Long time cat lover; first time cat foster parent - help us ace this!
April 26, 2018 4:33 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I have opted to do our part in for unhomed cats by fostering them. We passed the inspection test and our first foster cat arrives tonight. Cat fosters of AskMe, what are your best practices?

Other details that might help:

* We have a permanent cat who is very very snuggly and selfish.

* There is a separate room for the foster kitty.

* I work p/t and my husband works f/t.

* We are doing this to not only help out but to gauge if one day we might be able to add another cat to our home. (We're still stinging from losing two of our cats in 2016/2017, so even me, the passionate cat lover, is not ready to commit to finding another permanent resident.)

So essentially, we want to do the best we can to make sure the new little guy coming tonight will be taken care of, will be socialized, and will hopefully find his forever home with a lovely family. If you have done this--and I know a lot of you have--help us to be the best cat foster parents we can be to a potentially rotating roster of cats.
posted by Kitteh to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
We always found it beneficial to just *be* in the room where the foster kitty was; not really doing anything, maybe just reading or futzing around on a phone/tablet. Just being present for the kitty as much as possible. We'd take shifts, too, to minimize the "neglect" of the resident kitty, and to get the foster kitty used to different people.

Also, don't be surprised if you end up having to keep foster and resident apart for a LOT longer than you initially thought. Some kitties take no time at all to get used to each other and some kitties take forEVER. Just be patient.

You're awesome for doing this!!
posted by cooker girl at 5:28 AM on April 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Does the foster cat have feline upper respiratory infection or anything else contagious? Merely keeping them separate is not enough to prevent passing some things along. You may need to change clothes and shower between contact with cats.

Also, lots of cat fosters fail, as in they never leave. So, be prepared for that to maybe happen. In the meantime, start the felliway in the room where resident kitty will be and the room where temporary kitty will be.
posted by bilabial at 5:34 AM on April 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

We are definitely planning on Feliway-ing it up in the house!
posted by Kitteh at 6:16 AM on April 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

My biggest insight from fostering -- other than clicker training, which is _so_ _fun_ and so bonding and so good for kitties you should definitely look into it -- is something that surprised me about how to put them at ease:

Be in the room with them, but not looking _at_ them. This gives them a chance to observe you without all the instinctive fear that comes from having a predator (you, giant hairless carnivorous ape) staring at them. Reading, working on the computer, and especially talking softly (maybe on the phone). Making some kind of regular un-stressed noise seems to help also (predators tend to be silent). Just hang out in there, for hours, in a place that lets you be seen from safety.
posted by amtho at 6:25 AM on April 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

As someone who adopted this 8 year old lovely boy from shelter volunteers who had fostered him for several months, I can give you my perspective. It was so very helpful to have detailed information from the foster parents - what he likes to eat, how much, what kitty litter he likes and doesn't like, what his little quirks and habits are, when he tends to have his zoomies, that he prefers scratching posts that lets him stretch out, etc. So when your kitty is ready to go to his new home, what a gift it would be to have a prepared dossier on him with all this info in hand. Thank you for doing this.
posted by HeyAllie at 6:38 AM on April 26, 2018 [5 favorites]

On the other hand, don’t worry if you DON’T foster fail! My husband and I have fostered a few kitties before and have failed and not failed in roughly equal parts. In all cases, we just knew when a kitty was ours or not ours. It doesn’t make you a bad foster, nor does it mean you’re not ready for a second permanent resident, if you don’t make a love connection with each foster kitty.
posted by jesourie at 6:55 AM on April 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have fostered several cats (and one kitten!) over the years, and second the suggestion to pull the "spending time with cat & yet basically ignoring cat" routine in the very beginning. I have used this for all my fosters except for the first (which I used the second approach) and it seems to be very beneficial in letting them get used to their surroundings and new people on their own terms.
posted by Thirty7Degrees at 10:18 AM on April 26, 2018

You likely already know this, but I’d make sure the room the foster cat will be in doesn’t have any places where the cat can escape into or get stuck (e.g. a way to get into the wall or a vent) but does have plenty of hiding spots, ideally places where the cat can hide but still watch you.
posted by insectosaurus at 11:39 AM on April 26, 2018

I've fostered about 6 cats now and I love it! I hope you have a wonderful time doing it as well.

I would recommend being ready to keep the foster cat in their room maybe longer than you would expect and being ready to put them back if they are showing signs of stress (e. g. peeing outside of litter box, panic/hiding, etc). I avoided it at first thinking it was cruel, but it seems cats really are more comfortable with a small space that is their own. I usually tried to announce my entry before going into their room, just by calling out or knocking on the door. Nthing just getting a book or tablet and hanging out without looking at them as a way of acclimating them.

We also got a cheap WiFi-enabled home security cam type thing so I could keep an eye on our foster(s) while at work, just to see if they were feeling brave enough to leave the carrier, whether they were scratching the post or I needed to try a new type, etc. And also for cute kitty cam streaming :)

Socialization-wise, it will help to get as many different kinds of people meeting the cat as possible - I've had cats that were initially scared of deep voices only, e.g., so it helped to gradually increase their exposure.

I'm so glad you're doing this! One of the best parts of fostering is getting exposure to all sorts of different cat personalities, so even if the first foster doesn't make you want to add them to your household, you may come across one eventually!
posted by daelin at 2:01 AM on April 27, 2018

Hi everyone! An update: the foster kitty--Opie--was very shy for the first few days, but now he's going bonkers with wanting attention and love now. If you would like to see him, please go to my profile and head to my Instagram feed. He's pretty dang cute.

Thank you for all your help and suggestions! Here's hoping he finds his forever home soon after his time with us.
posted by Kitteh at 3:52 AM on May 1, 2018

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