Homeless kittens are the saddest kittens!
January 6, 2010 8:13 AM   Subscribe

We've just started fostering a kitten from a local shelter. It's not only our responsibility to socialize him, but to also try to get him adopted. Two-fold question: how do we best use our networks to spread the word without resorting to Craigslist? And since we're supposed to take pictures and videos, we need suggestions on how to make the kitten look extra cute and personable, and therefore more appealing to potential adopters who view his profile online.

My boyfriend and I just started taking in kittens through a fostering network that alleviates overcrowded shelters. We socialize the kitten over the week and then other volunteers pick him up on the weekend and take him to an adoption fare for a few hours.

Right now we have Gus, a super-sweet 6 month-old kitten. People at the adoption fare pass over him each week because he acts skittish, but he's just freaked out by the dogs and the noise. The fostering network has his profile on Petfinder.com, and we're supposed to post pictures and videos of him over the week. Right now he's just doing kitten things (sleeping, yawning, purring, hiding under the bed), but I'm looking for tips on video-taping him to counteract his scaredy-cat image.

We've also been posting pictures of Gus to Facebook and sending mass emails, but I'm not going to open the door to Craigslist strangers and the like. I'd love to hear advice from other people who found themselves with temporary animals: how did you spread the word?

Thanks very much for any advice.
posted by zoomorphic to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Get video of him playing. The sillier and more awkward, the better. Try string, laser lights, or even water running from a tap if he thinks that is need.

Pics of him sleeping on his back would be ultra cute.
posted by moira at 8:20 AM on January 6, 2010

posted by moira at 8:20 AM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: Oh, and get the camera down at his level.
posted by moira at 8:21 AM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Sorry, one more: nix the pic of him hiding under the bed, and avoid any pics of him tightly packed into himself (such as perching with his tail tight around him - it's a relaxed position for a cat, but it comes across as tense to humans).
posted by moira at 8:27 AM on January 6, 2010

Fat Orange Cat Studio has some really great shots that you could try to emulate. Note that the photographer makes use of available light, so try shooting by a window during the day to take advantage of what winter light there is. FOC also uses post-processing to brighten photos, which you could easily give a try in GIMP, Picasa, etc., if you don't have Photoshop. Get down on Gus' level, and take pics that show his personality. Him hiding under the bed could actually be really cute. Hell, he's adorable; even a picture of him yawning would be cute.
posted by runningwithscissors at 8:31 AM on January 6, 2010

Take a look at Itty Bitty Kitty committee for ideas. She also fosters kittens, and blogs about it.
posted by anastasiav at 8:32 AM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not sure how good a photographer you are (or have access to) but these photos tug mercilessly at my heart every time.
posted by JoanArkham at 8:45 AM on January 6, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you so far! Also, and this is less important, but if anyone wants to throw out funny or bizarre names to use for future foster pets, have at it. Anything to make the animals, especially ones that don't perform well at the fares, look unique and intriguing.
posted by zoomorphic at 8:47 AM on January 6, 2010

I'd try to network in real space, as well. Have your friends come visit with your cat, and tell the tale of how you're trying to get him adopted out.

Go to your local vet's office and see if they have a bulletin board where you can post a flyer.

If you work in a large office, ask the folks around you if they'd like to see a picture of the cat you're fostering, and ask them if they know anybody who would like a cat.
posted by xingcat at 8:51 AM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: In Greenpoint, lots of local businesses have bulletin boards for this sort of thing, I imagine it's the same where you are. Lately I've noticed a lot of really funny/cute/creative/stunningly-designed adoption posters up around the neighborhood, which I bet are working out really well.
posted by hermitosis at 8:54 AM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: I recently fostered a whole litter of kittens. The shelter I was working with had an agreement with a local pet food store, and we spent saturday afternoons there showing off the kittens. I wouldn't recommend this approach. People love kittens, but they were there to buy their dog food, not to bring home a new pet. The one success I did have actually came from craigslist, where the adoptive kitten parents met me at the pet food store. This worked in this one case, but yeah... avoid craigslist if you can. There are a lot of crazies out there. I had an entire litter of black cats... oiy.

Anyway, my final solution was to adopt the remaining two kittens myself, and I couldn't be happier. Obviously, foster parents can't adopt every cat they take into their homes. When I do it again, I'm planning on telling everyone I know, and having them all over to play with the kitten if at all possible. It socializes the cat, and gets the word out.

About the only pic advice I can offer -- lots of light in the photos, but be careful of the cat laser-eye look. Avoid using flash if it all possible. If you can, get the kitten playing on the bed or some surface that's a contrasting color to his coat, and have someone else a ways away (as to not distract the cat) to take the pictures, zoomed in, and just keep shooting pic after pic. At least a couple should come out adorable! Staged cat photos tend to look forced or fake; you need to catch them in the act, almost by accident.
posted by cgg at 9:00 AM on January 6, 2010

Having a helper makes taking pictures a lot easier. One person distracts or plays with the cat, the other shoots the pictures. You get that cute "kitten looking quizically at toy" picture much more easily.
posted by radioamy at 9:36 AM on January 6, 2010

For what it's worth, I found my delightful Dolley P. Madison via Craigslist. Don't rule it out entirely as a way to find Gus a home, but you will need to be extra vigilant about applicants. The organization I got Dolley from had an application and a home visit before I could take her. As for the photos, I concur with the no-flash rule. Demon eyes aren't what you're looking for.

