8 reasons to foster kittens

It’s kitten season and while that may sound adorable, for many shelters and rescue groups across the country it’s the season that poses the biggest challenges. That’s because newborn kittens require special around-the-clock care if they’re to grow up healthy and strong. This time of year, there isn’t enough space for all the kittens brought to shelters, and staff must find a way to save them. Otherwise, their lives, which have just begun, remain at risk.

That’s where foster volunteers come in. With their help, more kittens can be saved; but without their help, newborn kittens in shelters face the very real possibility of not finding a home.

If you ask kitten fosters why they volunteer to wake up at all hours to bottle-feed baby kittens or let them tear through the house with wild enthusiasm, they’ll tell you how rewarding it is to hold a tiny kitten and know you’re making it possible for them to have the life they deserve. Not to mention, it’s also a lot of fun.

Considering fostering kittens? Below are some of our favorite reasons to open your home to some of the youngest, most at-risk pets in shelters.

Foster homes for healthier kittens

Neonatal kittens are particularly vulnerable in shelters for a number of reasons. For starters, their immune systems have not yet fully developed, which makes them susceptible to illness. And if they’re without mom, they must be bottle-fed.

Additionally, newborn kittens can’t regulate their body temperatures, so careful attention to make sure they stay warm is necessary. Foster homes give kittens the chance they need to stay healthy, fed and loved.

Tiny calico kitten being bottlefed

Kitten fostering: A lot of fun

As a foster parent to newborn kittens, you may find yourself making excuses to stay home on a Saturday night. When kittens are just wee babies, they’ll do adorable things like wiggling their ears as they latch onto the bottle. Even the way they yawn will make your heart skip a beat. Then, as they grow stronger, they’ll happily wobble as they learn to walk. You won’t want to miss this.

If you’re fostering older kitties, once they’ve exhausted themselves from playing with everything (and we really mean everything), they’ll cuddle up on your chest, purr until they fall asleep and make you glad you stayed in.

Three kittens playing with a feather in and around a cardboard box

Inspiration to never give up

When kittens try to jump up on the couch and miss by a longshot, they’ll just pick themselves and try again. To kittens, falling doesn’t mean they’ve failed. It just means they’ve got another opportunity to try again — and again.

Fostering = good exercise

Go ahead and skip the gym, because these babies will make you move. Kittens grow up fast. One day they’re learning how to walk and the next, they’re gleefully somersaulting down hallways. When feeding time comes, you may just have to catch them.

What is kitten season?

Smiling woman holding a pair of kittens, including a Siamese mix one

Teaching baby kittens

Kittens are fast learners. It’s incredibly rewarding to know you’ve helped them reach important milestones, whether it’s graduating from a bottle to gruel or learning how the litter box works. In a foster home, kittens can learn things — like how 4 a.m. is not the best time to jump on somebody’s chest, that curtains are off limits for climbing, and that couches aren’t scratching posts.

Kitten love on social media

Sure, photos and videos of your kittens will make great Facebook and Instagram posts, but they also may inspire others to step up to foster kittens. And sometimes, those social media posts can lead to an adoption.

Man lying on a bed working on the computer with a foster kitten sitting on his chest

Fostering a mama cat and kittens

Mother cats are sometimes brought to shelters with their nursing babies, and they need help, too. Shelters can be bustling, loud places that aren’t ideal for moms busy caring for their newborns. The best place for a nursing mom cat with her kittens is a foster home where she has a quiet space and the support needed to keep herself and her babies healthy.

Help from other pets

At first, it’s best to keep foster kitties separate from your pets, but if you eventually decide to introduce everyone, you may learn that your pets are eager to be foster parents, too. Who better to show kittens the ropes than an adult cat? And many dogs love to play (supervised, of course) and protect their little houseguests.

Malamute dog on a bed with two foster kittens

Should you foster kittens?

It’s important to note that many shelters provide kitten food and the other necessities for kitten care. And you may be able to choose how long you want to foster. Sometimes kittens need only a few days in a home until they are ready to be spayed or neutered and adopted. It’s rewarding and fun to foster kittens. Now the question is: When can you start?

Sign up to foster kittens near you

Photos by Sarah Ause Kichas, Robert Stoetzel, Molly Wald and Jill Williams