Answers to your Frequently Asked Questions about Fostering
How Do I Get A Foster Cat?
Most cats come into FFGW needing vet care, so they go from transport directly to one of our participating vets. When we know we are doing intake, we will reach out to the foster person and ask if they are available to foster. If you say you are available, we will then arrange for the cat to be dropped off at one of our vets who is nearest to where you live. It will then be your responsibility to pick up the cat at that vet after whatever vet work that is scheduled has been completed. We will provide you background info about the foster that we have received; sometimes we receive very little information.
What Vet Care Will My Incoming Foster Cat Have Had?
All FFGW cats are tested for feline leukemia and FIV, have had whatever shots are appropriate for their age, and are spayed and neutered if six months or older at intake. They are examined by a veterinarian and are checked for fleas, ear mites, upper respiratory infections, and any other issues that might occur. They are dewormed and are microchipped when spayed/neutered.
Where Are Your Participating Vets?
Our participating vets are located in Manassas, Fairfax, Reston, Ashburn, Leesburg, McLean and Springfield, VA.
What Supplies Do I Need To Foster A Cat?
FFGW will cover the cost of any medical care and medicine. We ask that fosters provide a couple items as part of the volunteer experience. Our foster coordinators can assist in providing specific suggestions.
- Food – Typically cats eat canned and dry food. Most Purina products are good; we do not recommend food with artificial colors.
- Bowls – For dry food, wet food, and water
- Litter – Most cats are good with an unscented clumping litter
- Litter Box and Litter Scoop– Most cats prefer a large open litter box
- Toys – A wand toy and a couple mice or balls
- Scratching Pad – A cardboard scratcher or TurboChaser
- Carrier – For transport and pick-up
What Do I Do When I Get My Foster Cat Home?
Your foster cat should have his/her own space in your home, ideally a guest bedroom or other smaller space where the cat can start out and settle in before being exposed to any of your four-footed family members and to your house at large. That space should have the cat’s litter box and (not in close proximity) it’s food and water bowls, as well as beds, toys, scratch boxes/poles, cat trees etc. to keep the cat engaged. You and other family members should spend time in that room, socializing the foster cat and getting him/her used to you.
It is important to keep the foster cat separate for at least a week to ensure the health of your family pets in the event that the foster cat comes down with a cold or is being treated for worms. Some fosters keep their foster cats in a separate room or area for the duration of the foster experience. Others find it easier to integrate the cat(s) with their family and other pets. If you plan to integrate after a proper quarantine period, please be sure to ask for our information on how to integrate a new cat into the family. The key is to go very slow with introductions.
What Do I Do If My Foster Cat Needs Vet Care?
The first thing you do is contact one of the foster coordinators to explain what is going on or to explain what care is needed. Often this is a routine appointment to update shots, for example, or for a deworming. Other times you might have a concern about the cat and would need to discuss that with the foster coordinator before moving forward.
It is important to note that you cannot take a cat to a FFGW vet, on our account, without the visit being first authorized by an FFGW representative. Our vets require us to alert them with the name and number of the foster making an appointment, the cat’s information, and what is authorized for them to do with the cat prior to the foster making an appointment. This is why the first step is to reach out to a foster coordinator and then they can get the authorization in place before advising you to go ahead and make an appointment. Additional foster guidelines and contact information will be provided to you when your first foster assignment is confirmed.
Who Is Responsible For Taking My Foster Cat To Its Vet Appointments?
In a nutshell – you are! This is one of the duties of the foster family, and this is why we have you make the appointment yourself, after you are authorized to do so, so that you can make sure the appointment fits in with your family and work schedules.
How Long Will I Be Fostering?
This is an excellent question, but the answer is “it depends”. It depends on the type of cat you are fostering. Things like age, sex, fur length, personality and even color can affect how quickly a cat is adopted. Often older cats are longer-term fosters. Cats that look like particular breeds tend to be adopted more quickly. Longer fur tends to generate a lot of applications. But mostly it just depends on when someone sees the cat on our website or at a fair and falling in love with it!
When you first get the cat, it likely will take some time for it to settle into your home and show its true personality. Cats are creatures of habit, so something like an entirely new surrounding can often result in hiding for days at a time. We ask foster families to understand and expect this, and to allow the cat time to get acclimated and comfortable. Once you feel that the cat is comfortable and ready to meet prospective adopters, you can let the foster coordinators know and move on to the adoption phase (discussed below).
With very few exceptions, we like to try to keep a foster cat in the same foster home until it is adopted. Therefore, once you agree to foster a cat, we hope and expect that you will continue to foster it until it is adopted.
