How to Foster a Cat or Kitten: A Comprehensive Guide for First-Time Fosters

Small kitten plays with a ribbon toy

Fostering a cat is a rewarding volunteer opportunity that can make a world of difference for a pet awaiting a forever home. When you foster a cat, you welcome them into your home and care for them just like one of your own pets until a permanent home can be found. 

What Does it Mean to Foster a Cat?

Fosters can provide more than just temporary housing for an adoptable cat. By opening your home as a foster and providing temporary foster care for cats, you can help provide valuable information about the cat back to the shelter or rescue, as well as help prepare an adoptable cat for their transition into a forever home.

The home environment offered by cat foster homes also provides socialization opportunities for cats, increasing their adoptability. Plus, because foster volunteers get to know how their foster cats act in a home setting, they can provide valuable insights to help guide the process of finding the right forever home.

These are just a few of the reasons why foster volunteers are so valuable to pet rescues and shelters and why you should consider offering your home and heart to foster a cat in need.

How Much Does it Cost to Foster a Cat?

While the rewards of fostering a cat are immeasurable, the costs of fostering are usually measured more in terms of time and care than in dollars and cents.

Medical costs associated with the care of a foster cat are almost always covered by the rescue group or shelter, and daily supplies, such as food and litter, may also be provided. Many times, fosters are willing to pay for daily supplies as well. 

Do You Get Paid to Foster Cats?

Being a foster “parent” is a volunteer commitment, so there is no monetary compensation for the time and care you provide. However, as any foster volunteer will tell you, the satisfaction of seeing a cat thrive in your care and find their way to a wonderful family is far more gratifying.  

Preparing Your Home for a Foster Cat or Kitten

Before you foster a cat, it’s important to have a realistic understanding of the commitment involved and what you can provide, both in terms of the needs of a potential foster and the timeframe involved. Before you commit to a foster cat, ask questions of the rescue group or shelter to make sure you know what that commitment involves.

Next, you will need to prepare your home and family (including pets) for your new foster arrival. This will involve looking at your living space (and those in it) through the eyes of a new pet and being proactive about “cat-proofing” potential hazards, such as dangling or exposed electrical wires and houseplants that may be dangerous if chewed.

Establish quiet, safe places where your foster cat can retreat to rest and eat, and make sure everyone in the family understands and respects those spaces. If you have other pets in the home, or if your foster cat is recuperating from an injury or a medical procedure, you may need to designate a room where your foster cat can rest.

If you currently have pets, make sure their vaccinations are up-to-date and ask your veterinarian, or the rescue group or shelter you’ll be fostering with, for recommendations on how to make the introduction of your foster cat as smooth as possible, and safe for both the foster and your own pets.  

How to Foster a Cat

Once you have decided to foster a cat, you may wonder, “How do I find cats to foster near me?” A good way to start looking for “foster cat programs near me” is to search Petfinder’s over 14,000 shelter and rescue group members to find organizations in your local area. You can use the organization’s contact information on the Petfinder website to contact the group directly to inquire about any volunteer and/or foster opportunities that may be available. Petfinder’s shelter and rescue group search tool is easy to use and allows you to search by location or by an organization’s name.

Friends or relatives who have adopted a pet, or who volunteer with pet adoption organizations, can also provide recommendations. Once you start reaching out to shelters and rescue groups, asking for “cats to foster near me,” you’ll quickly realize that there is always a need for dedicated fosters and that your involvement can mean so much to pets in need.

Before you can foster, most rescue groups and shelters will require you to fill out a volunteer application and possibly provide references. You’ll likely go through a screening process, as well as a training process for the fostering program. This process is a great opportunity for you to learn more about the organization’s procedures and standards, and about foster care, so that you can be the foster parent a deserving cat needs.

How to Foster Kittens

If your hope is to foster kittens, your research should go beyond finding kittens to foster. Fostering kittens, especially newborn kittens, requires above-and-beyond dedication, and in some cases, around-the-clock care, especially for newborns during their first few weeks of life.

Before you do an online search to “foster a kitten near me,” first research “how to care for newborn kittens.” That way you can approach this awe-inspiring experience with a realistic appreciation of the work involved, as well as the fulfillment of helping to save young lives.  

When Your Foster Cat or Kitten Gets Adopted

For a foster pet, the hope is to find a forever home. Foster volunteers know this too… but it doesn’t make saying goodbye to your foster cat any easier.

When your foster cat finds their forever home, it may be hard to let them go, even when you know that the home they are going to is the perfect place for them. (In fact, some volunteers become so attached to their foster pets that they decide to adopt them, an occurrence animal adoption volunteers have happily termed “foster failure.”)

While the thought of your foster cat leaving might be sad, remember that the end of one foster story can mean the beginning of another. Because now you’ll be able to provide a loving home for a new foster cat and help them find their happy ending.

Learn more about fostering cats and dogs with Petfinder.