Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Tips for First Time Fosters

Congratulations on choosing to foster! You are doing important work that will make a difference in these tiny lives. Many first time fosters have lots of questions and they begin, so here are a few things I wish I had known when I first started fostering:

  1. Quarantine! More often than not, new fosters will come home with illnesses. Some diseases do not require direct contact between animals, but rather are spread through spores, eggs, or viruses that can live on surfaces. This means kittens can pick up illnesses from previous fosters if you cannot property clean between litters. It can take up to 2 weeks for symptoms to appear, so keep kitties confined for 2 weeks in a space that is easy to clean in case seemingly healthy kittens come down with something after you bring them home. I like to use a bathroom since tile is easy to clean and there is no fabric covered furniture. I mop the floors and spray the walls with a 1:16 bleach solution between litters.
  2. Kitten proof your space! Kittens are curious, so it’s your job to help them avoid hazards. Some common hazards are wires that they may chew, strings they may swallow or get twisted around their necks (blinds & the cords on them are notorious for this). Also check for any tiny holes kittens can crawl into and hide or get stuck. The first time I fostered I learned there were little openings under my bathroom vanity – the perfect size for a tiny kitten to fit into, but too small for me to reach my hand into to get them out!
  3. Diarrhea is not “normal” in kittens. It is common though because parasites are common. Kittens can dehydrate quickly, so if you’re kittens have mushy or runny poop it’s important to get them in to see the vet as soon as possible – it will likely require prescription medication. Until their diarrhea clears up you can add a teaspoon of canned pumpkin (no additives) to their food and serve unflavored pedialyte in place of water in a dish or mixed with formula if they’re still bottle fed.
  4. Do not play with kittens with your hands. Kittens love to wrestle and if another kitten is not available they’ll wrestle whatever is close to them. Always keep a toy nearby so that if kitty goes for your hands you can quickly give them a toy to attack instead. It’s important to teach good habits from the start!
  5. Kittens do best with a friend! As mentioned above, kittens love to wrestle. The best outlet for this is another kitten. A single kitten is a bored and lonely kitten, and that’s a recipe for getting into trouble! But a kitten with a friend has someone to chase, wrestle, and play with. And once they’ve used up all their energy, they have someone to cuddle with.
  6. Use non-clumping litter with kittens until after they have been spayed/neutered and their scars have healed. Kittens are curious and they may try to eat litter. Clumping litter can cause a blockage, so it’s best to stick to something like paper or pine pellets. Also, clay can get stuck to spay/neuter incisions and irritate the wound. By the time a kitten is old enough for surgery, they are also old enough to be past the litter-tasting phase so it’s safe to switch to a clumping clay litter within a week or two after surgery.
  7. Gerber chicken baby food is great for weaning. If a kitten is not eating food out of a bowl, try feeding baby food. You can put some on your finger, and if they do not lick it off right away you can touch it to their nose so they’ll lick it off. Once they’ve tasted it off their nose they will likely try to get some more off your finger. Then you can use your finger to guide them to the bowl.
  8. Moisture is important for kitties, so feed wet food at least twice a day, more for younger kittens. I typically do 4x for kittens 4-5 weeks old, 3x for kittens 6 weeks old, and 2x for kittens 8 weeks old. Do not feed directly out of cans – kitties can cut their tongues on the sharp edges!
  9. Kitten Lady is a great resource! Watch her YouTube channel, visit her website, and buy her book. She addresses anything you could possibly want to know about orphan kitten care.
  10. Jackson Galaxy is also a great resource, especially if you’re fostering adult cats, cats/kittens in need or socialization, or behavior problems. My Cat From Hell is especially informative and entertaining!
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