(PS- Gus is a cutie!)
posted by orrnyereg at 9:44 AM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: Yay! An excuse to post our example foster kitten video. This is our first attempt at a video, but maybe you can see what works and what doesn't. (they're in Chapel Hill, NC, folks, ready to go home soon).

The hoop-jumping trick is awesome for them - whenever we've practiced it with a kitten, that kitten immediately becomes ecstatically happy and super affectionate. I think the communication with food, the elaborate constant praise, and the doing things they like doing anyway (jumping on chairs, eating treats, being praised) is absolutely wonderful for teaching them that people (aka giant pink monkeys, otherwise rather intimidating creatures) are pretty cool.

Something else we do is teach the kittens their names by holding a treat, calling them, and giving them the treat when they approach, gradually increasing the distance between them and the treat when they're called. Even if their names are changed later, they have the concept of a "name" which equates to "come running and something good will happen," and again, just going through the training/structured, human-intensive activity is great for them.

We also love to put treats and little toys inside small boxes and have them fish things out (always praising them), pick them up a lot, and, because I'm well on my way to becoming a crazy cat person, I made a kitten sling that some kittens will stay in for about two minutes. It's like a baby sling, but made out of a towel sewn into a folded loop... nobody will care, but if anyone does, memail me and I'll send directions (I think it will be better with really teeny kittens; we've not gotten any younger than seven weeks yet).

I recently heard that socialization is just gradual desensitization. We've had good luck with bringing people to play with the kittens, but your little guy might get better over time.

Also - I asked some one in our fostering org about posting to Craigslist, and she said that mentioning the adoption fee and "mandatory home visits" tended to help a great deal in weeding out less suitable homes.
posted by amtho at 9:48 AM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I adopted the "skittish adoption fair kitten" from foster people like yourselves. They got me to do it by pairing him with an outgoing kitten.

"oh, they are not brothers but they have always been together, they were at the shelter together and they go to adoption fairs together and the black one always hides in the corner but he's really sweet and we would really like them to stay together."

In retrospect this makes very little sense and I doubt that two young, unrelated cats had bonded that much at 12 weeks, but it effectively played on my sympathies and I ended up with two awesome cats instead of one.

Oh, and there is nothing wrong with craigslist, you should try to let that go. It is just another tool to connect you with people who are looking. Use it.
posted by quarterframer at 10:06 AM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: Cute names are really important. Avoid names like "Kitty", or any other local language's version of that. Black cats do well named Jellybean, for some reason, and Licorice or Jujube are good names when you have several at once: I have found that single-syllable names or names which are easy to turn into nicknames work well. Avoid things like Princess, Simba, Garfield, Tiger, Chanel.

Pop culture names also work well. Choose your pop culture appropriately. Black cats with extra long teeth always end up named Edward (and get adopted here). Local sports names are good for active cats.

The biggest trick with cat photos is to take a lot. Write a detailed description of him for petfinder. I have been told that writing it from the POV of the cat is more appealing.

Facebook, yes, Craigslist, and your local livejournal community are all good. Make a throwaway email address for this.
posted by jeather at 10:19 AM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

He's not skittish, he's 'elitist'. He doesn't hate the noise, he 'prefers his quiet'. Most people who have cats realize that they see us as their minions, maybe you can play up that angle. But be honest, you don't want him back in the shelter.

As for pictures: paw pads are adorable, tummys beg to be rubbed, and heads cocked to the side always invoke the 'awwww'. I also think you should try to get pictures of him sleeping on or cuddling with you guys. That way people can see that he is affectionate. Get pictures that show his size in comparison. If he is asleep next to one of your shoes for example, so people can see how small he is.

I think the video should show him in lots of different actions. Playing but not attacking things, sleeping, and especially cuddling.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:57 AM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: I spent a long time fostering litters of tiny kittens, which tend to get snapped up pretty quickly regardless of how bad a photographer I am. However, I did learn a few things that might be useful:

- Close-up shots of fuzzy kitten faces go over well ("Look into those sweet eyes! Don't you want to kiss that nose?!")
- Conversely, wider shots of kitties next to much larger objects also get results ("That kitty could FIT IN MY SHOE!")
- Videos of kittens or cats falling asleep are adorable and tricksy ("Look how relaxed that cat is!")
- Anything totally undignified helps, like videos of the cat falling over or failing to jump up on a high surface
- Cats run around a lot, and are not the easiest creatures to take pictures of. The approach of Take Several Hundred Photos and See What Looks Cute Later yields excellent results, if you have the patience for it.

I absolutely agree with several of the posters above who recommend outlandish foster kitten names. I eventually started theme-naming the litters I fostered, and it really helped them stand out at adoption fairs. The Meat Kittens (Roast Beef, Brisket, Porterhouse, and Pork Chop) and the Muppet Kittens (Bunsen, Beaker, Statler, and Waldorf) generated the most inquiries for adoption once their names appeared on petfinder.

Speaking of which: can you list your foster on petfinder? Most rescue groups and shelters will help you with this, and it's a good bridge step between Facebook and craigslist.
posted by ausdemfenster at 1:25 PM on January 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

As far as getting the word out, just start mentioning it to everyone you talk to. I got my cat from a woman fostering kittens who had a kid that went to school with a kid my friend was nannying. Seriously.
posted by grapesaresour at 3:35 PM on January 6, 2010

Follow-up: Gus was adopted this morning by a very nice lady, thanks to the video we took and the advice given in this thread. Thanks!
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:43 PM on January 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

posted by moira at 8:46 PM on January 9, 2010

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