Written by Catfe Lounge volunteer and kitten foster Lauren Gilpin. Follow Lauren and her adorable foster cats on Instagram – @laurenfosters!

Kitten Being Bottle Fed

A “bottle baby” I fostered earlier this year.

As a kitten foster mom and Catfe volunteer, I get to talk to a lot of cat lovers on a regular basis. People seem very intrigued by the concept of fostering – and for good reason! For the uninitiated, a foster parent works with a rescue or shelter to temporarily house animals who, for various reasons, are unable to enter the formal shelter yet. Sometimes cats in foster homes are simply waiting for their “turn” at a place like the Catfe Lounge, which has a specific limit on the number of cats that can be housed at one time. Other cats might need a foster home to help them become socialized (particularly those rescued from the outdoors or neglectful/abusive housing situations), and kittens are fostered until they are old enough to be vaccinated and spayed/neutered. A kitten foster home might even take kittens as young as a few days old; either with their moms, or as orphans who will need to be bottle fed (an exceptionally rewarding experience).

Momma Cat Nursing Her Babies

A momma cat nursing her babies.

So many friends and acquaintances see my foster kitten pictures and hear my stories, and comment that they would love to get involved. Most of the time, though, that interest is followed up with one or more “buts.” “I would love to do what you do, but…” I would like to address some of the most common fostering “buts,” and explain how there’s a very good chance that you can foster, regardless of your living situation, financial circumstances, or lifestyle.

Affectionate Kitten and Foster Mom Lauren

So much work, Sometimes the kittens even want to kiss you.

“I’d love to foster, but…”

1. “I don’t have enough space.”

Fostering a cat demands far less space than you might think! If you have ever visited your local Humane Society or municipal shelter, you probably noticed that many cats are kept in relatively small cages. Any space you can offer – even if it’s just an extra bathroom – will be better than a cage! Kittens in particular actually thrive in small spaces. Keeping young kittens in a small bathroom or a large playpen prevents them from getting lost, stuck underneath furniture, or into hazardous household items. It also feels safe, comfortable and cozy to them, as most mother cats naturally build their kittens a small “nest” in the wild. Even for fostering an adult cat, a spare bathroom is plenty of space.

Kittens in Playpen

This playpen is more than enough room for these little guys!

Lauren and Foster Baby

I think you have room for a little nugget like this in your home.

2. “My cats don’t get along with other cats.”

This issue was partly addressed in my above response – your foster cats don’t need to mingle with your resident cats – in fact, in some cases, they shouldn’t. Keeping your foster cat(s) separated from your resident pet(s) keeps things sanitary and avoids confrontations and territorial concerns. Sadly, one of my own resident cats hates other cats. This doesn’t inhibit my ability to foster at all – they are never directly exposed to each other. Everyone’s happy!

3. “I don’t have time.”

Admittedly, fostering orphan kittens is a large time commitment. Bottle babies require frequent feedings and this type of foster work is only suitable for people with lots of free time or very flexible work schedules. It’s perfect for people who work from home! But for those without the ability to bottle feed every 2-3 hours, there are a multitude of fostering options available that require very little time commitment.

Mom Cat Nursing Kittens

Mom cats work HARD.

When you foster a litter of kittens with their mother, the mother cat does most of the work! She will be nursing, stimulating and grooming the kittens herself. The job of the foster in this case is simply to care for the mom cat, weigh the kittens once a day and supplement occasionally if one or more kittens fall behind. Even less time-consuming is fostering older kittens (4+ weeks), who can eat kitten food on their own, or adult cats, who really just need food, water and cuddles. I have fostered kittens and adult cats while working full time without feeling overwhelmed. Rather, I found that cuddling kittens or cats at the end of a stressful day was exactly the after-work catharsis I needed.

Momma Cat Nursing Her Kittens

So many mouths to feed, so little time.

4. “I can’t afford the food/formula/litter/vet bills/etc.”

This is a legitimate concern – that stuff gets expensive! Luckily, the Ferndale Cat Shelter provides foster homes with everything they need to care for their foster cats/kittens. This includes formula for young kittens, wet and dry food for older kittens/cats, litter, and any supplements/ medications. Their veterinary needs and vaccinations are also covered by the shelter – you will never be stuck paying a vet bill out of pocket.

Kitten Using the Litter Box

Side note: a lot of people ask how I litter train kittens. Short answer: I don’t! Around 3-4 weeks of age, most
kittens will naturally begin to use the litter box on their own. It’s completely instinctual.

5. “I would never be able to give them away.”

Lauren and a Foster Cat

Me? Get attached? Never.

I understand this concern. It’s valid. I have been fostering for nearly 10 years, and I still find myself shedding a few tears every time one of my foster kittens goes up for adoption. But, as with many things under the “adulting” umbrella, we have to put practicality ahead of our emotions in this case. Yes, it’s hard to give up foster kittens. But do you know what’s even harder? Living with the knowledge that thousands of cats and kittens die every day – both outdoors and in shelters – because there is such a lack of foster homes available to house them. Personally, I can’t let my home sit empty while that happens. Setting aside emotional attachment is possibly the biggest sacrifice a foster parents makes – but it is in the service of making a real difference for innocent lives, and I promise you won’t regret it.

You could argue that saving one litter of kittens at a time is a drop in the proverbial bucket, but so is one vote on election day, one donation to a charity, one act of kindness. If we all contribute our own drops, we’ll get a lot closer to filling up the bucket.

Kittens Cuddling

These peanuts would have been cold, hungry, and vulnerable outdoors. Thanks to fostering, they
grew up with warm beds, full bellies, and lots of love.

With all of this being said, I understand that there are people reading this who truly cannot foster – maybe your rental doesn’t allow animals, or perhaps your spouse or child is allergic. Fear not – there are so many ways to get involved! The Catfe is always looking for volunteers to help with cleaning, staffing the cafe, working at or promoting events, fundraising, and dozens of other opportunities. Visit catfelounge.com and fill out a volunteer application if you’re interested in helping us make a difference!

Interested in becoming a foster for cats at the Ferndale Cat Shelter/Catfe Lounge? Please fill out a foster application on our website to help kitties in need.

Want more pictures and stories of Lauren’s adorable foster cats? You can follow Lauren and her foster babies on Instagram @laurenfosters.

Foster Kittens Laying on Lap