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How to Foster a Cat: 10 Steps to Follow

cat at an animal shelter
Image Credit: JW Design, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Genevieve Dugal

Providing a loving, calm, and caring home to a cat in need is an incredibly rewarding experience, both for you and your little protégé. It’s also a great way to promote a smooth transition for the cat until they find a forever home. So, if you’re thinking about fostering one or more feline companions, but you’re not sure where to start, you’ve come to the right place.

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Before You Start: Why Should You Foster a Cat?

There are many reasons that fostering a cat can be a memorable, gratifying, and overall wonderful experience. By temporarily welcoming an animal in need into your home, you can:

  • Free up a place at the shelter to accommodate another cat.
  • Give your foster cat the time that they need to be ready for adoption.
  • Get the cat used to being around other pets and people.
  • Help build the confidence of a cat that was abandoned or never had the chance to thrive in a loving home.

Of course, your experience may turn out differently. But even if you encounter a few pitfalls, keep in mind that your help is invaluable in changing the course of one of these cats’ lives.

Here are the steps to ensure a successful experience!

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The 10 Steps to Foster a Cat

1. Choose a Local and Reputable Animal Rescue Organization

Your first step is to research an animal rescue organization in your area. Make a list of your favorites, and contact each one to find out if they need foster homes for cats. Websites like PetFinder can also help you find an animal welfare organization in your area.

animal rescue volunteer taming a feral cat
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

2. Make Sure You Meet All the Requirements

Before you consider fostering a cat, you should make sure you meet all of the organization’s requirements. Most rescues have the following prerequisites:

  • Be 18 years or older.
  • Commit to fostering the cat for the required time (this can range from a few weeks to a few months).
  • Provide all the necessary care for the well-being of the cat.
  • Make the necessary checkups and follow-ups with the veterinarian.
  • Ensure that pets that you already have at home have their vaccinations up to date.
  • Live within a reasonable distance of the organization.
  • Have access to a means of transport.

In certain special cases, other criteria may be added, such as not owning a pet if the cat to be fostered is sick, contagious, and/or pregnant.

3. Fill Out an Application

Once you have found an organization that you would like to work with, you will need to complete an application to become a foster parent. It will typically require information about your living situation, experience with animals, and availability. Most organizations with a website have an online form that is quick and easy to fill out. Then you just have to wait for them to contact you.

Note that there may be a small fee to cover the costs of processing the application forms.

a woman with laptop and notepad in the kitchen

4. Prepare for an Interview

You may be asked to attend a telephone, virtual, or in-person interview. This will be a good opportunity to ask all the questions that come to mind.

5. Attend a Training Session

Many organizations require foster parents to attend a short training session. This online or in-person session can cover topics like organization policies, the differences between adopting a healthy cat versus a cat in need of special care, how to care for un-weaned kittens, what to do in an emergency, and how to introduce a new pet into your home.

People clapping and cheering
Image Credit: Jacob Lund, Shutterstock

6. Prepare Your Home

Do not underestimate this crucial step! The smooth integration of your foster cat into their new environment is essential for their well-being. Your new feline companion will need time to get used to the sounds and smells of your home. Moreover, be sure to follow the organization’s instructions regarding the specific needs of the cat that you will foster.

7. Bring Home Your Foster Cat

Once you have been approved to become a foster family, you will be matched with a cat based on the criteria that you chose during your application and the rules of the organization. They will often have more than one available, and a member of the organization will explain the characteristics of each cat and their specific needs. You will then be asked to pick up your foster cat. Ensure that you have everything that you need, including a carry bag, food, and litter.

Tips to help your new pet feel comfortable in their new home quickly:
  • When you bring your protégé home, introduce them to their new room first. Give them time to explore and get used to their new surroundings before introducing them to other pets or family members.
  • Put their food, litter box, and bed in separate areas of the room, and show them where you have placed them.
  • Leave the crate used during transport at their disposal. This crate will be a safe place for them to seek refuge. Leave a blanket with their scent and a few toys.
  • Make sure your foster cat has access, at all times, to a quiet place in the house where they can safely retreat.
  • Monitor the cat’s health and behavior. If you notice anything unusual, contact the animal rescue organization right away.
woman carrying a cat
Image Credit: StockSnap, Pixabay

8. Comply With Organizational Guidelines

The animal rescue organization will give you advice and instructions for caring for your foster cat, including feeding, socialization, and veterinary care. Keep in mind that while the cat is in your care, the organization is still technically the owner of the animal. This is why the important decisions (for example, the choice of the final adoptive home) belongs to them.

9. Help the Cat Find a Forever Home

The ultimate goal of fostering a cat is to help them find the perfect forever home. Work with the animal rescue association so your little protégé has the chance to find the place that suits them best.

happy couple with cat at home
Image Credit: Ground Picture, Shutterstock

10. Give Them Plenty of Love and Attention!

Foster pets need all the love and attention that you can give them. Most have been abandoned or have experienced trauma and abuse that can take time to heal. How you build trust with them will tremendously impact their healing and how they behave in their future forever home. That’s what makes fostering such a precious and unique experience!

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Fostering FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Does the Animal Rescue Organization Cover Foster Care Costs?

Most animal rescue organizations (like the SPCA or the Animal Humane Society) will cover food, accessories, medication, carriers, toys, and other basic items that the animal needs, as well as any training required.

Can You Choose Which Foster Cat to Bring Home?

It depends on each organization’s policies, but most will place animals in homes on a first-come, first-served basis. In any case, rest assured that you will never be matched with a cat that does not suit your living situation.

Can You Adopt Your Foster Cat?

Usually yes! Most foster animals can be adopted by the foster family once the animal is cleared for adoption by the organization. However, be sure to ask the rescue if there are any exceptions, so you don’t end up heartbroken!



Fostering is an exceptionally rewarding experience that has a crucial impact on the lives of animals. Now that you know the steps to welcome your first adoptive cat and if you feel like you’re ready, contact your local rescue today! Many little felines depend on your act of kindness for a chance to find their forever home.

Featured Image Credit: JW Design, Shutterstock

About the Author

Genevieve Dugal
Genevieve Dugal
Genevieve is a biologist and science writer. Her deep love for exotic animals has taken her worldwide to work and volunteer for several wildlife rehabilitation centers in Central and South America, Australia, and Canada. Genevieve is a Canadian expat who now lives in Argentina, where she wakes up every morning to horses and cows saying hello. She is the proud mom of three rescued dogs, Lemmy, Nala, and Pochi, and a frisky kitten, Furiosa.

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