Foster Initial Care Tips
**De-stress the cat or kitten**
*Place the cat/kitten in a warm, dark, and quiet room. This will be "his/her room" for the duration of their stay with you. If your kitten has a crate, feel free to put a sheet or towel over it for the first few days. This allows them to feel more secure.
*Give the kitten time to adjust. This may take ten minutes or a full week, depending on the animal's age and history.
*Monitor for signs of illness and correct any health problems that create added stress (upper respiratory infections, worms, fleas, etc.) Kittens will be wormed and given flea prevention before entering a foster home.
*Whenever possible, place cats/kittens together with known siblings or "friends" from the same site.
*Create consistent, positive associations with you as the caretaker
*Keep up quiet, gentle kitty-talk while you are working with the new kitten.
*Feed on a regular schedule (2-3 times per day), and remain in the room, as close as possible to the cat/kitten while she eats.
*Gradually introduce touching, at first quickly and lightly, then increasing in duration and pressure until you can pet all over the kitten. If your kitten will not let you use a hand, try touching them first with a feather or a toy lightly until they settle. Once they seem comfortable with it, gradually replace it with your hand until they are comfortable with that.
*Gradually introduce play, reinforcing appropriate play behaviors and always keeping in control of the play situation. Always use a toy to play with the kitten, rather than your hand. You want to discourage kittens from scratching and biting your hands, even during play.
*After the kitten is comfortable being petted and played with, you can begin to pick her up, always supporting her with both hands. If the cat still seems to be uncomfortable, try making sure that all 4 of its paws have some surface supporting them (i.e. your hands, arms, or chest). Pick a time when she is relaxed, like after an exhausting play period or around naptime. Holding two kittens at one time who are used to each other can make them feel less stressed, not separated from the group.
*Practice gently touching the paws, ears, tail, and belly. This will make future trips to the vet less stressful.
*Always stop any play or petting just as you notice the kitten acting stressed and end with praise! (signs of stress include dilated pupils, hissing, seeking a hiding spot, or swatting away attention)
*Remember that your goal is to socialize kittens to people, not necessarily to each other.
After the cat is completely at ease being handled, played with, and cared for by you, gradually introduce the stresses of everyday life, providing hiding outlets for stress/fear reactions.
*Introduce typical house cleaning movements one at a time, stopping between motions to praise and pet the cat/kitten. (Oh how much fun we are having with the vacuum cleaner right now!)
*Gradually introduce new people; at first only passive, quiet presence. Allow the kitten to approach the stranger in her own time, and make sure the stranger pets gently and speaks quietly for reinforcement.
Once the cat/kitten is confident approaching strangers, you may introduce more abrupt or aggressive "pet the kitty" types.
Since these kittens are coming from an unsocialized environment, they should be kept indoors at all times, as they are fearful and might make a dash for it. They will be coming with their own litter box and scoop, which should be kept separate from any litter boxes belonging to already existing house cats. (Do not share a litter box scoop.)
Important: If anything happens to your cat/kitten in the middle of the night (illness, accident, escape, etc.) please contact BCR. Do not wait until morning!
Remember to always work confidently and quietly with the cat/kitten. They pick up on any anxiety you may have, and equally on your sincere desire to help them feel comfortable, secure, and happy in a new home.
Obviously, some kittens will progress more quickly, and half these tips won't apply. But since we focus so strongly on feral kittens, and some of them are such little fear filled nutter butters to start, they certainly can't hurt!
The Captain of Browncoat Cat is a self proclaimed crazy cat lady. Of course, we're all mad here...