Why Fostering to Adopt a Cat Can Be a Great Approach

If you’re thinking of getting a cat but you’ve never had one before, you may find yourself wishing there was a way to have a trial of cat ownership to make sure life with a cat is really for you before committing to 15+ years of companionship.

Or maybe you’re already certain you want a cat, and you want a way of really knowing the cat before you make the commitment to adopt.

Well, the foster-to-adopt a cat or kittens approach is worth considering. I know this because I’ve done it. This article explains why it can be a great approach to adopting a cat or two, and how to go about it.

Cat standing inside a cabinet over stacked dinner plates, looking out innocently

First, a tale of caution

My friend discovered he couldn’t handle having a cat – but only after he committed to having one. Lucky for him, he had a responsible solution that worked well for everyone, including the cat (his ex happily took the cat and gave it a great home).

In effect, my friend was able to have a trial period of cat ownership and determined that having a cat was not his cup of tea.

But for most people, there wouldn’t be such a ready-made solution and they would end up either returning the cat to the shelter – something that’s traumatic for both cat and people – or keeping the cat with regret for many years.

Why is fostering-first a good approach for getting a cat?

Fostering will give you first-hand experience of what it’s like to have a cat around and take on the daily responsibilities of cat ownership.

Will you be unable to tolerate litter box odors and the ongoing possibility of a hairball on your rug? Or will the pleasure of a purring cat on your lap make every inconvenience and expense completely worth it?

Taking the foster-first approach might help you know the answers to these questions before you decide whether or not to get a cat.

This approach can also be a really great way to adopt a kitten or cat, because you and the cat get to know each other so much better than if you were choosing at the shelter after spending just a short time together in what is a very stressful environment for a lot of cats.

Chances are, at a shelter you’re not going to see the cat’s full personality. Spending a couple of months together in your house will give you a lot more information about whether you and feline are a good fit.

How does fostering work, exactly?

It will depend in part on the local animal rescue agency you work with. But here are the basics of the process.

  1. Find a rescue agency in need of volunteers to foster cats.
  2. Go through the agency’s qualification process and complete an agreement about what’s required and who will do what.
  3. Learn what you need to know in order to provide the care your foster feline will need.
  4. Prepare your home for fostering. Our guide to kitten-proofing your home is a great resource for this step.
  5. Bring your foster home and help them acclimate to their new surroundings.
  6. Get to know the cat and what’s involved in cat ownership on a daily basis.
  7. Decide whether you want to adopt the cat yourself, or continue fostering until the cat is adopted by someone else. If you decide you want a cat but not that one, you can repeat the foster process or just adopt a cat directly from a rescue agency or shelter.

If you do foster, you must see it through

It is very stressful for cats to be moved between homes and shelters. Therefore, it’s important to be fully committed to the idea of fostering so that you see it through all the way to the cat being adopted, even if you discover early on that having a cat is not for you.

My own experience in fostering to adopt kittens

If you’ve read my story, you already know that fostering-to-adopt is how my own 3 feline fuzzbutts came to be with me. I fostered a litter of week-old kittens along with their mama, and it was a fantastic experience.

What I did is probably not a good approach for someone with no experience caring for cats. And a rescue agency isn’t going to just let any random person foster a litter of kittens without vetting them first. They have to know you’ll be able to do it well before they assign you any fosters, and they may be more likely to give you an adult cat that doesn’t need any specialized knowledge or care.

That said, the value I found in fostering-to-adopt was that the kittens knew me from nearly the very beginning of their lives. And that meant that bonding and socialization began early, resulting in a litter of very friendly and affectionate kittens.

Be warned though – if you foster more kittens than you intend to keep, or decide not to adopt the cat you have fostered, it may be very difficult to part ways when the time comes.

Indeed, despite efforts to prepare myself, I still vastly underestimated how sad and hard this moment would be for me when the kittens (and mama) I didn’t keep were adopted to other homes. But knowing I found truly good homes for cats who might not have survived otherwise made it more than worth it.

Final thoughts

If you’re on the fence about getting a cat or really want to get to know a cat before deciding to adopt, then fostering can help by giving you first-hand experience of daily living with a cat or particular cat.

And as an added bonus, by fostering you will be doing tremendous good by alleviating the burden placed on shelters and perhaps even saving a cat’s life.

Last, a reminder that there’s a lot you can learn to help you figure out if getting a cat is the right thing for you right now:

The VerveCat Getting Started and Commit collections have articles all about it, like how much having a cat costs, how much time a cat requires, and the daily responsibilities of cat ownership. There’s even a Quiz you can take to help you figure out if you’re ready for having a cat.

Explore other articles in this collection:

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The information provided here is not meant to replace professional guidance from your own veterinarian or cat behavior specialist.

About VerveCat

VerveCat.com launched in Fall 2023 and aims to grow into a comprehensive source of information, resources, and reviews for every part of feline companionship. Whether you’re an experienced cat owner or just getting started on your cat life journey, we’re glad you stopped by and hope you’ll find things here to help you along the way.

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