Brand New to the Idea of Fostering Cats or Kittens?

WELCOME! We’re so happy to see more people thinking about becoming foster parents! Foster families are always needed as part of the lifesaving efforts happening in animal shelters and rescues all across the country. We encourage you to explore the world of fostering and join the tens of thousands of people making a difference for cats and kittens in need! 

You probably have a lot of questions, and we know that it can feel overwhelming to start something new, so we’re here to help. Many people jump into cat fostering and just learn as they go. That’s honestly how most of us got into it, and now we’re seasoned veterans with all sorts of tips and tricks up our sleeves. 

But some of the things we learned on our own over the years would have been great to know before we started. What we’ll provide in this article is a general overview of the kinds of things to consider before fostering and tell you a little bit about what to expect when you’re a foster parent to a cat or kitten(s).

As veteran foster parents, we get the opportunity to share what we’ve learned with you right here, before you jump in, so we can save you some of the unnecessary stress we went through as foster parents. 

Now by mentioning “stress” we’re not looking to dissuade you from saving lives. Just the opposite! We simply want to help you be better prepared, and thereby reduce your stress. It doesn’t hurt to know what you’re jumping into, and we want to help you to feel ready and confident about this incredible journey you’re about to start! 

Things to Consider Before Getting Started



What has led you to consider becoming a foster parent to a cat or kitten?
Are you looking to become part of a strong team that works to save lives and prevent euthanasia in shelters? Are you ready to be a short-term home to a cat, a bridge between a cat’s old life and future life in a forever adoptive home? Or are you looking for long-term companionship, perhaps your next cat or your first cat?
Fostering is not meant to lead to foster parents adopting their foster cats, but rather it’s meant to help many cats over a long period of time to find their homes. Not that adopting one’s own foster cat never happens, of course (it’s certainly happened to us!). But if you know now that you’re looking for a feline match for yourself, adoption is probably your best bet. If you’re on the fence, chat with the organization you’re thinking about fostering for and they can help guide you to the best path for you.


Fostering a cat is a time commitment. While some cats or kittens need less time than others, fostering is more than placing them in a room, feeding them and keeping their litter box clean. Whether a litter of kittens, a cat recovering from surgery, or a shy cat in need of a confidence boost, you’ll spend time with them every day, helping to keep them socialized and happy, helping them to be healthy and strong.
But, even if you spend long hours outside of your home, you can definitely still foster! Try starting with a calm, mild medical case, such as a cat who needs crate rest after surgery, a cat that is getting overlooked at the shelter because they’re a little shy, or a not-too-active senior cat. All of these cats would love a break from the shelter. Or if you have more time, and really want to be active in socialization, look for a litter of kittens who have energy to burn and lots of desire to play! Or consider giving bottle feeding a shot!

Talk to the organization you’re interested in fostering for. Let them know your schedule, your general feline experience level, and the type of commitment you’re looking for. They know their cats and will be able to find a perfect match for you!



Some shelters will provide you with basic supplies for your foster cat, such as food, litter, and some toys, as well as coverage of all medical costs, from normal vaccines to advanced veterinary care. Other shelters will rely on foster parents to provide the basics of food, litter, etc., while the shelter handles all of the medical costs. And some can provide basic supplies and normal medical care but cannot cover advanced veterinary issues.

It’s important to ask questions of the organization you’re considering fostering for, and to work with a shelter or rescue whose ability to provide resources lines up with your needs for fostering.

There are definitely some things you might decide to invest in on your own if you plan to be a foster parent to many cats over time, such as special kitten supplies, crates or playpens, litter boxes, bowls, etc. Having supplies on hand makes it easier for you to be flexible in taking on a new foster cat or kittens. And the more support you are able to provide to the shelter or rescue, the more money the organization can put towards saving more lives.



You will want to be prepared with a way to get back and forth for general medical care if necessary, and especially if emergencies arise. Some shelters and rescues now provide limited transportation for getting a foster cat to you and picking up the cat when it’s time for adoption, but you’ll want to ask about transportation up front.


