adoption” is really just an adoption and should be treated as such. Shelters across the country don’t mind if an adoption doesn’t work out – it actually provides them with invaluable information to help make a better match next time! 

And there’s nothing that says you can’t adopt a cat and also be a foster parent to another cat. Get your adopted cat settled in at home and then look into fostering. You’ll find all sorts of resources here on FelineFoster to help you with fostering while you have your own resident pets.

If your intention is to help prepare a cat for a new forever home, let’s find you a foster cat! Sign up through this form to be connected with rescues and shelters in your area that need help!

Isn’t it hard to let a foster cat or kittens go to another family?

Sure, it can definitely feel sad to say goodbye. But we like to focus on all of the happy! Nothing outweighs the joy of knowing you helped save a life (or a whole litter of lives), and because you got your foster cat to an adoptive home, you can now foster another cat in need! 

What if I wasn’t planning on it, but I end up falling in love with my foster cat and really want to adopt her?

This definitely happens sometimes to foster parents, whether it’s their first time fostering or their fiftieth time fostering. Foster parents love all of their foster cats, but sometimes a cat just gets right into your heart in a very particular way and you can’t imagine life without her. If you end up in this position, you’ll want to talk right away with the shelter or rescue you’re fostering for. Since the cat belongs to the organization, you won’t automatically get to keep the cat. The shelter or rescue will need to follow their normal adoption processes.

And remember: you’ll probably be hooked on being a lifesaving hero for cats in need, so think about if you’ll still have the space and time to be able to be a foster home if you adopt your foster cat. And let your shelter or rescue know! 

I signed up through StayHomeAndFoster.org or my local shelter to be a foster parent. Why don’t I have a foster cat yet?

For the first time EVER shelters across the nation are housing more pets in foster care than in their shelters! It’s an incredible and exciting change in the animal welfare field. The willingness of people just like you to step up to save lives has provided a cushion so that shelters can continue to serve their communities during this crisis, without running into space constraints. The Spring/Summer kitten and puppy season has begun, and shelter staff and volunteers are starting to return to work, but many places are just now starting to see the economic effects of the shutdown. Don’t give up!  Your help is still needed.

What kind of personality will my foster cat have? Will she be cuddly or more independent?

Since many pets enter the shelter system as strays, they don’t usually know the answers to those questions. Rescues and shelters will share with you what they know, but it can be challenging to get a lot of information in such a stressful environment. But that’s where foster parents come in!

In order for organizations to match cats with forever families, they need to know about the cat’s behavior in a home, their likes and dislikes, their personalities. Fostering gives you time to get to know a cat, in a home environment, which helps organizations learn as much as possible about that cat in order to make a great match for their new home. 

Will my foster cat be good with other pets? How about kids?

When it comes to introducing your foster cat to your own pets or your human children, you need to follow the guidelines given to you by the organization you are fostering for. They will have protocols and procedures for you to follow. If your organization allows you to introduce your foster to other pets or children, you’ll find all sorts of introduction tips in our foster parent resource section. 

Will my pets at home be okay?

It is important that your pets are fully vaccinated according to your veterinarian’s advice. Follow the guidelines given to you by the organization you are fostering for when it comes to introducing a foster pet into your home.  

Am I responsible for medical bills if something happens to my foster cat?

Rescues and shelters each have different guidelines around this. While they mostly rely on donations in order to fund veterinary care, they may also have partnerships with local clinics or operate their own on-site clinic. The level of available resources varies, but the general answer is “no, you aren’t responsible for medical bills.” Be sure to talk to the shelter or rescue.

But also, it’s important to make sure your home is set up safely for a foster cat so that emergencies are less likely to happen. Check out our Ready, Set, Foster a Cat! article for tips on setting up your foster space and cat-proofing. And be sure to know your shelter or rescue’s procedures for handling medical emergencies.

What breed is my foster cat?

Most likely, no one will have an answer for this.  Shelter and rescue teams are just guessing based on how a pet looks; they don’t have the funding to DNA test the hundreds or thousands of pets that they care for.  If you are interested in only a certain breed of cat, you will want to search online for breed specific rescues. 

