I thought it might be interesting to go through our system when we take in a new kitten. So far, we’ve fostered two solo kittens and done overnight babysitting for a couple other foster parents in the system, but we’ve started developing a set of steps for how to manage each newcomer.
- Claim a kitten. OCAS sends out emails every day with animals that need to go into foster care. Usually, it’s kittens and puppies that are too young to be adopted, females with nursing babies, or sick animals that need some personalized TLC. We email the shelter and say, “Hey, we’ve got room for that one!” then pick them up.
- Once we get them home, they go straight into the bathroom for kitty quarantine. Since the shelter is basically like the first day of preschool, it’s safest to assume that your foster kitten is coming home with something. Usually, it’s a URI (upper respiratory infection, or kitty cold), but fleas are just as common. Other things to look out for are mange and worms. Because we don’t want them passing anything to our resident kitten or any other feline visitors, all newcomers spend two weeks in the bathroom. We have bathrobes that we wear over our normal clothes so we don’t risk carrying any diseases ourselves. Between kittens, everything gets sanitized, and we start the process all over again.
- The first day with us is a pretty rough one, because the first thing we do–if our foster is healthy enough–is a flea bath. Fleas are my big boogeyman, so we give them no chance to escape. Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t endear us to the kittens at first, even if it is for their own good. There are two ways it goes– either whichever of us is doing the washing gets scratched up good by someone with tiny needle claws, trying to get away from the water, or they accept their fate and go completely limp. Because it’s important that the bath goes quickly and they get dry quickly to avoid shocking their tiny systems, we make it a two-person job with one washing and one drying in front of a portable heater. It’s kind of like doing the dishes, if dishes fought back.
4. After a two week quarantine and any diseases are fully treated, kittens move into the social pen. Because kittens can’t be tested for FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) and FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus) until they’re two pounds, we keep them separate from Squeaker via this mesh pen. The pen is also a good way for shy kittens or kittens with no human experience to get used to being around people. It’s also a good way for them to get to know Squeaker- they can play with each other through the pen walls without risking a bite or lick that would transmit something dangerous.
5. Once a kitten reaches two pounds, they’re old enough to be combo tested for FIV/FeLV, spayed or neutered (we call it “kitten proofing”), microchipped, and adopted out! If they test negative, they can be let out of the pen to join the family. We attend adoption events and post to adoption websites in the hopes that they’ll be pre-adopted, meaning they can go home with their forever family as soon as their surgery is completed. If we don’t find their family, then they go back to the shelter, where fostered kitties are adopted on an average of three days after their arrival.
Unless a kitten is really sick, the way Squeaker was when we first got him, they don’t require too much attention. In our house, they get it anyway, because who can resist a kitten face? We spend more time than strictly necessary figuring out optimal toy arrangements and, currently, walking Eggroll to the food because apparently sometimes a kitten just needs an escort to feel fancy.
When we have questions, we can ask the more experienced fosters, called Foster Pros, or watch Kitten Lady and Kitten School videos. A really cool thing about the foster community is how generous everyone is with their time and knowledge. We’ve found a really amazing group that’s willing to help out with anything at the drop of a hat. People pick up and drop of other people’s fosters at the clinic, dispense knowledge, and babysit constantly. It’s an extremely positive community.
So, that’s my new hobby! Helping kittens make it to their forever homes. I didn’t entirely expect it, but I’m happy we’re here.
Anyone else a foster parent, human, cat, or otherwise? Do you have cute pictures of the animals in your life? Share them below!
P.S. My manuscript is at 65,000 words!