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5 things you never expected to learn from fostering a kitten

fostering a kitten

So you’ve taken the leap to foster kittens.  Good for you!  You are truly a hero for animals because you’re not only helping the kittens you are fostering, you are also freeing up space at the local shelter for them to take in additional animals.  We know you will enjoy the bond that comes from taking care of animals and we’re also pretty sure there are a number of other lessons that you will learn through fostering your kittens for adoption.  Here’s our top five things you will learn that you might not have expected:

1. Persistence pays off

Like many other things in life, being persistent will help you achieve your goals when it comes to taking care of foster kittens. Whether the kittens are on their own or with their momma cat, they are likely very scared.  They have been on a journey before they arrived at your doorstep.  They might have been picked up from outside, or abandoned at a local animal shelter where it’s noisy and scary to a newborn kitten.

Establish a ‘safe space’

You should find them a nice quiet place in your home away from other people, kids and animals as foster kittens need a quiet, secure place they can call their own. When you first approach your new foster kittens they may not be the playful animals expect them to be.  So take it slow and establish a regular routine with them.  Depending on their age you will feed them every few hours so they will soon get used to your presence and the fact that you’re bringing them food on a regular basis.

Support their bravery

How you deliver food to your foster kittens can establish a bond with the kittens that you are here to help them, and they have nothing to fear.  If your kittens are reluctant to come to you for their food your instinct may be to grab them and bring them to the food.  Instead, try to incentivize them by meeting them halfway and then each feeding try to increase the distance and get them to come towards you for their food.

Bond through touch

As your foster kittens get more comfortable coming to you for their food, introduce light touching while they feed so they can get comfortable with the human touch.  This helps to socialize your kittens and make them understand that not all humans should be feared.

2. You have animal empathy

The study of the human animal bond is a fast growing area of science.  If you want to learn more about it, listen to the podcast our friends at the Animal Rescue Professionals Association did with Kim Kelly who is an expert in the field to learn more about this rapidly expanding scientific area.  Through kitten fostering, you will be furthering your own animal human bond studies and develop more empathy than you could ever imagine for animals.  Here are a few ways to help develop your animal empathy even more.

Imagine yourself in their fur

While you are tending to the kittens needs, imagine what it must be like to be them.  Born into this world tiny and vulnerable, and then being ripped away from everything you know and thrust into many new situations that a newborn should never have to experience.  Imagine what it must be like to need to quickly learn what animals or people are a threat, and where to run for cover when you feel scared.  Imagine how hard it is if their mother is not there to help them along their journey.  You need to be their caretaker now.

Understand their needs

One of the common misconceptions about kittens and cats is that they are independent and do not need socialization or human touch.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Cats are social animals and need the interaction with other cats or kittens and with people on a regular basis.  If you do not focus on your cat’s emotional need for companionship, often problem behaviors like peeing outside the litterbox will develop.

3.  Being chill and having patience is required

Kittens are like children and when you are fostering them and make them feel safe, their true inquisitive nature and curiosity will naturally come out.  Foster kittens get into EVERYTHING in an effort to understand the world around them.  Here are a few ways you can be one-step ahead of their naughty nature.

Create the safe place

Outside, kittens will be raised in a den of some kind and will learn to venture further and further from that den as they explore the world.  But when danger is sensed, the kittens will retreat back to the safe place from where they started.  You can build the safe place for kittens as you allow them to explore their environment.

  • Remove or block objects that foster kittens can fall into and get stuck in; trash cans, open toilet covers, or even bathtubs can be one-way journeys for inquisitive kittens.
  • Put a heating pad on low, and cover it with a blanket where the kittens will naturally want to sleep and retreat to for safety and warmth.
  • Make sure the safe place is in a closed area away from other pets and kids.

Allow for exploration time

Make sure to allow your kittens time to explore new things outside the safe place that you’ve created for them.  This means securing other animals and allowing the foster kittens small windows to explore new areas of their world.  If you have the kittens in a guest bathroom for example, secure the other animals in the house and allow for short periods of time each day that your kittens get to peer outside the door and venture out to explore their world.

Consider clicker training

Clickers have long been used with dogs but only recently have seen a major uptick in their usage with cats.  Instituting clicker training with foster kittens at an early age will help them to understand what is acceptable and not.  When you establish that if they hear the clicker that rewards like food, treats or praise come, you can quickly grab the attention of a naughty kitten who is about to climb your favorite dining room curtains.

4. The world is full of wonder

Fostering kittens will provide you with a new found wonder in the world.  Kittens are amazed by the most basic things like Q-tips, bottlecaps and everyone’s favorite, laser pointers.  Here’s a few ways to engage your foster kittens in play that will stimulate them and help them to overcome their fears.

Variety is the spice of life

Make sure to switch out the toys that you use when playing with your foster kittens.  If you use the same toys during each play session they will quickly get bored with the session.  You’ll be amazed that just wadding up a piece of paper can become a few found toy to a kitten.  Look to your recycle bin for things like straws, milk rings and small containers that will spark the curiosity of almost any kitten.

Think like an animal

When you’re trying to pique the interest of your kittens to play, you’ll need to think like an animal.  You might make the toy mouse seem more real to a kitten by scurrying it around the corner away from the fierce kitten predator.  Sometimes the prey will sit still and let the kitty stalk him, and other times he will run away furiously and hide under rugs or blankets.

Dim the lights

Cats are generally nocturnal and like to play more at night than during the day.  If you find that your foster kittens are reluctant to play when it’s bright out, try closing the shades and dimming the lights to see how the environment changes. You might be amazed to see how your own world looks different once you vary your perceptions of it.


5.  Satisfaction comes from helping others

When you foster kittens, you will learn what it means to give back to others and to garner your own sense of satisfaction and achievement through providing for others’ needs.  You will know that the simple act of providing a temporary home for foster kittens will have a ripple effect on the universe around you.

You are saving 2x the number of animals

Every time you provide a foster home for an animal, you are actually helping two animals; the one you are fostering and the one that can now occupy the space left open by your foster animal.  Animal shelters can often be overcrowded and your extra capacity helps them provide more opportunities for other animals.

You are teaching empathy to others

When you have foster kittens in your house, you can’t help but to tell everyone about them.  How they are changing, what they do every day and even what their daily routines are like.  When you share your foster kittens’ adventures on social media, you may not know it but you’re helping others to see and learn what it means to be empathetic to animals.

Finding safe, reliable foster homes for kittens is a constant chore for your local animal rescue or local animal shelter.  But knowing that providing a safe place for kittens not only helps them, but also helps you might be just the reason you were looking for to get involved.


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