It seems like there are only cats available to foster that have medical and behavior issues. Can’t I just foster a healthy normal cat?

Rescues and shelters aren’t designed to house animals for their whole lives. They are just stepping stones on a pet’s path to a forever family. That means that most highly desirable cats are typically adopted quickly, and the cats who need a foster home may have some sort of medical or behavioral challenge or might need extra care. 

Don’t let these challenges put you off of fostering, though. While you might find some cats in need of foster care who are “healthy and normal,” many cats who need a foster home have issues that are just very mild and easy to manage, even for a first-time foster parent. Talk to your shelter about your level of experience with cats, and ask about what is involved with fostering cats who have medical or behavior challenges. They’ll be happy to walk you through the details, match you with a cat who needs your help, and support you through the fostering process.

Can I just keep a foster cat until I go back to work?

When you agree to take in a foster cat, it creates space for another cat to enter the shelter or rescue. Returning a cat suddenly can create a space challenge and may displace another cat in need. Talk to the shelter or rescue about cats that may have an expected shorter (or specific) time frame for foster care needs.  Maybe do some short-term foster care for a cat that is recovering from surgery or for a cat who is getting over a cold and just needs to be housed in foster care temporarily. 

One of the goals of fostering is for a pet to find a forever home. The quickest way to do that is for you to take a lot of photos and videos, write a brief biography about your foster cat, send all of that to the organization you are fostering for, and share it in your own social network.  Do it quickly and maybe you can foster TWO cats before you have to go back! 

What if I have to suddenly go out of town? Do I bring my foster cat back to the shelter?

When you agree to take in a foster cat, it creates space for another cat to enter the shelter or rescue. Returning a cat suddenly can create a space challenge and may displace another cat in need. Shelters and rescues are legally the owners of the cat and will be forced to accommodate your travel. What that looks like is different for every organization. Many organizations have other foster parents that can ‘foster sit’ in the case of an emergency, while others may have to find space in their kennels. If you would be able to get a trusted pet sitter to come to your house to care for your foster cat while you are away, ask your shelter or rescue if that is a permitted option. If so, the organization may ask to speak with/interview the pet sitter before agreeing to the arrangement.

Will my foster cat be sick?

It’s possible. When a lot of animals are housed together, they easily spread germs, and the stress of a shelter weakens the immune system. It is not uncommon for a cat to get a cold a few days after being placed in your home. The organization you are fostering for will have a process for getting you the medication and treatment you need. Communicate with them if you see anything concerning.

Can I pick out which cat I want to foster?

The shelter or rescue you want to foster for will likely have a list of cats that need fostering. Review it and pick which one sounds like a good match!  If a cat you saw on the organization’s website isn’t on that list, it is likely because the cat is highly adoptable and can be quickly placed into a forever family to create space for another cat in need!

Can I foster just a single kitten?

Young kittens do best with at least one other buddy so they can learn how to ‘play nice with others.’  When they play, they learn how hard to wrestle, that biting hurts, that sharing food is ok because there will be more… all sorts of valuable lessons come from having a kitten buddy. It’s important for them to have these experiences during development. However, there are times when singletons come into the shelter and are too young or too sick for immediate adoption. Your shelter or rescue organization will have a list of kittens that need foster care. 

What if my foster cat gets pregnant?

Spay and neuter is still the number one way to help decrease the thousands of kittens coming into shelters annually and reduce unnecessary euthanasia. Spay/neuter saves lives. If you are fostering a female cat that has not been spayed yet, it is imperative that you keep her indoors and isolate her from any unneutered male cats inside or outside of your home so that she doesn’t get pregnant. And if you’re fostering a male cat who hasn’t been neutered yet, keep him away from any unspayed female cats. 

How do I get more supplies? Who do I call if I have questions?

When you picked up your foster cat, you were most likely given a booklet or at least a foster coordinator’s phone number or email address. Keep this handy! If you have misplaced it, you should contact the organization directly and get this info – place it somewhere you won’t lose it, like on your refrigerator or save it in your cell phone. While our website has many valuable resources to share with you, the organization you’re fostering for should be the first place you go for answers to pressing questions you might have.