The amazing Hannah Shaw, aka Kitten Lady, is a professional kitten rescuer (best job ever!) and fierce animal advocate. Her speciality is bottle babies, the orphaned newborn kittens who need round the clock care to survive the first five precarious weeks of life. Her must-have new book, Tiny But Mighty, outlines how you can help save these tiny kittens and become a hero. Intrigued? We thought so! We asked Hannah why you should consider becoming a foster and what’s involved, so you can step up and become a saviour to a kitten that needs you.
Q: Why should everyone consider fostering kittens?
A: Everyone should consider fostering kittens because it’s a short-term commitment that makes a lifelong impact in the life of a vulnerable animal. One of the great things about being a kitten foster parent is that you can choose the population that works best for your lifestyle, and you can foster only when you’re ready and able! If your schedule doesn’t allow you to foster bottle babies, you can always foster mama cats with nursing babies, or even weaned kittens. That said, I choose to focus on bottle babies because they’re typically the hardest to find foster homes for.
Q: What is involved in fostering bottle babies?
A: Bottle baby foster parents will need to keep kittens warm by providing them with a covered heat pad, monitor their progress by weighing them daily, intervene medically if any health conditions arise, and of course keep them on a consistent schedule of being stimulated to go to the bathroom and bottle-fed with a nutritious kitten formula. Orphaned kittens require bottle feeding from 0-5 weeks of age, and the frequency of feeding decreases by an hour each week, so you always have an extra hour of sleep to look forward to! For instance, a two-week-old kitten will eat every three hours, and a four-week-old kitten will eat every four hours. While you do wake up in the middle of the night to care for them, it’s just a few minutes of care at a time—and those minutes are worth it! Once they reach five weeks, they’re ready to start weaning onto wet food…and once they’ve reached eight weeks, they’re ready to get spayed or neutered and adopted into their forever home! Anyone can learn to care for kittens, and I’ve outlined everything you need to know in my book, Tiny But Mighty.
“The process of raising kittens is as close to actual magic as I’ll ever get. The moment I bring home a new batch of filthy, hungry wiggle worms, it’s like I suddenly grow five extra hearts.”
Q: Why is fostering important? In your book you say that so many people tell you that if they had a million dollars they’d open an animal shelter. The good news is you don’t need a dollar—just time and love—to get started helping kittens!
A: A lot of animal lovers don’t realize just how vulnerable young kittens are, and how truly at-risk they are when they enter the US shelter system. Orphaned neonatal kittens require around-the-clock care that is difficult or even impossible for an animal shelter to provide due to limited operating hours. That means that the only chance a kitten may have to survive is the availability of a foster home! When a shelter has an abundance of foster homes lined up, kittens don’t have to risk euthanasia due to their age and needs—they have a safe space to call home for a few weeks while they become big and strong.
Q: Can you foster kittens/bottle babies if you already have cats?
A: Most people who foster kittens have their own permanent resident cats, myself included! For the health and happiness of all, I suggest keeping foster kittens separate from resident cats by keeping them confined to a playpen or a spare room. You’ll want to avoid any shared supplies or physical contact for at least two weeks while you monitor the kittens’ health and provide preventative care. Of course, keep your cats up to date on vaccines, and follow their lead—if they want to avoid the kittens altogether, then make sure you give them that option by keeping the kittens in an area they can easily stay away from, like a playpen in a far corner. My cats come first, but I’ve always managed to find creative ways to fit fostering into my home and my life.