Fostering a cat is a great way to help cats in need and reduce the burden on animal shelters and rescue organisations. It involves taking in a cat, kitten or family of cats in need and caring for them until a permanent home can be found.
In some cases this is due to limited space in an animal shelte. Other cats may require caring for a cat as he or she recuperates from illness, looking after a pregnant or nursing cat and her kittens until they are old enough to leave mum, hand raising orphaned kittens or building the trust of a shy or nervous cat.
Where do I find a foster cat?
Most cat rescue organisations as well as animal shelters (such as the RSPCA, Animal Welfare League) will have foster cats in urgent need of a home.
How long will I be fostering a cat for?
This varies. It may range from a weekend to several weeks, or even months depending on the individual case. During kittening season, many mother cats and her offspring need a place to stay while her kittens are still dependent on her. Shelters often don't have the time or the resources to care for a mother cat and her kittens.
What's involved in fostering a cat?
The organisation will match you up with the right cat to meet your situation and level of experience.
Orphaned kittens require frequent (around the clock) bottle feeding.
Scared/unsocialised cats need time and patience to learn to trust and build up confidence.
Mums and her babies need a quiet place and as they grow older, time spent giving cuddles and playing with kittens.
Sick or injured cats will require nursing and time to recover.
A great many foster cats are just kittens and cats who simply need a place to stay until they can find a permanent home and all that is required is food, water, shelter, and cuddles.
Emotional ups and downs of fostering:
You will have him or her for only a short period of time and many people will quickly bond with a cat. It can be quite hard to let a foster cat go, but you need to remember that doing so is for the greater good, once a cat has found a new family, this will free up space for you to help another cat in need.
Also bear in mind that some cats or kittens may die in your care, especially young kittens or very sick cats. You have given them the best support they can get, but even that sometimes just isn't enough. On the upside, you will have the joy of caring for a sick cat who then goes on to recover and find a new home. Without your help, this may not have happened.
What are the pros of fostering cats?
You get to help cats in need, giving them a chance.
You get to meet lots of cats.
It can be good if you are unable to care for a cat full time (ie; if you travel a lot, move frequently etc.)
People on low incomes who can't afford the costs involved in having a cat can foster a cat without the financial responsibility.
It is a good way to determine if having a cat in your life is for you.
The satisfaction of caring for a cat and then seeing him or her find the perfect permanent home.
What are my requirements?
To have the time and ability to properly care for the foster cat(s).
Have a safe home environment. Your home must be cat proofed.
Ensure the cat is kept indoors at all times.
To administer medication (as required) as well as monthly flea and worming treatments.
Long haired cats will require regular grooming to avoid matts developing.
If you have other cats (or dogs), you will need to isolate a foster cat, at least for a little while until they can be slowly integrated. I have found that resident cats generally tolerate the introduction of a kitten better than an adult cat. However, any introductions should be taken slowly. If the foster is only short term, I wouldn't worry about introducing at all.
It is also important to remember that a sick cat will need to be isolated from resident cats, and proper hygiene precautions must be taken to avoid transmitting disease.
What will the organisation provide?
The rescue organisation/shelter will cover vet bills, medication, bottles/formula and in some cases cat food.
You may be required to provide a bed, toys and a litter tray/cat litter.
If you are interested in fostering a cat, contact your local animal shelter or rescue organisation for more information. Click here for a listing of Australian animal shelters.