Newborn kittens are small, delicate and beautiful. They are also vulnerable and helpless, even more when they are orphans. Providing foster care for kittens is a very serious decision and a big responsibility, although a very rewarding experience. Fostering is not only providing them with food a roof over their heads. It takes commitment, compassion, energy, ongoing education, expenses and sometimes sorrow.
In the United States, many shelters have established kitten foster programs in an effort to provide extra care for the newborn kittens. These shelters are already overcrowded due to the fact that there are owners who fail to spay and neuter their pets. Moreover, during kitten season, older cats already living in shelters suffer from the influx of kittens because these little ones get most of the potential adopters' attention. Most shelters welcome volunteers who are eager to give a hand in fostering kittens. They are dedicated people who provide a temporary safe and nurturing place to kittens who will later be adopted or might even become your own pets. I am one of those volunteers, and I love the feeling of being able to give my time, commitment and love to such wonderful creatures.
I did not know much about how to take care of cats. I never thought I would be the owner of a pet. In November of 2007, a 4 years old cat came to my life. What to do? The poor cat was outside the house, alone, and it was cold already. After 3-4 days leaving some food outside for him and waiting for an owner to come by to get him, I started reading everything about cats; I took him to a vet, and gave him a home which was his palace. Shadow (his name) was a Russian Blue cat that came to my life in a time I needed company the most and he was the most amazing, intelligent and adorable cat in the world. He was just like me; he liked his space, knew how to get what he wanted, and had a lot of pride. Having this cat before I started fostering was an opportunity for me to observe and learn. I realize now how much I really like cats. In 2014 Shadow passed away, he was acting different, He always came near me for me to pet his head as he always liked to do. He left to another room for 45 minutes I called him for his snack, but he did not respond. I found him under a rocking-chair. I tried to revive him, but no improvement. My heart hurt so much. But I did what I could.
Setting up for the newborn kitten(s)
The most desirable way to begin fostering would be contacting an animal shelter and or a rescue group and sign up. Each group has its own policies and guidelines. They should provide you with training or training and detailed instructions on the fostering process. There are times were the situation is that homeless kittens are found with or without a mother. This is when a decision has to be made; Do you call a shelter? Should you take care of the kittens and the mother? If the mother leaves, would you take care of them?
Whatever the case, you might want to consider the following:
- Fostering will change your daily routine. Having a kitten in your household means managing your time providing 24/7, especially when they are 4 weeks old or younger.
- Kittens should be taken away from their mothers after the 5-6 weeks of age. But, if the case is that you have to care for newborn kittens, remember that they are very fragile and susceptible to diseases and may not survive.
- Knowing the approximate age of kittens is imperative. Depending on how old they are you will be able to manage their care. Look for the general characteristics like the following ones:
Lilly and Diego (With me from Sept 13 - 17, 2009)
Kitten Development Timetable
Closed eyes/folded ears
Looses umbilical cord
Litter box use begins, ears straighten, crawling begins
Litter box training complete, starts eating wet kitten food
28 35 days
Kitten stands, weaning process begins, able to chew dry food, eyes become clear, ears stand fully upright
Critical socialization window
Deworm and vaccinate
Old enough for adoption
Her name is Precious. At first, she was a very sick kitten. By the 2nd week she was playing and running around.
Before fostering an orphan newborn kitten
Fostering a newborn kittens means having to do whatever their mother cat would do on: keeping they warm, feeding, and stimulating them to excrete on their own. Add to these, developing social skills the kitten needs at the time of adoption. There are certain tips to take into account before bringing that little one home:
Spare Room: Have a spare room that is warm, isolated from other pets and draft-free. Place a cat carrier big enough for building a nest on one half, and place a low litter box (dispensable low edge baking pan) in the other half of the carrier. Add to this a small stuffed animal for a sense of companionship. Newborn kittens are not able to balance their body temperature, due to this, it is important to keep them warm.
A kitten would not eat if it is cold. Maintain the temperature of the room between 85 to 90°F during their first week. Begin lowering 5°F every week until reaching 72°F. Use a tower or small blanket to build the nest and place a heat pad or warm plastic bottle wrapped in a towel. Make sure to place the heat objects in a way that the kitten can move away from it if needed. During the first two weeks the kitten would not be using the litter box.
