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Fostering Queens and Kittens
Due to unseasonably warmer weather in the Pacific Northwest in 2006, kittens were dropped off at shelters all year. At a local shelter, a plea went out in several papers for foster homes for pregnant cats, and small kittens requiring round-the-clock care. One no-kill shelter filled to the brim with cats, in desperation, passed a policy which caused a ripple effect in surrounding counties; they were only going to accept cats and kittens from their county. But still the flood of kittens continued. There seemed to be a shortage of foster families along with people unwilling or unable to spay and neuter their cats.
“I can’t spay my female cat,” one lady told me. “My grandchildren love to play with the newborn kittens!”
“Why should I neuter my male?” relayed a gentleman. “He deserves to have fun at his age.”
This type of attitude, prevalent in most areas is why there is such a proliferation of kittens in shelters and with rescue groups every year.
It takes a certain type of person to foster kittens. Kittens who easily captivate with their wide-innocent eyes, energy and cuteness. When it comes time to let them go into another home, many find they can’t deal with the idea of the loss. Even by telling yourself; “this kitten is going to a responsible home,” doesn’t always ease the sting of saying goodbye.
Shelters around the United States, eagerly accept foster families. From May to October, they become overwhelmed with owner-surrenders of pregnant cats and unwanted or abandoned kittens. The goal of these shelters is to ultimately stop unnecessary euthanization due to crowded living conditions. Therefore, foster families are always in high demand.
Before you bring home a foster cat or kitten(s) prepare the house for their arrival.
The Queen’s Room
Keep the lights in the room low; be sure there are several litter pans, food bowls and fresh water available. If you have other pets, be sure the room can be secured from any invasion of the resident pets. A person who has an intact male cat in their home should never agree to foster a pregnant mom or kittens. The male could attack the kittens, or try to mate with the female.
Have in the room beforehand, extra rags, litter, litter scoops, food and water.
Queens stay pregnant from 58-71 days. With a stray, you have no knowledge when the mating occurred. Still, to increase her chances of a successful delivery, feed her a nutritional high-quality food immediately and add some Kitten Chow to each meal.
Most queens give birth quickly and easily. But sometimes, problems can occur. For a stray cat, her experience at mating outdoors was done when she is most vulnerable; when she is in heat. Several tomcats could mate with her during this time frame. This uncontrolled mating can result in sickly kittens or problems while birthing.
Talk to your vet before the delivery. He will instruct you on what you may need to do to help the queen if the birthing becomes difficult. If you are squeamish, be sure and have a steady friend nearby to lend a hand.
Labor signs vary with each queen. She can become restless, start rolling around the floor, or stop eating for 24 hours. She may root around the nesting box, become very vocal or just very quiet till the contractions begin. Kittens show in the birth canal, head first. Before the head shows, you will see a round bloody bubble announcing the impending birth. Be sure you talk to your vet about the possibility of breach births and how to properly dispose of still-born kittens.
If you are fostering kittens with no mother, www.kitten-rescue.com is a website you should bookmark. Kitten-rescue will take you step-by- step through the processes of bottle feeding, stimulating, and ultimately raising a happy, healthy kitten.
If your kitten is going to have the run of your home, kitten-proofing is essential. http://www.felinexpress.com/kitten-care/kitten-proof.asp
Depending on the shelter and their policies fosters come with vet care, spay or neuter certificates, litter, food, and other supplies. Some of the larger shelters require that you attend orientation programs prior to fostering, so you know what to expect. There are application forms to fill out and a long interview process. Generally, you don’t foster overnight unless you are highly qualified, as the shelters use a screening process to find just the right candidates.
To be a responsible foster parent requires commitment, taking the time required to care for a pregnant female or a litter of abandoned kittens. Resolve beforehand that you will NOT keep every kitten you foster.
Author of Kittens for Dummies, and a foster mother herself, Dusty Rainbolt once cautioned me; “If you take in any kittens to foster DON’T name them! Once you name the kittens, you may as well admit it, they are yours for life.” Unfortunately, she warned me after I named my new fosters, five tuxedo kitties, who still live with us today. Dusty suggests numbering the kittens, or referring to them by color or patterned coat. I second her recommendation!