Fostering kittens and cats has risen in popularity during these unprecedented times, and many pet lovers are becoming fosters to help overcrowded animal shelters. Fostering a kitten can be a fun and exciting time, but it may also come with a learning curve.
Among the 43% of respondents to a Royal Canin survey who have fostered a pet, 6 in 10 have “foster failed” and permanently adopted the pet they were fostering. Most pet owners who responded also agree the first year of pet ownership is the most important, but 64% believe it is the most difficult, as well.
Whether you’re fostering or adopting a kitten, learn how to give your kitten proper care during her first weeks and months with you with this advice.
The new sights, sounds and smells in your home, and the separation from her mother, may make your kitten feel stressed. Keeping the environment calm and quiet can ease the transition.
When you arrive home, put the cat carrier in the room you’ve prepared for the kitten with the kitten still inside, allowing her to get acclimated before opening the door. Then allow the kitten to explore a closed-off area. Resist the urge to cuddle your kitten right away.
As your kitten gains confidence in its new surroundings, she will want to explore more. Make sure the environment is prepared with electrical wires and outlets covered; windows, balconies and stairs secured; and small or sharp objects put away so she can safely explore with your supervision. If there are possible hazards, a designated room with windows and plenty of social contact for the first few weeks may be better.
Creating a Safe Place
Kittens can tire easily. After a little exploration time, give your kitten access to a bed in a cozy, quiet place with access to water, food and a litter box. Turning out the light helps establish sleep patterns, but on the first night you might want to leave a night light on to help with the adjustment.
Provide somewhere quiet to eat. This should be somewhere your kitten feels secure, away from where you and any other pets eat. Cats don’t like to eat too near their litter boxes and should always have fresh water available.
As kittens grow rapidly, their digestive and immune systems develop slowly and they have specific nutritional needs that are different from adult cats. Any sudden changes in your kitten’s diet can cause digestive trouble, so for the first few days, keep the same feeding routine as the previous caretaker. You can slowly switch to a different routine, if you choose, and transition to kitten food suitable for the appropriate growth stage.
Your kitten should see a veterinarian as soon as possible. In addition to a general health check, your vet can help you create a vaccination schedule and give advice on deworming, nutrition and more. Always use a carrier to transport your kitten safely while in the car and into the vet’s office.
Gradually introducing your kitten to new experiences can help with socialization. New sounds can startle a kitten, so be ready to offer plenty of reassurance. You may also need to introduce new terrain like stairs or unfamiliar surfaces. Gentle play and careful handling can help your kitten become more comfortable with being touched.