Feeding & Stimulation of bladder and bowels/litter box training: Newborns or 2 to 3 weeks old kittens need to be fed with an eyedropper or a nursing bottle. Either way, let the kitten suckle the liquid at its own pace, otherwise, you might be filling up its lungs with the liquid and cause pneumonia. When kittens are too small to suckle, then and only then, you might stimulate them to suckle by massaging in circles the sides of their mouths with your fingers and moving the bottle's nipple inside their mouths. At the same time, squeeze the bottle just enough to let one or two drops out of it. At first, the feeding process takes a lot of patient, but most kittens will learn this if there is not an illness or condition involved. Kittens should gain about half an ounce a day or 4 ounces per week.
Newborn kittens should be fed with stomachs down, or in an upright position. Hold their head between your thumb and forefinger. A towel should be used loosely around their bodies or beneath them to allow them to cling. When kittens are already 3 weeks, they do not mind how they have their bottle; even, many will cling on their bottles. Special formula for kittens can be found at department stores (Walmart, K-Mart,etc.) and pet stores. Do not feed a cat with cow milk. Follow the feeding guides provided on the formula package.
Kittens need about 8 cc's of formula per ounce of body weight. When a kitten is full, you will see bubbles around its mouth and its stomach will be round. It is a good idea to burp the kitten placing it upright against your shoulder while patting and massaging his back. As a side note, It is funny to hear them burping.
- Keep a schedule of feeding 1 weeks old kittens every 2 hours; stimulate bladder/bowel before and after every feeding. In order to stimulate the kitten to urinate and have bowel movement, take a cotton ball or a piece of tissue and damp it in warm water. Stimulate the kitten's anus area and genital area gently by dabbing. Most times it will urinate and hopefully will have a bowel movement (at least once a day or every other day during the first week old).
- 2-3 weeks old: feed every 3 hour; stimulate bladder/bowel before and after every feeding.
- At the beginning of the 3rd week place a litter box (ex. low aluminum baking pan or shoe box open on one side. Keep stimulation on the box. After stimulation, place the kitten in the litter in order for it to get used to the scent and feel of the box.
- 4 weeks old: feed every divide in 5 feedings (4 of formula; 1 of can food). During this time you can begin introducing solid foods 4 times a day. First times, add 2 tablespoons of warm water or formula to 1 tablespoon of can food for kittens.
- The first two days of the 4th week you must use the tip of your fingers to open the kitten's mouth. Place a small amount of food in its mouth.
- During the following days of the 4th week, place small amounts of food on a lid or flat container 3-4 times a day.
- By this time, the kitten should be able to go to the litter box by itself.
- 5-7 weeks old: two feedings of formula and 3 feedings of solid can food or mix a little amount of warm formula or water with dry food.
Socialization and exercise: The beginning of the third week, although still vulnerable, kittens start moving more.
- If they have company, they will begin playing with each other.
- If it is only one kitten, you can begin interactive play with a bell ball, a feather or a string. Do not use your fingers as a toy because this will create bad habits.
- Pet the kittens and let them snuggle, they love this. Love , hold and talk to them softly.
- Not all kittens like to be affectionate; they do not need to be. Many people like cats who are independent.
Time to say goodbye: When kittens are eight weeks old they are ready to be adopted. At this time, they should be around 2 pounds.
- If kittens come from a shelter through a fostering program, take them back after reaching your goals. Include a brief written record or summary describing kittens' development, likes and dislikes, and habits.
- Remember that you were the mom or dad to that precious kitten. If you decide staying with it, make sure it is a conscious decision, not because you feel too attached to the kitten. Many of us, foster parents, can and will return kittens we have taken care of because we know where they are going, and that they will give and receive deserving love. You were the first parent and caregiver.
- Every time you know your kitten is adopted, you know you did good. Feel proud and get ready for other kittens in need of your care and love.
- Before, during and after fostering a kitten make sure to disinfect the room, toys and any other items. You can also boil those items you will be re-using for other kittens. Do not re-use bottle nipples.
- Saying goodbye to the little ones who have been with their foster mothers (fathers) for 2 months can be bittersweet, but you are sending them to homes where they will be loved and cared for.
