Fluffy little bellies. Tiny pink noses. The incredible feeling of knowing you’ve saved someone’s life. Who wouldn’t want to foster kittens? With thousands of kittens at risk in animal shelters, there is an endless need for foster parents.
But if you’ve never fostered kittens before, preparation can feel a little overwhelming. Many people assume that fostering will be a challenge due to limitations in space or time, but with the right supplies and know-how, anyone can prepare their home for a successful foster kitten experience.
Here are some simple tips for preparing your home so that fostering kittens is fun and accessible for everyone.
Provide Foster Kittens With a Dedicated Space
Kittens are fragile and have vulnerable immune systems, so you’ll want to keep them in a safe, confined space that is easy to sanitize. Having a dedicated space for kittens can sound impossible, especially if you live in an apartment or a full house—but don’t fret. A mesh playpen with a zip-up top offers the perfect solution. It’s portable, easy to clean, and keeps the kittens safe and quarantined from household hazards and other animals.
You’d be amazed the things kittens can get into. Keep kittens out of trouble by keeping small choking hazards out of reach, and make sure there are no open trashcans, toilets, or other areas where they could possibly get stuck.
Make the Space Warm and Cozy
Kittens need soft, cozy places to snuggle, so make sure you have a few small baby blankets for them. Having several blankets on hand will allow you to change them out every day or two, so you can keep things clean and comfy.
A heat source is essential to help kittens maintain an appropriate body temperature, so make sure you give them either a heating pad (on low, covered with a baby blanket) or a portable heat source such as a microwavable heating disk. In a pinch, you an even make your own heating pad by putting dry rice in a sock, tying it closed, and microwaving it until it’s comfortably warm.
If you’re fostering young orphans, you may want to consider providing them with a comfort source, such as a stuffed animal with a battery-operated heartbeat. Another cheap way to comfort kittens is to replicate a mother’s rough tongue by gently brushing them with a soft bristle toothbrush.
Keep Their Tiny Size in Mind
Kittens are tiny, so when you’re feeding kittens wet or dry food, you’ll want to do so out of a very shallow dish—almost like a plate with a small lip. Kittens have a hard time eating out of a deep cat dish, so help them out and give them something they can easily reach.
On that same note, you’ll want to make sure the litter box for the kittens is very small, otherwise they won’t never make it in. A great trick is to skip the plastic litter box and just use the cardboard tray from a case of wet kitten food. This is ideal not just because it’s shallow, but also because it’s disposable—so you don’t run the risk of cross-contamination with future litters of kittens.
Pay Attention to Diet
Remember that kittens have different dietary needs than adult cats, so you’ll want to go for a wet food specially formulated for kittens. Dry kitten food is an optional supplement, but there’s no substitute for the benefits of wet food with growing kittens. If the kitten is under 5 weeks old and without a mother, you’ll need to bottle feed the kitten with a special kitten formula and a bottle.
Kittens may be quite tiny when you bring them home, but you want to see them growing steadily every day. A small digital food scale can help you monitor their progress daily, so you can keep the kittens on track to grow big and strong.
Keep Things Fresh and Clean
While cats are generally clean creatures, any young animal will make occasional messes when learning to eat and navigate their living spaces. Pick up some puppy pads to place under feeding areas and the litter pan for easy cleanup, and keep some cleaning supplies easily accessible.
Between litters of foster kittens, you’ll want to clean up and completely disinfect your space and supplies. Disinfectant solutions like Accel kill most disease carrying agents when used properly, and are great for wiping down your playpen, carrier, and toys.
The kittens themselves can get messy, too, so be sure to keep some fragrance-free baby wipes on hand for wiping faces and fur.
Carefully consider the materials the kittens will be exposed to, and choose things that are easy to sanitize. When possible, you’ll want to avoid carpeted areas and other porous surfaces that are difficult to clean between litters. When toy shopping, opt for something disposable or easy to clean. Crinkly balls are kitten favorites and can be easily disinfected.
It’s important to think about how you will move and transport kittens. If you think you’ll need to take kittens with you for veterinary visits or other trips, make sure you purchase a well-ventilated top-opening carrier with plenty of space for the kittens to sleep and stretch.
Continued Fostering Efforts
Fostering kittens is so fun because it only takes a few weeks of your time to help them grow big and strong so they can be adopted into a loving home. Since the length of their stay is so short, this means you can save many lives by fostering a few times throughout the year. Once you’ve set up your space with the appropriate supplies, you’ll be ready to save kittens for years to come.
For a full list of fostering supplies, you can always check out the Kitten Lady recommended supplies.
Image courtesy Hannah Shaw, Kitten Lady