Kitten season is probably one of the most dreaded times of the year for any shelter that takes in cats. While cats mate throughout the year, the most active time of year is from early spring to late summer. This is due to the longer days, better weather, and greater food supply. During kitten season, foster homes become immensely important for overwhelmed animal shelters. If your household has capacity for fostering a kitten during this time, reach out to a local shelter to enquire on how you can help.
Prior to becoming a foster, it’s important to note the type of commitment each type of kitten takes:
Fostering stray or feral kittens
As we become more educated on cat health, and more aware of the plight of abandoned cats, people are spaying and neutering their feline companions in far greater numbers. Because of this many of the pregnant females, and kittens, that rescues take in during the kitten season are stray cats, abandoned pets, and cats from feral colonies.
This not only results in a higher number of animals in their care, but also more challenging animals to care for. Most kittens born to stray or feral moms are not used to humans and need intensive socialization. Foster homes for feral or stray kittens are ideal for numerous reasons:
- Families can spend extra time with the kittens.
- Kittens get handled more and are socialized better, and quicker.
- The kittens learn to live in a home with a human family.
- The kittens learn to live with children, other cats, and even other animals.
- Their chances for adoption are increased immensely as the types of home they can be adopted to aren’t limited.
- Kittens can be given supplements to aid in proper growth since many stray or feral moms are malnourished.
Fostering orphaned kittens
Unfortunately many cats that live on their own do not live long or healthy lives. During kitten season, rescues routinely get calls about kittens that have been found without their mother.
In order to survive, and keep her kittens healthy, the mom’s search for proper nutrition can lead her to danger. Whether it is predators, cars, or callous humans, a female cat is constantly threatened.
Orphaned kittens are especially difficult to care for, and need dedicated foster homes in order to survive, and to thrive:
- Kittens are weaned at about eight weeks, so any kittens younger than that will need to be bottle fed if they are super young, or supplemented if they are closer to eight weeks.
- Very young kittens need to be fed every two hours. This can only happen if there is a human on hand 24/7, and unfortunately most shelters are not able to provide staffing around the clock.
- Orphaned kittens will need to be taught how to use the litter box. While they may naturally want to dig in dirt, it is the mother that teaches them the proper use of the litter box. A foster parent has the time and patience to teach the kitten this very important skill. It may seem trivial but many cats lose their homes because of inappropriate litter box habits.
- No matter how good kitten formula is, orphaned kittens are always at a bit of a disadvantage without their mother’s milk. A home is safer than a shelter when it comes to keeping kittens healthy. A foster home can provide a quiet, stress-free environment, safe from common cat viruses that can easily spread in a shelter.
Fostering kittens born to pet cats
Indoor/outdoor pet cats that have not been fixed will also end up with unwanted litters, many of which end up at the shelter. Even though these kittens are luckier in that they are already socialized, weaned, and litter trained, they are safer in a foster home. Their immune systems are not ready to handle exposure to many other felines with various health issues.
In fact most rescues do everything in their power to make sure that ALL kittens are placed in foster homes while they await their adoption.
For their physical and mental health, a real home is always a better option.
Not able to foster?
Not everyone is in the position to foster, and there are many other ways you can help your local rescue during this time:
- Trapping moms and kittens if they are stray or feral. People are always needed to set and check traps, as well as to transport the animals.
- Donating kitten food and kitten formula. Always check with the rescue if there is a specific type of food or formula that they use.
- Monetary donations are always welcome as they can go to whatever the shelter may need during this trying time.
The more remote shelters struggle the most during this time because they have fewer volunteers, fewer resources, fewer homes, and a very high intake. If you think you have the capacity to foster kittens, please reach out to your local shelter for more information.
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