A Story to Remember
Leo was saved to be happy
In my case, it was May 5, 2009 when I found a homeless mother with her 3 kittens (maybe 28 days old) in the back of the house. I observed that two of the kittens, although playing with their sibling, had problems walking, they were constantly falling over and their heads bobbling. They look out of balance. I later knew that what they probably had was a neurological condition called Cerebellar Hypoplasia, when the cerebellum (responsible for coordination and muscle movement) is underdeveloped.
I was suggested to call Animal control to come and "rescue" them. The mother and the two ones with the balance problems were taken to the local Animal Rescue League. Hours later, the Animal control lady came back with bad news; the mother and two kittens had to be euthanized. She immediately, set a cat trap for the kitten left. The next day he was in the trap. I transferred him to a large cage with water and some food and waited for the lady to come, but this time I made clear that I wanted the kitten back after was examined by a Vet. Few hours later, Little Leo was under my care.
Leo is currently living with an amazing family and receiving all the love and care he deserves.
If you cannot foster, but you want to help: Volunteer few hours a month at a shelter: you can also donate towels, food, toys, money, among other things. Believe me, donations help so much and are so needed. There are many other areas on fostering kittens I could cover and are not mentioned here. If you are interested on a specific topic, let me or other hubbers know or visit the hundreds of web pages filled with a lot of information.
Holly on March 11, 2016:
I raise bottle kittens for the local shelter and the most helpful things I've learned from my experience is to make sure the little ones have room to get off the heating pad (if they can't they could go blind or develop neurological disorders), the formula for feeding should be KMR liquid milk replacer until the kitten is about 4 weeks old, to determine how much the kitten should get each feeding take the kittens weight in ounces multiply that by seven and divide by the number of feedings in the day. More kittens die from overfeeding than underfeeding!
AnnaCia (author) on November 30, 2014:
Dear Flourish, you should be so proud of yourself. I do love what I do. Giving love and care for the little ones is one of the best qualities in a human being. Good job.
FlourishAnyway from USA on October 30, 2014:
I used to do this myself years ago when I did a lot of volunteer spay neuter and feral TNR outreach. There was nothing that made me happier than loving a kitten (or cat) and placing it into a wonder adoptive home. When I held those babies, I felt all was right with the world. Those who had severe medical issues and could not be appropriately adopted stayed with me, which is why I still have 8 cats. This was a great hub and showed your compassion and dedication. So sorry about the ones who passed away.
AnnaCia (author) on October 24, 2014:
Thank you very much.
Adrienne Farricelli on October 15, 2014:
So helpful! Will pass it on to a lady I know that is always trying to help these babies.
AnnaCia (author) on May 24, 2014:
Cat on a soapbox, I am so glad my hub has given you a little more information regarding orphan kittens. Whatever we could do for them is a blessing. Thank you very much for your comment.
Catherine Tally from Los Angeles on May 15, 2014:
I never realized how fragile kittens are, and how much mother cats naturally do to get them going in life. Your hub offers so much insight into the care of these precious creatures and shows what a patient and loving heart you have. I have always adored cats and have rescued many. Your info here broadens my perspective and gives me an even greater appreciation for them and their survival under harsh conditions. All the more reason to spay and neuter feral populations. Thank you!!!
AnnaCia (author) on March 31, 2014:
swilliams, thank you so much for visiting.
swilliams on March 07, 2014:
I love Kittens!!! So Beautiful Thanks for this article!
Raitu Disong on July 07, 2013:
You are most welcome Anna:)
AnnaCia (author) on July 07, 2013:
Thank you, Raitu
Raitu Disong on July 06, 2013:
aLex , chelsey, lily!
Very helpful. Voted up. Good job Annacia:)
AnnaCia (author) on June 20, 2013:
Kathryn; thank you for the comment. fostering kittens have been one of my best decisions. If I can motivate others to do the same it would be fantastic.
Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on March 08, 2013:
That was very informative, and the stories were beautiful. The picture of the kittens are so adorable. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.
AnnaCia (author) on May 05, 2012:
sandra, thank you for reading.
Sandra Busby from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA on May 05, 2012:
Thanks, AnnaCia, for sharing this part of your life with us.
AnnaCia (author) on April 21, 2012:
Balley, thanks for the comment. I hope you survived with the kittens. I am now taking care of seven hitters from a shelter. We must be crazy, eh?
