Kittens 101
February 9, 2019 2:29 PM   Subscribe

Just came home from the SPCA with 3 foster kittens for a week... hope me, a complete noob.

They're 7-week old siblings, all boys, and I only need to take care of them for a week before returning them for adoption. I've set them up in the bathroom with the litter box, some kibble, a cardboard box and all their toys. They've played maniacally for the last 1.5 hours and are now back inside the carrier.

I was told to feed them 3x a day with kitten+baby food mixture, but I have no idea about anything else! Never had cats before although I've catsitted (adult cats) 1-2 days for friends before.

Litter (it's ?pine pellets): how do I know it's time to change it? How often for 3 kittens using 1 box? Do I scoop out only the poo or change everything every day? Wash the litter box?

Should I let them out of the bathroom? Only under monitoring, or when I'm home? Should I hide everything they can eat/break?

Any recommendations for toys to entertain them?

Any other things I should pay attention to?

Thanks so much!!
posted by monocot to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Don't worry about washing out the litter box unless it's obvious that it should be. Litter dust or whatever isn't that, so just scoop and toss.

For playthings pretty much anything you can imagine. FWIW, a ball of yarn isn't as entertaining as the media has made you believe. Fake news! Some people also call them dangerous, due to swallowing. I would get maybe a tennis/pingpong/golf ball or two and some paper bags and boxes. I wouldn't worry about fishing-pole toys at this age.

posted by rhizome at 2:52 PM on February 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Litter. I would get some non-clumping clay litter and put a layer of about 1-2" on top of the pine. It gets them used to more normal cat litter. Pine pellets break down into sawdust when peed on. Scoop out poops and change the whole box when the pine pellets have mostly broken down into sawdust.

Toys. A Cat Dancer for sure. An empty tissue box. Literally anything.

Fosters are supposed to socialize kittens and expose them to various situations so I would let them out into a bigger room and give them the run of your house when you're home. At first they need to get adjusted to being in a new place but expand their territory as they get bigger and more confident. Make sure their litter habits are rock solid before you give them full run of the place. Handle them a lot. Play with them with toys like a little piece of string or a feather. They'll seem pretty self-sufficient but the more you handle them and work with them the more they will become people cats.

That's your real job. To take tiny kitties, just learning to cat, and help them become confident, loving cats, ready for their forever homes.

Thanks for what you are doing. It may get a little stinky at times but it will give you hours of fun and happiness. Take lots of pictures. It will help with their later adoption. I'm an experienced foster so MeMail me if you have and questions or emergencies.
posted by irisclara at 2:53 PM on February 9, 2019 [9 favorites]

Best answer: When you start letting them out in the house you might want to get another litterbox or two to put in other rooms, depending on the size of your place. They may not be able to make it all the way back to the bathroom easily.
posted by lollusc at 3:54 PM on February 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you’re only caring for them for a week:

1. Scoop out the poo and don’t worry about changing the litter completely. Scoop daily since 3 cats will poop a lot, even small ones.

2. Give them fresh water every day, and don’t let wet food sit out overnight, basically what you would do for your own food. If the food’s been out and available all day, give them a fresh portion in the evening.

3. Sure, let them out of the bathroom while you’re home and paying attention.

4. Absolutely put away anything you care about. Make a point to hide any rubber bands, hair ties, charging cables, earbuds, drape pulls, bags with handles, and raise your blinds/open your curtains so the cats aren’t (as) tempted to use them for a climbing wall. Tuck the cords up over your head so they can’t reach them. They will spill your water into your keyboard and try to eat your pizza and run around like little Tasmanian devils, so basically if you don’t want it wrecked or knocked over, put it way out of reach, like in a drawer. Dishes go in the dishwasher, trash in the trash can with the lid shut, earbuds get zipped shut into a backpack pocket. Don’t just tidy your stuff into a place you think the kittens won’t find or get into, because they will.

