So, aside from providing a safe room for foster kittens to grow, what exactly does a kitten foster parent do all day? What does a day in the life of a foster kitten parent look like? What exactly do you do on a daily basis?
Daily tasks might look different for each kitten foster parent. Neonatal orphan kittens require bottle feeding every two hours around the clock. On the opposite end of the spectrum, kittens around 8 to 10 weeks old are pretty self-sufficient and require just a few plates of food prepared throughout the day and playtime.
I never had time to devote to bottle feeders so I only took older kittens or any age if Mom is still with the kittens. Here’s what an average day for me looked like as a kitten foster parent.
Feeding Foster Kittens
Each day begins by giving the the kittens fresh plates of canned kitten food, refill a bowl of dry kibble, and replenish water bowls. The kittens will be fed two or three more times during the day depending on their age. Like human babies, kittens eat less but more frequently when they are younger, and grow to eat larger amounts less often.
Preparing food and doing the dishes … some parts of kitten fostering aren’t that different from parenting little humans!
Cleaning Litter Boxes & More!
The litter boxes get scooped twice a day or more often if necessary. They DO share my office, after all, so lots of emergency scooping often happens to make for a more pleasant work environment! There are as many as five litter boxes in the room when kittens are litter box training and as few as two once they’ve gotten the hang of it. My kitten room is small, but it’s always a good idea for kittens to always have a litter box within sight no matter where they are so they don’t forget where to go with it’s … time!
Something that most kitten foster parents aren’t always prepared for is the amount of time spent cleaning. Kittens are MESSY! The length of time required for room clean up daily always depends on the age of the kittens.
While kittens are still around 4 weeks old and younger, they will exclusively nurse on Mom and she takes care of all the pottying. Fostering moms with kittens is really easy from a cleaning standpoint.
Once kittens start eating solid foods, all bets are off! This is the messiest phase in a foster kitten’s young life. They don’t make it to the litter box more often than not. Remember that easy-to-clean laminate flooring? Yep, comes in really handy here!
Kittens new to the solid food scene often stand IN their food dish … and then proceed to walk around the entire room with wet meat feet.
Wiping the floor is usually a daily task and during the messy phase and it’s not uncommon to run a load of laundry full of soiled towels and blankets daily. Even during “clean” kitten phases, the floor still becomes a mess with stray litter and kibble so I usually sweep daily.
As for the kittens themselves, Mom will clean them if she’s around but orphans often need some attention with a warm washcloth. Full baths are not recommended since kittens can’t regulate their body temperature.
Keeping Them Healthy
The shelter wants to make sure their kittens are staying healthy and one of the best ways to track kitten health is simply to weigh them daily. I weigh the kittens every evening using a bowl on a food scale to make sure their growth stays on track.
Occasionally, I administer oral medication with a syringe when prescribed by the vet if the kittens get sick, but all injections are given by the vet at the shelter’s clinic.
Every two weeks, I bring the kittens back to the shelter clinic for checkups and immunizations. These are quick visits that barely take more than a half hour including driving time.
Socializing Feral Kittens
Feral kittens, those that are fearful from not growing up around humans, require more attention so that they warm up to humans. We do daily forced cuddling until they’ve lost most of their fear.
Working with feral kittens is both the most challenging and the most rewarding part of fostering, in my experience. Gaining a feral kitten’s trust is a slow process and it always breaks my heart when they arrive and look at me with such fear in their eyes. When I see their names on Safe Haven’s weekly list of adopted cats, it’s the greatest reward as a foster mom!
Preparing Them for Adoption
Even friendly kittens need a little “charm school” so they are ready to be adopted when they graduate from fostering. This means daily cuddling and playtime.
I also trim their tiny needle claws. Not only do I need this to prevent scratches, but starting the trimming habit early means they’ll be used to humans fidgeting with their paws and they’ll be more willing to let their forever human continue the paw manicures.
Sharing the Cuteness
I also take pictures and videos … a LOT! I try to post on my foster kitten Instagram account, @RaleighKittens, at least once a day. I love sharing the cuteness that inhabits my kitten foster room, spreading the word about fostering, and bringing joy to others by sharing a funny video or cute photo.
And that’s it! Fostering kittens requires a small but consistent amount of time. Hopefully this will help you decided if there’s enough time in your day to care for your own foster kittens!