Foster carer


Please read all of the information in the Foster Care Program section of this website before reading the information below.


We have between 100-200 adoptions per year, mostly out of Duncan Pets, and our small but amazing team of volunteer foster carers make that possible. We are always looking for people to become foster carers for us.


Foster home requirements

 

Foster carers must live within our range –Malahat to Chemainus – or Ladysmith at the very farthest, so that they are close to our vets and our coordinating volunteers.

 

Foster homes must not have children younger than 5 years old if they intend to foster anything other than project kittens or adult cats. It is not that little children are malicious, but simply put, they are little children and as such just don't have the awareness of how delicate small kittens are, and this puts kittens in danger.

 

Foster homes can have mellow, well-behaved dogs, but not yappy dogs with high prey drives (if the dog likes to chase squirrels, the dog would not be good around kittens).

 

We strongly recommend that foster homes make sure that all of their own cats have up-to-date vaccinations. There have been instances of foster kittens passing serious diseases to a foster carer’s own cats, and vice versa.

 

The foster home must be kept not only clean but tidy as well for the safety of the kittens.

 

It is required that foster carers have good communication skills. These characteristics are important because information has to move around CCR very quickly so that the trustees can make decisions, give guidance, and keep operations running smoothly.

 

If someone is going to become a foster carer, they must have the emotional fortitude to give up their kittens for adoption when the time comes. This becomes easier to do the more fostering experience is accumulated. We should also state that we want people to become foster carers if they have an interest in ongoing volunteering, and that we don't want people to become foster carers to raise only one litter so that they can adopt one of the kittens.

 

Volunteers in our Foster Care Program must be of legal age (19 years old). If a minor child wants to help raise kittens, it is their parent or guardian that must be a volunteer foster carer, and the parent or guardian makes the parental decision whether or not to allow the child to help with her foster kittens.


Offers to babysit kittens

 

We should note that while we sometimes hear from people wanting to become babysitters for bottle-feeding kittens, in reality this isn’t practical. As much as we appreciate the offer, the kittens would not respond well to this scenario. Even blind and deaf newborn kittens learn within a couple of days that their mom is the person who feeds them, and they become cooperative for that person (her or him). They know by scent if someone who is not their mom is trying to put a bottle nipple in their mouth and often become uncooperative. The end result is that the babysitter usually has very little success in getting food into the litter while caring for them, and the kittens stay hungry – and noisy – until their foster mom returns. A frustrating situation all around. So, to become a foster carer for us, you must be willing to commit to a litter full-time (which means meeting a given litter’s needs at all times, not that you have to be raising back-to-back litters 365 days a year).


All foster homes supply the following for their foster kitten or cat:

  • Food
  • Litter (non-clay based litter for fostering kittens) 
  • Bedding (old, clean towels are fine)
  • A heating pad that does not have an automatic shut off
  • A small digital scale to weigh kittens (not practicable for adult cats)
  • Containment (a large plastic tub for newborns; a wire kennel for skittish kittens or cats; and a room to contain the kittens or cats)

CCR pays all vet costs for kittens and cats in our foster program. We also make and supply the food for bottle-feeding kittens. Very nearly all of our money goes towards paying vet bills, we are careful to stretch every penny we get, and the reality is that there simply isn’t enough money to pay for foster homes to have the items listed above.



Steps to become a foster carer:

1. Fully read the webpage titled “Foster Carer”. (You are reading that right now.)

2. Fill out a foster carer application form. Return it to us completed (email or regular mail).
Download
Foster Care Application Form.docx
Microsoft Word Document 15.9 KB
3. If everything on the application form is in order, we will send you a document that details our foster care policy. This policy document is what teaches you how to be a foster carer for us. If you are going to become a foster carer for un-weaned kittens, you must also have an in-person lesson on bottle-feeding from a trustee.

4. Once you have read the foster care policy document, you can schedule a time for a trustee to come for a visit to your home.

Approval following a home visit would mean you are ready to begin fostering once a suitable starter foster opportunity arrives. What we call a ‘chocolate box litter’ is one that looks healthy and stable and seems low-risk for tragedy (sad things do happen in foster care – and keep in mind that some kittens come to us quite sickly - but those kinds of difficult cases can be attempted later if the foster carer wishes). We want every new fosterer to start off with a straight-forward case to ease her/him into the fostering experience.

 


Types of foster placement:

Pregnant cat/mother with tiny kittens fostering

 

An expectant cat or new mother is placed in a clean, in-home (or heated outbuildings), quite private, and completely secure room. This can even be a spare bathroom. The space must be escape-proof. The mothers are feral and cannot be handled. This is a pretty easy volunteer role because mom cat does all the work in raising the kittens, and you would supervise that she is doing a good job. The mother raises the kittens until they can eat on their own, at about 5 weeks old. After the kittens wean, we get the mother spayed, and if fostering weaned kittens is not your purview, then we put the kittens into a different placement.