As long as you keep an eye on them while they’re roaming the house, and as long as you’re putting them in the bathroom at night where their opportunity for mayhem is minimal, you should be fine.
posted by Autumnheart at 4:12 PM on February 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: As for toys, when my “kittens” actually were kittens (I adopted a litter of 3 strays when they were 5 weeks old), their favorite toys were paper balls made of receipt tape, and ice cubes (kitchen floor ice hockey). Cats will play with almost anything, so don’t feel like you have to go buy special toys just for this week. Although if you really want to laugh your ass off and/or be a YouTube sensation, buy a laser pointer and record the ensuing stampede.
posted by Autumnheart at 4:17 PM on February 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Welcome to the wonderful world of kitten fostering! You will have so much fun and learn so much :) The best resource I can recommend is Kitten Lady's youtube channel. It has helped me a lot.

Kitten Lady
posted by augustinetill at 4:23 PM on February 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Be very careful where you step. Kittens have a bad habit of darting under your feet, and one misstep can be fatal. I know of what I speak.
posted by alex1965 at 4:34 PM on February 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Be very careful where you step.
Yes, very true. On a similar note, if you are keeping them in a bathroom, PLEASE keep the toilet set lid down. Kittens are expert climbers and if they fall off a counter, you do not want them to land in water.
posted by augustinetill at 5:07 PM on February 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: When I had kittens, they often wanted to be up at night. I had a wool cloak and would sleep on the couch with it, after our 3:00 a.m. kitten adventures, and would often wake up with very hot with a kitten collar (aka kitten snuggled into my neck). Kittens love soft snuggly wool.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:18 PM on February 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'd recommend getting a litter box with a lid :-) My first kitten experience, I was very surprised at finding little crumblies of litter.. all over my house.
posted by mermily at 5:43 PM on February 9, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks all, advice duly noted - we've played with them in the living room, fed them dinner and they're still super energetic. There's a vent that I definitely need to block off with cardboard/tape as they crawled inside and we had to lure them out with food. I'm going to the pet shop tomorrow and will probably overspend there... planning on fostering more kittens this year so I'll think of it as investment!

Am keeping a close eye on them while they're out, and will watch where we step carefully.

Kitten tax
posted by monocot at 5:49 PM on February 9, 2019 [6 favorites]

Best answer: (Just a tiny point. If you can video them, that can be really helpful in getting them adopted out as well.)
posted by MountainDaisy at 6:23 PM on February 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: So cute!

In addition to the advice above, just hang out with them, letting them come to you or ignore you as they see fit. You want to get them accustomed to human beings simply being around.

You may want to consider repositioning/anchoring lighweight or tall, narrow pieces of furniture, as you'd be surprised what rambunctious kittens can knock over. (About two decades ago, I came home to discover that my then-kittens had knocked over a bookcase. With books in it. How, I don't know.)

Hide the houseplants.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:10 PM on February 9, 2019

Best answer: Touch their feet a lot. Softly rub a finger back and forth on the pads and beans of all of their feet. Gently press down on the tops of their feet while holding the pads so that their needle-like claws emerge. Do this a lot and whoever adopts them will owe you a debt that can never be repaid. Once cats are used to having their feet touched constantly, clipping their claws is no longer a chore.

Other than that, play with them, make sure the food and water is fresh, over-childproof your home, and enjoy the heck out of them.
posted by tzikeh at 7:23 PM on February 9, 2019 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Supervise them closely when they're out of the bathroom, for safety and to avoid spending a long, long time looking for them when playtime is over.
posted by delight at 7:49 PM on February 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You may already know this, but the first rule of kitten club is hands are not toys. Don't use your hands to play with them, don't let anyone else use their hands to play with them, don't roughhouse with them, even gently. It teaches them that it's okay to use their claws and teeth on you. It's cute when they're small, but it's not cute when they get bigger and stronger. This age is when they start learning to be gentle with their claws and teeth. Whoever adopts them will need to keep teaching them, but you can make some progress in their manners or at least not give them bad habits. Teach your kitten to play nice.

Enjoy your kittens!
posted by swerve at 3:45 PM on February 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

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