You will need a dedicated space that includes a door that can be closed to isolate your new foster cat from your resident pets and to be your foster cat’s basecamp, as safe space for them. This smaller space will allow them to slowly adjust to your home and will allow you to observe them for any signs of illness or stress.
Even if your house is small, it’s bigger than a kennel! A spare bathroom, bedroom, or a finished basement area can make great foster spaces. Be sure to cat-proof the space by putting away valuable items and blocking off any areas where the cat might hide that you can’t safely and easily reach. Learn more about setting up a foster basecamp by checking out Jackson Galaxy's videos on our blog.


Is your whole family or roommates on board? Are they going to help? How will it change everyone’s schedules and routines? It’s important to be considerate to all household members and understand their expectations. Fostering can be a wonderful household activity and it can help kids (and adults) learn compassion and responsibility. Plus, it’s fun!


Fostering will take time away from your resident pets, but you can find a good balance. Do you plan to introduce your foster cat or kittens to your resident pets? If so, discuss this with the organization you’re fostering for so they can tell you about any policies or procedures they have. Keep an eye on your resident pets, whether they interact with the foster cat or not, to make sure fostering doesn’t stress them. Your pets are your number one priority.


Many organizations will rely on you to play a role in the marketing of your foster cat for adoption. Talk to them about their expectations. Be prepared to take lots of cute photos and videos! Don’t let this part scare you! You can always tap into friends, kids, and the organization you’re fostering for to help with this part! It does make the whole process a bit easier when the foster parent is open and willing to help. And adopters will want to meet your foster cat, so chat with the organization you’re fostering for about options for meets. Check out our tips for marketing your foster cat.

TIP: With social distancing changes due to the COVID-19 crisis, virtual meets using video apps like Facetime or Skype have proven to be a very valuable, efficient, and reliable way to find the right fit for your foster cat. For shy cats who hide when they meet a stranger, it actually allows the adopter to see what the cat’s potential is versus seeing them hide the first time they meet.



Like many other things in life, being a foster parent is a marathon, not a sprint, and it can have a very big positive impact on your community. Over time and experience, you will learn your limits in fostering. Perhaps it will be limited to the number of cats you foster each year, or at one time, or the type of cats you can foster. You need to determine your boundaries and limits and respect them to prevent stress, compassion fatigue, and burnout. Doing this will also allow you to be a better foster parent in the long term.


We wish fostering was always happy and fun, but try to be prepared for possible setbacks, frustrations, and heartbreaks. Sadly, sometimes kittens (and even adult cats) come to shelters or rescues with serious issues. Many will survive thanks to you! But if you lose a foster cat or kitten to illness, please don’t ever blame yourself! You gave them a chance and a loving home.

Now, let us tell you about the highs! Fostering is truly a selfless act of kindness, BUT there is an added bonus. There isn’t a better feeling in the entire world than watching a foster cat grow and thrive in your care, then find their home. Foster care provides the bridge that so many cats need to survive. It has changed the course of the animal welfare movement, saving millions of lives so far. And you can be part of it!

The Many Benefits of Fostering

  • You are a hero for saving a life!
  • You can help change the course of animal welfare
  • You will feel sense of purpose
  • Pets are good for your health and can help you heal
  • Fostering is entertaining and fun!
  • You have so many options and opportunities to learn something new!
  • You will be an inspiration to your friends and family!
  • You get a friend who will always listen
  • You get an incredibly rewarding experience! 
  • The icing on the cake, you get to see your foster with a loving forever family that will love them as much as you do!
  • Your home is so much better than a shelter!
  • You create more space in the shelter for more pets to get a second chance!
  • You learn more information about the cat to help find the right adopters and to pass along to the shelter
  • Illness, injury or stress that can better be managed and cared for in a home environment – cats will stay healthier, more relaxed