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How to Foster a Cat: The Unsung Heros of Foster Care


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You don’t have to look too far to find some really compassionate people, especially when it comes to saving cats’ lives. Throughout the U.S., Canada and beyond, there are thousands of amazing cats-only shelters, sanctuaries, and foster organizations.

Volunteers there quietly work behind the scenes, putting in tireless hours every day rescuing, fostering, and finding loving homes for homeless felines.  They are the unsung heros of cat rescue.

How to foster a cat: Black and White Foster Cat

Carolyn Kozlowski, founder and president of, is proud to serve on the Board of one such organization, a small, well organized foster network by the name of FosterCat Inc.  Established over 20 years ago in Pittsburgh, PA, FosterCat Inc.’s mission is to “save lives, one cat at a time.”  Since its inception, FosterCat has successfully fostered and placed well over 2,500 cats.  For an all-volunteer organization with an average of 20 foster homes at any given time, that’s quite a remarkable accomplishment. So far this year, FosterCat is on track to break its record for adoptions which has topped 180 through September, under the capable leadership of Barbara Slade, FosterCat Inc.’s President.

Have you ever wondered what drives these foster volunteers to do what they do and how a foster network is managed day-to-day? Carolyn recently spoke with Kimberly Zambrano, Foster Care Manager and active foster parent to help shed light on this critical function and explains how to foster a cat.

CK:  What compelled you to start fostering homeless cats?

Kim:  The need is just so great, the more involved you become, whether volunteering in shelters, clinics or doing TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return); you see how fostering truly saves lives.

CK:  Can you describe some of the daily routine of caring for a foster cat?  Is it any different from caring for a permanent family cat?

Kim:  It really isn’t any different than caring for your own cats.  You take care of their physical needs, spend time with them and learn about their personalities so they’ll be adopted into a home that best suits them.

CK:  What do you think makes a good foster parent – what criteria do you and FosterCat evaluate in order to accept a person into the foster volunteer program?

Kim:  We are very blessed to have such amazing foster parents at FosterCat. I believe our foster parents truly care for cats; we have such a variety, too.  For instance, we have families that just want to foster kittens, which is invaluable when kitten season starts.  We also have college and graduatestudents who miss their own pets and enjoy fostering an adult cat for us.  Finally, we have a great core group of fosters who are always available to take in cats and kittens when needed.  The important thing we look for is a foster parent who truly loves and enjoys cats and wants to help them find their forever homes.

How to foster a cat: Grey Foster Cat

CK:  How does a homeless cat come to FosterCat?

Kim:  We get all types of cats, cats who just show up on someone’s property or cats who have spent time outdoors as part of the community.  Then, there are cats that we know have been someone’s pet in the past, whether they’re intentionally left behind or simply became lost and no one has recovered them.

CK:  What is the intake process for a foster cat? 

Kim:  It differs, depending on whether they’re adult cats or kittens. With adult cats, we take care of all of their medical needs before they are sent to a foster home, so the foster parent can focus on caring for, and enjoying the cat.  Usually, kittens are too small to be “vetted” (i.e., fully examined and treated by a veterinarian), so they’re in their foster home until they’re old enough.

CK:  How do foster homes socialize the cats who are shy or have behavioral challenges?

Kim:  We have certain foster parents who are especially skilled in working with shy cats.  We try to match the cat’s needs with a home environment that will be suitable for them.  Kittens need a lot of attention, so an environment with children and lots of play time and activity is ideal for their socialization.

CK:  What kind of medical care do the cats receive while under foster care and before they’re permanently placed? Does the foster parent pay for medical expenses, or does FosterCat provide for payment?

Kim:  All of our cats are spayed or neutered; combo tested (FIV/FeLV); receive rabies and FVRCP shots; are micro chipped and receive flea and deworming treatments.  FosterCat pays for all medical expenses, including any medical care needed while the cat’s under foster care.

How to foster a cat: Grey and Orange Foster Cat

CK:  Once a cat is accepted by FosterCat into their foster program, are they guaranteed a home?  How do people find out about cats who are in foster and available for adoption?

Kim:  Cats taken under FosterCat’s care are guaranteed a home; we just can’t predict how long they’ll be in foster.  We have cats who have been in our program for over a year, possibly longer.  Some come in and are adopted very quickly.  Our cats are posted on our website , our Facebook page and  For many years, we’ve also partnered with six area Petsmarts who accommodate and showcase our kittens and cats.

CK:  How long does a foster parent typically care for a foster cat in their home? 

Kim:  We really try to meet the needs of our foster parents. An adult will likely be in a foster home longer than a kitten.  We have foster parents who foster kittens only and some who take in adult cats and foster them until they’re adopted.

 CK:  What’s FosterCat’s adoption process?

Kim:  The process begins with the prospective adopter completing and submitting an application.  That’s followed up with a phone conversation with the applicant, a vet reference check and landlord check (if applicable) and a home visit prior to the adoption.  Since we don’t have a shelter or facility, and applications are submitted online or at the Petsmart locations, we don’t have a chance to meet the adopters until a home visit is arranged.  The visit is our opportunity to meet them, answer any questions they may have and review the application contract with them.  Once the adoption is complete, we schedule a follow up call to make sure things are going well.

CK:  Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

Kim:  No matter how long our cats have been in foster care, it’s always rewarding when it comes time for them to be welcomed into their forever home.  We’ve had so many wonderful adopters who continue to stay in touch with notes and pictures – we love that! It makes it all worthwhile.


If you’re a person who loves cats, but for any number of reasons can’t provide a permanent home, why not consider fostering? It’s more flexible time-wise, and just as rewarding as adoption, to know you’re saving a life.  Contact your local cat rescue and shelter organizations to find out more.

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