In nearly four years, I have helped over 100 foster kittens and mama cats. All were rescues and found their way to the shelter in various ways: abandoned, neighborhood strays, hoarder rescues, ferals… Fostering provides them with a temporary home while while they grow big and strong enough to be adopted into loving homes.
All of these sweeties hold a special place in my heart, but I’ll share the stories of several litters to show the different ways foster kittens find their way to shelters and fostering programs.
My first foster kittens were four siblings who were nearly two pounds already when they arrived which means they were nearly adoption-size. I kept them for only two weeks while they grew just a bit more and they were the perfect introduction to fostering.
These kittens had been abandoned in a Wake Forest, North Carolina neighborhood and were named for the streets nearby – Harris, Chestnut, Oak, and Brewer. They were homeless, already weaned from their mother, and rescued by the shelter so they could live fabulous lives indoors. Without rescue and without being fixed, they would have already been reproducing within months and further contributing to cat overpopulation.
After fostering two families of older kittens for just two weeks each, my third set of siblings were in for the long haul. Sisley, Sofia, and Sparta were abandoned in a box at the shelter’s doorstep. They were my smallest foster kittens so far at under one pound each.
After nearly one month, I learned that the girls had been abandoned with a brother who was sent to a different foster parent to keep a sibling-less orphan company. Smitty had already grown enough to be neutered but had an eye condition, eyelid agenesis, that would require surgery so he needed more time in foster care. Sparta had the same eye condition and would need to stay longer as well.
The girls were spayed after they grew past two pounds. Sisley and Sofia were put up for adoption and found a forever home together! Sparta and Smitty stayed in my kitten foster room for nearly two more months awaiting their surgery. Following their recovery, they returned to the shelter and were adopted.
Transfers from Rural Shelters
Mama Silverbell and her six 2-day-old kittens were transferred to the shelter from a neighboring rural county. My more recent foster kittens have mostly arrived this way. Rural areas often do not have the resources and foster programming to care for kittens so Safe Haven saves them from being euthanized with their own fostering program.
The family arrived during the 2018 Winter Olympics and we were given the opportunity to name the kittens. The shelter will usually name the cats and kittens before they are sent to foster care, but I’ve had the chance to name several sets of siblings over the years and it’s honestly my boys’ favorite part of fostering! We named the six kittens after figure skating jumps: Axel, Lutz, Loop, Flip, Walley, and Salchow.
These kittens were SO tiny that the kitten room was too big for them. They took up residence in my bathtub for the first month. Again, it’s so important to have the support of your family when fostering since all four of us were sharing the only cat-less upstairs bathroom for an entire month!
Eventually they graduated to the kitten room and grew big and strong enough to be adopted. Appropriately, Silverbell was adopted the day before Mother’s Day while the kittens all went to loving homes, several as double adoptions together forever.
Socializing Feral Kittens
Sometimes kittens are big enough to be adopted, but still have wild, feral temperaments. It’s a foster parent’s job to socialize them and help them learn to trust humans. These are the most rewarding foster experiences as feral kittens often arrive with so much fear in their eyes and they will leave as cuddle bugs!
My first three ferals needed both growth and socialization. They had been trapped by a homeowner who had been feeding a stray mom for quite some time. Note: always contact an animal rescue in your area if there are neighborhood strays so she can be fixed!
These babies kept their distance for several days, but I would pet them while they were distracted at mealtime and they began trusting me from there.
By the end of the first week, I was able to briefly pet them while they weren’t eating and at the end of week two, they enjoyed lap pets. Within three weeks, they were friendly and ready for adoption!
Fostering Kittens During Hurricane Seasons
The pasta family remains the largest cat family I’ve fostered – Mom with seven kittens! Mama Spaghetti’s babies were Bucatini, Pappardelle, Capellini, Vermacelli, Ziti, Gnocci, and Fusilli. I don’t remember how they arrived at the shelter, but I DO remember they stayed with me far longer than expected while the shelter used their resources to save even more cats during the busy 2017 hurricane season.
Mama Spaghetti returned to the shelter first to be spayed and adopted. Then, the kittens were delayed when Hurricane Irma hit Florida and the shelter took in many cats displaced by the storm.
As shelter space became available again, three of the kittens left for their alterations (7 at once was too much for the clinic to handle!).
Shortly after, hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and Safe Haven again stepped in to help with over a dozen cats that were airlifted the mainland. The remaining four Pasta Kittens were with me for several more weeks.
Fostering the kittens and being able to care for them at home freed up shelter space so that many more kitties could be saved from natural disasters.
Homeless cats and kittens take many different paths to arrive at foster homes. Contact an animal rescue in your area if you have the space and would like to help!