When I was on the brink of adopting a full grown cat, a co-worker who volunteers with a local cat rescue suggested I try fostering kittens. Fostering means you bring (usually 2-3) kittens home so they can adjust to human interaction in a safe environment. Meanwhile, they’re out of the shelter and less susceptible to communicable cat diseases. It sounds simple enough. You take cats home for a few weeks, you bring them back so they can be adopted in their new, well adjusted, kitten state.
It is not simple.
If you’re like me and you accidentally wander into the most disorganized and irresponsible non-profit shelter in Central Ohio, it is a roller coaster. A heart-wrenching, headache inducing, extremely annoying roller coaster. The motivations behind fostering are very worthy; I recommend fostering to anyone who is considering adopting kittens. Fostering is an excellent idea, with the following caveats:
1 – Understand (I mean really absolutely, truly, deeply understand) the commitment you are making. Find out exactly how long the organization wants you to keep the cats. Get it in writing if you can.
2 – Identify the cats you are taking. Do they have ID numbers? Are they named? How are they in the organization’s system, if at all? This is helpful when someone wants to adopt the kittens during or post-foster. If the cats have no identifier or the organization is vague about it, that’s a red flag.
3 – Ask if the cats are sick. It’s understandable that they may show signs of illness once at the foster home, and that the organization may not have been aware, however, I recommend asking on day one. If they are, or if they become ill and you receive medicine from the shelter make sure you ask exactly how long they should be given the medicine. Does that conflict with the original statement of how long you would have the cats?
4 – Confirm that there is a contact person who knows what is going on at the shelter.
5 – Prepare yourself. Once you have been fostering the kittens, is your shelter contact hard to reach or unresponsive? Does it feel like they may have just assumed you would keep these kittens forever, yet, aren’t officially relinquishing them to you? It might be time to show up unexpectedly and drop the kittens off with a curt, “good luck.”
I learned a lot during my first fostering experience and I don’t regret it. I learned that our one bathroom is not an acceptable litter box room. I learned I still definitely want to adopt an adult cat, not kittens, for our first cat. I learned it only costs about $50 to spay or neuter cats. Most of all, I learned there are a lot of cats out there that need adopting, but that doesn’t mean I need to adopt them all. I look forward to the day when I’m ready for a cat and the right cat is ready for me.