Bailey on April 09, 2012:
I just wanted to say thank you for this. I am currently fostering a pregnant cat who is due within the week. I've cared for pregnant cats and kittens before but it's always nice to refresh when it's been a while.
AnnaCia (author) on April 05, 2012:
Aww! I bet your cat already stole your heart, eh? It is an effort every time we are faced with the care of kittens, but it is a wonderful feeling to know that we are giving them the chance to survive and be happy.
Deborah Neyens from Iowa on April 04, 2012:
What a great thing you are doing to help these animals! All three of my cats are rescues. Most recently, I tamed a stray feral kitten that was living in the woods behind my house, but not before she got pregnant herself. I found homes for all 4 of her kittens, got her fixed, and moved her into the house. She is such a wonderful, loving cat; I'm so glad I made the effort with her. Working with animals can be so rewarding.
AnnaCia (author) on March 25, 2012:
Thank you for reading my hub and your comment. You know, I am the fortunate one having the little ones in my life. They give me the joy of taking care of them and loving them. Thank you.
Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on March 25, 2012:
This is such a helpful and detailed hub! I've heard of this program, and since I dearly love kittens, I've been curious about what is involved. What a wonderful and loving service you are providing - those kitties are fortunate to have you.
Thanks for this information - excellent hub! Voted up, useful, awesome and informative.
AnnaCia (author) on March 17, 2012:
moonlake, thanks for stopping by. I have never fostered squirrels. Is it the same as fostering kittens, like, the feeding, stimulation to go to the bathroom, etc? You are one of those magnificent people who take care of our creatures. What a great feeling to know you are helping them.
AnnaCia (author) on March 17, 2012:
jpcmc, thank you so much for your comment. Shelters all over need the help of volunteers to foster all the time. On the other hand there is a need for people to donate. When everybody work together, we see wonderful results.
moonlake from America on March 15, 2012:
Great hub. I know how much work you go through fostering kittens. Thanks to you the kittens will find a home. It's a 24 hour job. I fostered two baby squirrels for two days and got no sleep. They went to a wildlife center and were taken care there. We have had baby kittens and puppies through the years and it's work.
JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on March 15, 2012:
This nis a well-researched hub. I savored every moment reading it. I love animals and we often take stray cats and dogs and give them shelter. It's really hard work, but it's worth the trouble. It's really nice of you to write all the important info for anyone who wants to take care of cats. Voted up!
AnnaCia (author) on March 14, 2012:
Clairemy, it is so nice that you have been part of giving protection and love to kittens and your cat. You must feel so proud. Good job.
Claire on March 14, 2012:
Lovely hub,you have a truly good heart, its something myself and my children have done in the past in England when I also had a livery yard.
So rewarding to see them flourish and finally go on to new and loving homes. One we named Bonnie, a tortoishell and white is herself a great great grandmother now, and in her time gave birth to 1 litter of 11 all who were raised with a little help successfully.
AnnaCia (author) on March 13, 2012:
Oh Thank You Kerly. See? You do your part too. This is the way I thank my God for everything Ha gives me. Thanks for visiting my hub. Ill be visiting yours soon.
kerlynb from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^ on March 13, 2012:
You've got a big heart! I wish there'd be a million of you out there in the world so there's be no more stray and abused cats. I have personally done this but with dogs. In my area, unfortunately,people do not treat animals well. Many poor dogs would be left in the streets to die :(
AnnaCia (author) on March 12, 2012:
Hi, Allpuckett. Thank you for visiting my page.
alipuckett on March 12, 2012:
Wow! You are doing such wonderful work. Thank you!
AnnaCia (author) on March 12, 2012:
Thank you for visiting my page.
Austin Jose from Cochin on March 12, 2012:
This hub was very interesting and gave me good ideas for looking after my cat!
I love cats :)
I'm voting up!
AnnaCia (author) on March 12, 2012:
Happyboomernurse, I am glad you were pulled by the photos to read my article. It is nice to know that I can share my experience and that this motivate others to maybe foster orphan animals. Thank you so much for your time.
CreateHubpages: Yes, those little ones can steal your heart if you are not careful.
Susan, I hope you set up the shelter. Let me know. Thank you for visiting my page.
