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Cat & Kitten Fostering

The Role of a Cat Fosterer
Who can Foster?
Why More Fosterers are Needed
The Pros and Cons of Fostering
How to Volunteer as a Cat Fosterer

cat and computer graphic

The Role of Cat Fostering

Cat rescues do not always have a shelter, or the room to take on as many cats and kittens as they receive calls for. This is where fosterers are vital, as their role is caring for rescue cats whilst they are 'between homes'.

fostering cats in your home
Fostering inside the Home

Fosterers are people who work voluntarily for a rescue, but who look after the cat at their home, until a suitable permanent home can be found. Some rescues provide pens for their fosterer's garden, similar to those in a cattery, other rescues require the fosterer to keep the cat inside their home. Depending on the size of the rescue, they may have a network of fosterers whereas others only have a few - in both cases however, fosterers are a very important and needed part of rescue. Most rescues who rely on fosterers could always do with more.

Most rescue and rehoming groups have a long waiting list of cats needing to come in, and not enough room to take them all - one extra foster home could make the world of difference!

Fostering involves taking the cat into your home temporarily and providing all the necessities to ensure they are healthy and happy. If you go out to work, or have other pets, you can still become a fosterer. You don't need to have a garden to foster. If you have other commitments or plans in the future, that's fine too - fostering can be as long or as short term as you like.


Most rescues have a long waiting list of cats needing to come in...
One extra foster home could make the world of difference!

Who can Foster?

The short answer is 'Anyone!'. The qualities of a good fosterer are: patience, understanding, and unconditional love. Some fosterers also have cats of their own, and some have only foster cats. Fosterers are as diverse and individual as the cats who need them. There is no upper age limit to becoming a fosterer!

Older people can make excellent foster parents; so if an older person has resisted getting a cat because they are worried that it may outlive them - then fostering could be the answer. Many rescues will arrange 'permanent fostering' of Senior Kittizens to Senior Citizens, meaning they never have to give the pet up, and there are no worries about vets bills.

People who take several holidays in the year often resist getting a cat as a result. However, short-term fostering can work well in such situations. Co-ordinating with the rescue, becoming a short-term fosterer allows you the company of cats when you are home, and gives cats in need that vital halfway-house before they are permanently homed.

People who find it hard to cope with the grief when a pet dies, and so decide not to have pets at all. Fostering allows yout to enjoy the company of cats again, but without the grief of bereavement... and instead experiencing the joy when they go off to a permanent, loving home, knowing that you helped them in their time of need.

People with more time on their hands, might consider a fostering/socialising role, particularly during the summer 'kitten season' period. This is when many rescues take in mums & kittens born outside, who have not been used to human contact. Such kittens may start out terrified of humans, but if rescued young enough they can be successfully 'socialised' and then rehomed to a normal, domestic environment. This is extremely rewarding for the fosterer!


The 3 Qualities needed to be a cat fosterer:
Patience • Understanding • Unconditional Love

Why more Cat Fosterers are Needed

fostering cats in a garden pen
Fostering in a Garden Pen
The reasons cats come into a rescue are many and varied. Although some may have a behavioural problem, mostly it is due to an owner's change in circumstances - the owner has moved to somewhere that doesn't allow pets, the family is emigrating, relationship breakdowns and divorce, a family member has an allergy, or the owner has died or gone into a care home. Some cats are just simply 'unwanted', some are found wandering (strays) and some have never lived with people (ferals or semi-ferals).

Each cat has a different personality, and a different history, and will react differently to being fostered. Sometimes they have been through ordeals that you may never know about, other times you know exactly what they've been through, and yet others will simply have come from a loving home, and just be bewildered as to why they have lost their family. There can sometimes be medical or behavioural problems to overcome.

A caring fosterer can really turn their lives around for the better.

Every year more and more kittens are born either by pets not being spayed/neutered or by breeders who's kittens then take up the homes that a needy rescued cat could have had. The fact is that rescues are overrun with more cats and kittens each year, especially in the spring/summer months ('kitten season'), when good foster homes are needed more than ever.

