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    • 06 Jun, 2022

    Everything you need to know about fostering kittens

    Have you ever thought about becoming a kitten foster carer? Fostering kittens (or any animal) is an incredibly rewarding experience, but with so much information out there, it can be hard to know where to start!

    We’re here to help and give you all the tips and tricks you need to know before you start your fostering journey. We interviewed Carolyn, one of our dedicated kitten foster carers, to get the inside scoop.  

    Q: What did you expect when you started fostering?

    A: We weren’t sure what to expect, but one thing we hadn’t expected was that within a few months of signing up, we’d be fostering a litter of kittens! We’ve been planning renovation works to our house for a while, which means we’ll have to move out for several months once we get them underway, and so aren’t yet able to commit to having our own cat. The flexibility of fostering an adult cat appealed to us. But, since my husband Charlie and I have both been working from home since lockdown, our lifestyle really suited rearing kittens too. Neither of us have owned cats as adults, but we both grew up with cats (and dogs) in our households.  

    Q: Where you nervous about taking on a mum with very young kittens?

    A: Yes, to start with, but it turned out to be easier than we thought. Lilibet is a fantastic mum and did a great job of looking after the kittens, so our job was mainly focused on looking after Lilibet so that she could do a good job of being a mum. The other key role we played was in socialising the kittens, which means handling them, playing with them, and getting them used to the sorts of stimuli that you’d typically find in the domestic environment, like the sound of the hoover, the radio, the hairdryer and so on.

    Q: How did this differ from fostering older cats/single cats?  

    In some ways it was easier than looking after a single cat, because kittens are great at entertaining each other. There’s definitely more washing up, though. 

    Q: What has been special about having a mum and kittens?

    A: It’s been a really special experience watching the kittens grow and seeing their personalities take shape. Edward is by far the boldest of the gang, whereas Victoria is playful and affectionate. George was extremely timid to start with, but we spent time playing with him on his own, and that brought him out of his shell a bit.

    Q: Do you think it will be tough to say goodbye?  

    A: I’m always in sobs when I bring a foster cat back to Mayhew for rehoming. It’s bittersweet, because even though you know they’ll be going to a great new home, they’ve become a part of your family and so it is hard to say goodbye. Fortunately, the kind people that have adopted the cats we’ve fostered have indulged us by sending us photos and updates! 

    Q: Did you have to adapt your home to take on the young feline family?

    A: We had to do a bit of adapting but not too much. We put Lilibet and her kittens in my office, so that I could keep an eye on them during the day. We used a wooden chest to block the doorway, so that Lilibet could easily come and go as she pleased, but it stopped the kittens from wandering off until they’d grown big enough to climb over the chest. We put the cardboard boxes from home deliveries to good use by setting up dens (with blankets) for the kittens to sleep in, and tunnels to hide and play in. 

    Q: How has Mayhew supported you when fostering?

    A: Mayhew’s team have been fantastic. We set up a WhatsApp group so that we could easily communicate, and share progress updates and photos, and they’ve been great in answering our questions and giving us ad hoc advice whenever we’ve needed it, too. You don’t need to worry about insurance costs or vets’ bills, since all of that is taken care of by Mayhew. It’s been really nice getting to know the team, and everyone’s so friendly that as a volunteer you feel part of the team too. 

    Q: What are your three top tips for fostering?  

     A:  My first tip would be to read the handbook. Mayhew’s cat fostering handbook is a very helpful resource that’s full of advice and tips. Frequently, a Google search yields contradictory advice, but the handbook cuts through all of that and tells you what you need to know. 

    Secondly – mix it up! We tried to give Lilibet and her kittens as much variety as we could, by giving them different foods to try, and different toys to play with and games to play, and different places to explore, since they are such naturally curious creatures. On one occasion, we thought we’d lost all of the kittens and, after 15 minutes of frantic searching, we found them asleep inside a desk drawer! They’d all climbed up the back of desk and found a way in, somehow. 

    My list tip would be to remember it’s not only about the kittens. If you’re fostering a queen and her kittens, it’s helpful to build a relationship with the mother cat first, so that she is calm and easy about you interacting with her kittens. We made sure we gave Lilibet lots of love and attention (and treats) so that she quickly came to trust us and soon adjusted into her new home. We also made sure she had somewhere she could go to get away from her kittens, whenever she needed a break. It’s easy to start overthinking things, but the best thing to do is to just relax and enjoy it! 

    We hope Carolyn’s insight into the world of kitten fostering has been helpful, and maybe even inspired you to become a foster carer!  

    At Mayhew, we’re always in need of foster carers, especially for kittens during the warmer months as the number of kittens who come through our doors rapidly increases. Our foster carers are a lifeline for our animals, they provide them with a safe and nurturing environment where they can take the first steps toward finding a forever home.

     

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