by Darcy Oordt
Kitten season is almost upon us. What is kitten season? Kitten season is the time of year when female cats give birth. It starts in the spring and continues until the fall. It’s the time when shelters and rescues are flooded with kittens and when kitten foster parents are desperately needed.
I’ve been kitten fostering for several years and—although I’ve lost count—I’ve fostered over 200 kittens. I admit, I’m a crazy cat lady. But it’s the best kind of crazy because what I do saves lives.
What Do You Need to Foster?
What you need to foster depends a lot on what age kittens you take in. During the first few weeks, they need very little space, but do require round-the-clock feeding (usually every 3-6 hours). You also need to stimulate them to go to the bathroom, weigh them and keep them warm. They are the most demanding but need the least amount of space. I usually keep mine in a box next to my bed. Kittens need more space when the transition to the borderline stage.
At about 4 weeks of age, they start to eat on their own and use the litter box. I usually keep this age in a large dog crate. It allows space for a bed, litter box and space to play. Spare bathrooms also work. Once kittens are eating on their own, you no longer have to get up in the night with them. They still require feeding a few times a day, as well as plenty of physical activity.
Kittens usually learn to use the litter box on their own. It’s instinct. Sometimes you have to coach them a bit, but those times are rare.
Isn’t it Hard to Let Them Go?
Most people’s response to hearing about fostering is “I could never foster because it would be too hard to let them go.” The reality is, without foster care, these kittens would die. Staying in a shelter puts them at risk of coming down with illness or the shelter will be forced to euthanize them because they don’t have enough space or resources to care for them.
People foster kittens because it is the only way to save their lives.
Now, it can be difficult to let them go. But you have to accept that you only have enough resources to care for so many animals. If you keep one, that is one less you would be able to foster. And you remember that the goal is to help the kitten find its forever home. (I also like to keep in touch with special fosters through Facebook. It helps.)
What About If They Die?
Kittens in the best of circumstances are fragile and may die. I’ve lost many through the years. All of the deaths were hard, but I’m comforted that someone loved them during their short little lives. It can be rough and it is good to get to know other people who foster so you have a support system. Not everyone understands how you can be upset over losing something you only had a few days.
You do have to prepare yourself emotionally for this job. It’s not always easy. In the end, you will lose them. Hopefully, it’s to a loving home. But that’s not always the case. They had a better chance with your support than without it. You have to accept that no matter what you do, you can’t save them all.
How Do I Start Fostering?
If you are interested, contact a local rescue like the ones listed here. The list is also available at harrisburgmagazine.com.
I Really Don’t Think I Can Foster…
Fostering isn’t for everyone. If you’re not able to foster, consider volunteering or donating supplies to help those who can foster. Foster homes are also needed for dogs, puppies and adult cats. One of those groups may be a better fit for your lifestyle.