Every fosterer makes a huge difference to the lives of these animals, keeping them safe and healthy until they are permanently adopted.


A caring fosterer can really turn their lives around for the better.

Benefits, Drawbacks, & The Satisfaction Factor

Undoubtedly, the biggest benefit to fostering is that you are helping an animal who has fallen on hard times, towards a better future. Sometimes this can be the first time in its life that the animal has felt safe, cared for and loved.

The feeling of achievement when a nervous ex-stray finally comes up to you for a fuss, after maybe weeks of shying away from human contact, is wonderful. If you ever felt you wanted to make a real difference to an animal's life, then please consider fostering.

You may also get to meet potential adopters as they may come to view the cats.

When your foster cat goes to its permanent home it will be bittersweet, especially if it has been a tougher case (i.e. working to bring out a shy cat) as well as if the cat has been with you a long time. It's almost heartbreaking and you may wonder why you put yourself through the heartache... until the next needy cat comes in and you're reminded of exactly why you foster: because they need you.


What Support Can You Expect From The Rescue?

Provisions: This will depend on the financial situation of the rescue. Some rescues are able to provide all the essentials for your foster cat; litter, food, litter tray, beds etc. but others may not have the finance to cover everything. Do ask about this before you begin fostering, as rescues do vary as to what they can afford.

Veterinary Bills: Any veterinary bills should be covered by the rescue. You may have to use the rescues nominated vet, so do clarify this before you begin fostering.

Backup & Advice: You should be given contact details for the Welfare co-ordinator or Branch Runner in case of emergencies; they will be able to provide you with answers or at very least suggestions on what to do or who to call.


If you ever felt you would like to make a real difference to animal's lives...
Please consider fostering!

Applying to Become a Cat Fosterer

The main requirements of a fosterer are patience and understanding towards animals of varying temperaments, as they will have come to you from a range of different circumstances and backgrounds. On the practical side, it is extremely useful if you have a car at your disposal, whether this be for picking up any supplies from the rescue, or for transport to the vets. Being car-less may not be a problem for some of the better staffed rescues, but could be essential for other rescues who have neither the time nor manpower to assist with transport. Do also make sure that other members of your household are as keen as you on fostering.

If you feel that fostering is right for you then contact your local rescue. To find your nearest rescues, choose your area from the map here » UK & Ireland Rescue Centres. Please remember most rescue workers are volunteers with day jobs, so if you don't get to talk to a person immediately, please leave a message for them to call you back.

Once you have spoken to the rescue, if you decide to proceed, someone from the welfare side of the organisation will come to visit you at your home. This is to assess where you would keep the foster cats/kittens, and also the area around to ensure the safety of the animals, making any recommendations where needed. This is also your opportunity to ask questions or to raise any concerns you have about fostering.

Be warned though... a high percentage of fosterers fall in love with their first foster cat... and end up keeping them!


Cat Fosterers Needed Here...

Shelters & Rescue Groups:
Most shelters and rescue groups need volunteer cat fosterers (short-term, and long-term), to care for cats 'between homes'. Contact your nearest rescues here: Cat Rescue Groups and Shelters across the UK & Ireland

The Cinnamon Trust:
The Cinnamon Trust (the national charity for the elderly and terminally ill and their pets) urgently need more volunteers to foster cats in their own home, when elderly owners face a spell in hospital: www.cinnamon.org.uk

The Blue Cross Respite Foster Scheme:
Volunteer respite carers provide short term care for pets in their own home. This may involve caring for sick or injured animals, nursing mothers or litters, or giving an animal a break from the rehoming centre: www.bluecross.org.uk

RSPCA / PetRetreat
Foster carers are needed for animals waiting to be rehomed, or 'case animals' needing care whilst legal proceedings take place, and for animals on the PetRetreat scheme for families escaping domestic abuse: www.rspca.org.uk


Photo Credits: Thank you to: UK Ragdoll Cat Community and Atherton & Wigan Metro Cats Protection.
UK Animal Rescue

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