 

Adult cat fostering

 

These volunteers foster adult cats only, not kittens. Although CCR is meant to help feral cats rather than tame cats, and although we don’t re-home cats for people, sometimes it happens that an adult cat that is not feral comes into our hands. Sometimes the cat was trapped during a TNR project and discovered to be a stray (tame cat that is homeless) that had somehow joined a feral colony. Sometimes the cat was returned to CCR years after it was adopted out as a kitten. Some of these returned cats are perfectly fine and just need a place to go for the short term until they can go to the pet store, whereas other returned cats supposedly have a behaviour problem, and we need to put the cat into foster care to assess if the cat was acting out because its home life was stressful, if there is a medical issue at play, or what we can do for the cat. Sometimes the cat was on the brink of being sent to a barn home, but it decided it wanted to try being a tame cat and warmed to its foster carer and now needs to continue its socialization in a home setting.

 

The majority of adult cats that receive foster care from us are in need of some type of behaviour refinement, so the fosterer works at integrating their foster cat into normal domestic life, at whatever pace the cat needs. Often it takes a few months for the cat to reach the point where it is ready for adoption. The volunteer can initially have the cat contained in a large wire kennel if it is shy, and when the cat is confident in that environment, it should be given a room (and eventually the volunteer may choose to get the cat comfortable with a larger space than that). The foster carer must have patience and perseverance and confidence so that the cat can grow into a confident, well-mannered companion. When ready, sometimes the cat will be put up for adoption at the pet store, and sometimes the pet store wouldn’t be suitable for the cat and adoption directly from the foster home is needed. If it is to be a direct adoption is, a trustee supervises the process.

 

Un-weaned kitten fostering (bottle-feeding)

 

We are always looking to increase the number of foster homes we have that can do bottle-feeding, as we have very few of them and yet many newborn kittens needing care. You will have to get bottles and nipples for these kittens. You will have to weigh the kittens every day using a small scale and keep track of their weight gain in a table. These kittens will need feeding every 2-4 hours, depending on how young they are and how much they fill themselves up during a feeding. Obviously, full-time employment outside of the home isn’t compatible with this volunteer role, and you will have to sacrifice some sleep too. The kittens will probably need 1-2 feedings during the night when they are newborns, and eventually they should sleep a solid 8 hours when a few weeks old. Kittens are sometimes sick, and so you may need to tend to their medical needs following the guidance of a trustee or a vet. All in all, hand raising kittens is a formidable task, but definitely a rewarding one.

 

Weaned kitten fostering

 

These kittens have learned to eat on their own. If you can’t handle interrupted sleep or the commitment of frequent bottle feedings, then becoming a ‘regular’ foster carer for kittens who are a little more independent is another way to help. You will have to weigh the kittens every day using a small scale and keep track of their weights in a table. It is important that you have a minimum of 3 hours each day to spend playing with your kittens. They need to become very well socialized, and the later the kittens are rescued, the more intensely they must be handled so that they become ready for adoption.

 

We are a feral cat rescue; our kittens come from very humble beginnings and often need help on their journey to good health. Most of our kittens do not arrive to us shiny and perfect. We have to make them that way through foster work. The kittens enter foster care wild and need hands-on taming. You may need to tend to kittens’ medical needs following the guidance of a trustee or a vet, such as giving them medication orally with a syringe. While our vets can diagnose and prescribe treatment, the nitty-gritty work of caring for sick kittens - of managing their health problems - happens in the foster home.

 

Project kitten fostering

 

Project kittens are bigger kittens who are caught late and show potential in taming down but need a lot of socializing in a one-on-one setting with a foster carer. The alternative is not to bother trying to tame these kittens that are over 8 weeks old, and simply to fix and return them to where they came from. Sometimes these kittens have been in foster care for a while and are the only ones out of the group who stubbornly remain skittish, or sometimes the kitten is caught when it is debatable whether or not it’s too late for them to enter the foster program. Age plays a big part in the decision of whether or not to put them into the foster program, but so does temperament. For these kittens who have potential, we need to place a single kitten (or at most a pair of them) in a foster home without other kittens so that it bonds to humans. Project kittens are a separate category from weaned kittens because we are trying to avoid the undesirable scenario of these cases clogging up the ‘regular’ foster homes for weaned kittens.

 

The foster carer must be able to spend at least 3 hours a day taming the kitten. If you are in full-time employment, the situation would only be possible if you can spend all your evening and weekend time working on the kitten – and by that we mean a much more proactive approach than watching TV in the same room that the kitten is hiding in and hoping it comes out to see you (it won’t). What can’t happen is that the cat hides and no one bothers to put the work into interacting with the poor, shy thing, and it grows out of kittenhood and becomes your house feral.  

 

Ideally, the project will be a success and the big kitten will become socialized and go up for adoption after a couple of months. If the kitten never reaches the stage of being an adoptable pet, then we would have to look for a barn home for it, and the volunteer might need to hang onto the kitten until a suitable barn home comes up.