Every spring, thousands of stray and feral cats around the globe are birthing litters of kittens in neighborhoods, countrysides, and cities. The birth rate is staggering, and many shelters and rescues are overwhelmed with the number of kittens coming in.
Most organizations rely on foster parents to step in and help out by giving these tiny, little creatures a shot at life.
CatTime got the chance to interview high schooler and kitten foster mom, Mary, and she shed some light on what it’s like to foster kittens in the big city of Los Angeles.
How Does Someone Become A Foster Kitten Mom?
JULIA: How did you learn about kitten raising? Is there any specific term for it like “kitten raising,” or do you just call it fostering kittens?
MARY: We just call it fostering kittens. I’ve always kind of known about fostering animals, but it was in 2012 when my mom brought up fostering kittens, and it was that same year that we fostered our first set of kittens. After that set, we took a break and began fostering again in 2017 and have done so consistently since then.
JULIA: What’s the name of the organization that you work with? And how did they help to prepare you for this?
MARY: We foster with the ASPCA. They are very supportive and will provide us with any materials we may need. Since we’ve fostered so many times, we have most items, but they’ll give us food, litter, toys, and any other supplies for the kittens.
JULIA: How do kittens come into the ASPCA?
MARY: Kittens are usually found by the public and turned in, or a pregnant mom will come into the shelter.
Usually moms don’t abandon litters, but sometime when people see kittens, they scare off the mom, making people think they’re abandoned. Moms will also sometimes die and leave a litter that’s later found and turned into the shelter.
What’s It Like To Foster Kittens?
JULIA: How old were the youngest kittens you’ve had in your care?
MARY: The youngest kittens we fostered were three weeks old.
JULIA: Did the kittens wake you in the middle of the night for feedings?
MARY: Bottle babies [the term for kittens who still drink milk] are usually the kittens who require middle of the night feeds. Once kittens eat solids, they eat during the day exclusively. The bottle babies need more care and feedings because they’re younger and eating more frequently.
JULIA: How many times have you fostered kittens?
MARY: We’ve fostered ten sets of kittens, which was 28 total kittens that we’ve taken care of.
JULIA: Living in California with so much sunshine, is this strictly a spring time gig? Or does it happen year round?
MARY: You can foster kittens year round, but we tend to foster in the spring time because that’s when kitten season is. Kitten season is around spring time when a huge amount of kittens are born and flood the shelter system.
What Are The Challenges And Rewards Of Fostering Kittens?
JULIA: What are some of the challenges that come with fostering kittens?
MARY: The most challenging part about fostering kittens is when they’re sick. They require a lot more care and clean up when they’re sick.
There also is an added pressure because these kittens are fragile and can take a turn for the worse at any moment, so they need to be monitored closely, especially when sick.
JULIA: What if I want to foster kittens, but I have a dog?
MARY: I have two dogs myself, and I’ve never had a problem. People know their own dogs, so make sure your dogs wouldn’t hurt the kittens.
I never leave the dogs and kittens alone together. I also have a separate room where I keep the kittens, and I’ve had litters that have never had any contact with my dogs, so there’s also that option. Just be mindful of the safety of your dog and the kittens.
JULIA: What’s the most rewarding part about fostering kittens?
MARY: The most rewarding part about fostering is being able to see the kittens grow and flourish into their own personalities.
They come to me scared and unfamiliar with kind humans, and I love seeing them get comfortable and seeing them grow into cats. All the kittens I’ve fostered have such personalities, and I love getting to see each of their unique quirks and traits.
JULIA: You mentioned that you may be getting some kittens in the next few weeks. Are there any new safety measures because of the coronavirus pandemic?
MARY: They’re changing the vaccination schedule, and we’re going to have [the kittens] longer because they’re trying to empty the shelters and put animals in foster homes.
Advice For Anyone Wanting To Foster Kittens
JULIA: What type of person would be a good candidate for fostering kittens?
MARY: Anybody who has the time, space, and love to care for kittens would be a good candidate. I strictly foster orphaned kittens, which need more care, but people who are busier can foster a mother cat and kittens. The mother cat does almost all the work.
Any person who wants to foster kittens and is ready to make that commitment should definitely do it.
JULIA: Do you have any advice for people who want to foster kittens?
MARY: Look around and see your options. There are many shelters around LA and in many areas around the country, so find one that fits you. The ASPCA sends our kittens via Lyft, so we don’t have to drive and get them, which is very convenient for us.
Also, don’t overload yourself, and know your limits. In our hearts, we want to take every kitten out of the shelters, but that isn’t realistic. Sign up to take the amount of kittens that fit your capacity. Sometimes we only take two kittens and sometimes four. It all depends on what we can handle at that time.
JULIA: Is it hard to give the kittens up when you’re done fostering?
MARY: It isn’t as hard as one would think to give them up. Every time I say goodbye, I give them a big kiss, wish them luck, and take a photo to remember them. I can’t keep them, but I know there’s someone out there who’s going to love them as much as I do.
Some goodbyes are harder than others. There have been some kittens who have been really hard to let go, specifically one kitten named Puck who holds a special place in my heart.
But he was one of the kittens we got the pleasure of knowing who adopted them, so we get pictures sometimes of our past fosters, which is always a great reminder of why I do this.
You Can Foster Kittens Too!
What rewarding work. And for the record, Mary is still in high school and already doing such amazing things for the animal world. I can’t wait to see what she’s doing five years from now!
Remember that the ASPCA is just one of many organizations that you can foster kittens through. So if you’d like to look into fostering kittens, see what shelters and rescues are in your area, and don’t forget to see what kind of assistance they offer for foster pet parents.
You can foster a mother cat who, as Mary mentioned, will do most of the work, or you can foster orphaned kittens who will depend on you for the bottle feedings and more.
Mary is kind of like the patron saint to animals because she recently shared with DogTime about her experience as a puppy raiser for Guide Dogs Of America. She helps raise puppies for blind and disabled people and is doing an awesome job in every area she tackles!
Thank you so much Mary, for sharing with CatTime about your amazing work!
Read about her volunteer puppy raising work for Guide Dogs of America.
Have you fostered kittens before? What did you like about it, and what did you find challenging? Let us know in the comments below!