AnnaCia (author) on March 12, 2012:
Onlooker, thanks for your comment. You know, I never thought I would be so closed to little kittens...never! The truth is that they are the ones who safe me every time I am with them. They are the ones who give meaning to my life in certain ways.
AnnaCia (author) on March 12, 2012:
Peggy, You are very sweet, thank you for your words. Fostering kittens is my way to give back to the community and a way to help. Through my article I want others to see that there are always ways to be helpful and caring.
Susan Ng Yu on March 12, 2012:
Setting up a cat shelter is one of my dreams. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and love. :)
CreateHubpages on March 11, 2012:
The kittens looks so cute.
Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on March 11, 2012:
The beautiful photo drew me in and I'm glad it did. This hub should be mandatory reading for anyone who is considering taking in foster kittens. You've given clear, comprehensive guidelines and done so in an interesting, compassionate way, plus illustrated it with terrific photos.
Shadow is handsome and Prescious was adorable.
Voted this up across the board except for funny.
Welcome to HubPages.
onlooker on March 11, 2012:
You have committed yourself to such a beautiful cause. The world could be a safer place for us all if there were more people like yourself. We do appreciate you and I loved the pictures too. Thank you.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 11, 2012:
What a wonderful and caring person you are to care for these helpless kittens, nursing them back to the age where they can be adopted and loved by others. You should be lauded for what you do! Thanks for mentioning the need for spaying and neutering. So important! Voting this not only interesting but also beautiful and useful + will tweet, FB and share with my followers.
AnnaCia (author) on March 04, 2012:
That is very nice of you. I know I need to write more hubs. Thank you so much for your words and advice.
Mike Pugh from New York City on March 04, 2012:
Beautiful hub here AnnaCia, I use to own cats when I were young, and so I learned a great deal about them all. Your info here is accurate, as well as very useful, and especially the one about not feeding them cow milk, or any milk for that matter, because their digestive track doesn't agree with it at all, water is the only thing they can drink, after growing past the nipple phase.
Nice hub, keep writing, and you just never know how huge a following you may actually grow on hubpages, don't worry to much about people coming and going, because its all at random, just try to focus on your craft, and continue sharing with others, is my best advice.
Voted up, and also thanks for sharing with me on my hubs as well, I'll be giving more of your hubs a try soon, gotta get back to writing, and visiting many more folks.
I'm pinning this one up on my Pinterest network as well for ya, because I loved the effort you've put into it all, it looks wonderful, and was well written.
AnnaCia (author) on February 29, 2012:
glassvisage from Northern California on February 29, 2012:
This is such a fantastic and well-made Hub. The data and photos are great and very informational. This is a great way to inform people about this. I fostered cats but not kittens, and your comments about why you should help to foster kittens makes a lot of sense to me.
AnnaCia (author) on February 18, 2012:
Yes, cloverleaf farm, the reward is greater than all we need to go thru with the kittens. I feel and believe that we are in a certain way responsible to do something for the community. My way is by fostering my angels. It is good to know and meet others like you. Blessings
Healing Herbalist from The Hamlet of Effingham on February 18, 2012:
Loved reading your hub. We have 7 cats, and have had in the past to bottle feed some. It is a tough job, but someone has to do it. There is sadness when one dies, but I take it as nature's way.
The end reward is greater than losing a few hours of sleep.
AnnaCia (author) on February 17, 2012:
You are right Diana. When I have them with my I just want to love them so much that they can feel it when I talk to them or I hold them. I have had my moments of frustration or sadness, but that is part of everything. We all can make a difference in one way or another. Thanks
Diana L Pierce from Potter County, Pa. on February 17, 2012:
This hub is amazing in the emotions and work you put into it. As an animal lover myself I am pleased there are people like you taking care our needy furry friends. Some shelters are becoming under staffed and the outcome is heartbreaking.
AnnaCia (author) on February 17, 2012:
Thank you for your comment Hyphenbird. I love what I do. Shadow is my big boy.
Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on February 17, 2012:
You have a wonderful, compassionate and beautiful Hub here. Your advice and information is timeless and your Shadow precious. You are doing such a great ministry to God's vulnerable creations. My you be blessed and supported in youe mission with thse little kittens. I know you hurt when one dies and am so respectful of you.