Last summer, our family took on a special project as a way to give back, celebrate our love of animals and help make the world a better place. Between July and September 2016, we fostered a total of 12 kittens (including one sweet mama of six who was barely more than a kitten herself) from the Capital Area Humane Society and Humane Society of Delaware County.
Fostering kittens and cats is an amazing experience – it involves a bit less work and time than fostering puppies and dogs, yet still incredibly rewarding and worthwhile.
It’s a known fact that kittens are the most joyful, playful and adorable creatures on earth. Being around them is so much fun and they are pretty easy to care for and clean up after – especially if you stay on top of the litter box and scoop it morning and night at a bare minimum.
All of us in our little family love cats and kittens and wish we could have one of our own. We even helped a little lost cat find his way home a few years ago. Unfortunately, we love our friends and family, too – and we have many extended family members and beloved friends/neighbors who are severely allergic to cats. I’m even allergic to cats myself, but that’s never stopped me from wanting to be around them.
I wanted a kitten from the moment I knew of their existence. I have fond childhood memories of a friend’s kitten getting pregnant before they had her spayed, and of helping to care for the resulting litter. My parents even FINALLY let me bring one of the kittens home once they were old enough, and Frosty became the love of my young life. Since learning that Z loves kittens and cats as much as I do, I’ve always dreamed of her getting to care for a prego cat and kittens, too. I talked up the idea to my darling hubby and, to my surprise, he said yes.
The first step
To begin our fostering journey, I first went through the foster/volunteer training at CAHS. It was just a couple of hours and I learned lots of valuable info we would later lean on. Your local shelter probably has a similar program as a first step of becoming a foster parent. After that, it is simply a matter of saying “yes” when the shelter sends out a request for foster homes. We chose kittens/cats only because puppies and dogs are a LOT more work and require someone being home to let them out often and clean up messes.
Kittens and cats are relatively easy by comparison; they use the litter box almost from birth and clean up is easy. Scoop the liter box multiple times a day, offer clean fresh water and dry food at all times, provide canned food morning and night if you are so inclined, and sweep the room and clean/disinfect surfaces daily. The rest is just playtime and cuddling! The shelter typically provides everything we need, from cat litter to dry and canned food to bedding. We of course purchased a few extras, like adorable cat beds and some toys.
Our first babies were a trio of siblings Zoe named Jackson, Cinderella and Summer. Jackson and Summer were playful, mostly black boys – Cinderella was a sweet, timid female with the palest silver-grey stripes. We fell hard for these three and were heartbroken when they left us. We thought many times about keeping one of them, but knew that ultimately wasn’t right for our family. Each of them were adopted the very same day that we brought them back from fostering, which made us so happy! Cinderella and Summer went together to the same home, which was wonderful.
Our second set of babies was a big bunch: beautiful young mama Lucy Blue and her darling six Baby Blues. These SEVEN nearly identical blue-gray kitties were absolutely precious. Having that many was a lot to handle though, and the work was considerably more this time around. Plus, the kittens developed colds and eye infections which required meds and many trips to the shelter vet. This was hard on me as the primary caretaker and took a bit of the joy out of it, as I was worried and stressed a lot of the time we had them (are they nursing enough? Is mama Lucy eating enough? Do they need to go back to the vet again this week? Are they getting sicker? etc).
Lucy and the kittens were drop-dead gorgeous though, and we adored them all. Lucy was sweet as can be and a wonderful mom, though barely more than a kitten herself. She fell in love with my husband and vice versa! Two of the kittens were long-haired and they were among our favorites – although another little short-haired male, whom we nicknamed Whitey, stole my heart. We named the Baby Blues after all things blue: Velvet, Suede, River (aka Whitey), Berry, Belle and Ribbon. Once again it was so hard to let them go, but also in this case a relief that our lives could go back to normal. Two of the kittens were adopted by someone who had come to visit them at our home, and we stayed in touch and get to see pics of them all the time on Facebook now, which is a true gift! The others were all adopted swiftly too, including beautiful mama Lucy.
We took a bit of a break from fostering – about a month off – but then in October, we were notified that a pair of kittens needed a short stay in a foster home. This time it was through another shelter – the Delaware Humane Society. We said yes and two kittens came to us whom we quickly renamed Jarvis (the brother) and Juliet (the sister). These two were the friendliest, sweetest and most playful kittens we had ever met! Once again it was hard to let them go when their time in foster care was up – and once again we seriously considered keeping one of them and becoming foster “failures”! But we knew their forever homes were out there and hoped they’d stay together. They went back to the Delaware Humane Society kitten room, a wonderful facility that is truly the next-best thing to a forever home, and were soon adopted out.
I still think about all our dear foster babies and know they are likely all nearly grown up now and loving life as big, beautiful cats in their own forever homes. I’m so glad we had a chance to touch their lives, give them love and attention while they were small, and help them grow into cats who love people, are not afraid of big gentle dogs (our Goldendoodle Autumn is GREAT with foster kitties!), and don’t mind being held and kissed by gentle children. I highly recommend fostering kittens as a great way to help your local shelter, give kids a way to meaningfully contribute, and do something special as a family. Kids learn how to care for animals and clean up after them. It’s great family bonding time to play with and enjoy the company of felines in a really meaningful way.
There is also a valuable lesson in the “letting go” process at the end of a foster care assignment. It never gets any easier for me – I cry and feel sad and mourn their loss every time – but it’s still so very worth doing it! A more experienced foster person once told me “fostering only hurts at the end if you’re doing it right!” and that is so true. We give our hearts to these sweet babies – we love them as if they are our own – and that’s why it will never stop hurting me when we give them back to the shelter to be adopted out. But, that means we’re doing it right – and I wouldn’t have it any other way! Fostering is life-saving work and a wonderful experience.
If you have any questions about fostering kittens or cats, let me know and I’ll be glad to help if I can. And if you have stories of your own about fostering, I’d love to hear them!