Can I Foster A Pregnant Cat or Mom With Kittens?
Absolutely! In fact, at certain points in the spring it feels like almost all the cats we try to rescue are pregnant or with babies. This is a very special commitment and longer term. If the cat is pregnant when you get it as a foster, you will foster through the gestation period and birth, then for at least 8 weeks thereafter until the babies are grown and weaned. It could be even longer than 8 weeks until the babies are adopted. Once they are adopted, mom’s milk needs to dry up, then she needs to be spayed, then she needs to be adopted. So, you can see that fostering a pregnant cat or a cat with kittens is easily a several month-long commitment.
Special note: It’s not fair to the mom to try to move her to another foster once the babies are gone, as she likely is very comfortable in the foster home and remember that when she is finally adopted it will be another adjustment for her. So therefore, please only ask to foster moms and babies if you can commit to keeping mom until she too finds a forever home. If you just want to foster kittens, we have lots of those opportunities!
What Should I Know About Fostering Kittens?
Well, they are cute, funny, sweet, messy, crazy, active and charming, often all within a span of ten minutes! But seriously – first, please note that we do not put single kittens alone in a foster home, so if you want to foster kittens you will have to take a minimum of two at a time. Often, we have litters of 4, 5, 6 etc. so you could, if you have room and wanted to, have more than two as well.
Something important to know about kittens is that you will have more frequent vet visit requirement than with adult cats. That is because kittens need a series of three distemper shots, three weeks apart, and usually get their rabies shot with the last distemper shot. So, if you have a healthy kitten, you would at minimum have those appointments until the kitten is adopted. But kittens are notorious for picking up upper respiratory infections and often have worms and ear mites. This is not something to be overly worried about, but something to be aware of.
If the kitten is lethargic, sneezing, or has super smelly, runny, or mushy poop, it is going to need a vet visit. Kittens can go from “fine” to “emergency” somewhat quickly so it is importantly to contact FFGW right away if you have a concern, rather that taking a “wait and see” approach.
The other thing to know about fostering kittens is that you likely will need to administer some type of medicine to them at some point. When they first come in they are dewormed, and often a second dose is sent home for the foster to give weeks later. They often have ear mites, and if they do, ear drops are sent home with the foster. And if they have a little “kitten cold”, they likely will have an antibiotic that they will need to be given twice a day for 10-14 days. So, to foster kittens, you should be comfortable about medicating them as needed.
How Does My Foster Cat Get On Your Website?
Once your foster cat settles in, we will ask you to take great close-up pictures and shoot some short videos, and do a brief write up to send to a website volunteer to post. We will provide you with contact information and additional fostering details when you get your first foster.
National pet search databases such as PetFinder.com pull from rescue websites, so once your cat is on our website it will end up on those other websites as well. When people see an FFGW cat they want to adopt, they can complete an online application which goes to our adoption team for processing.
How Is My Foster Cat Adopted?
Foster cats are adopted straight from the foster home, or at adoption events.
Foster Home: When we receive and approve an applicant, we will then put the applicant in touch with the foster family of the cat in which they are interested. We will ask you to connect with the applicant and schedule a time for the applicant to meet the cat in your home. When you have someone coming to meet your cat, it is often a good idea to put your cat in one room so that the applicant will be sure to be able to meet and spend time with the cat, rather than having to look all over the house for it!
Adoption Fairs: Another way to get your cat adopted is to attend adoption events. We have one every Sunday from 12-3pm at the Leesburg PetSmart, and another on the third Sunday of the month from 1-3pm at Just Cats Clinic in Reston. It’s not mandatory to bring your cat to an adoption fair, but doing so can greatly increase its chances of meeting its forever family! If you want to attend a fair with your foster cat, reach out to the one of our foster coordinators to confirm that the event is taking place that Sunday and to schedule your cat so that we have a cage available. Note that we ask you to drop-off at the adoption fairs, and then plan to pick up about 15 minutes before the fair ends. If your cat is adopted from the event, we will call you and let you come back sooner to say goodbye!
Can My Friend/Relative/Roommate/Co-Worker Adopt My Foster Cat?
Of course! We love to get adopters referred from our trusted foster families. However, you cannot adopt out your foster cat on your own, nor can you promise him/her to a specific person. If you know someone who is interested in your foster cat, have them complete our Adoption Request Form which is on our website under the “Adoptions” tab. They will need to go through the approval process that is required for all FFGW adopters, and to pay the adoption fee if approved and ultimately, they do adopt.
I Love My Foster Cat – Can I Keep Him/Her?
Absolutely! But . . . you do have to officially adopt the cat, which means completing the adoption contract and making the adoption fee donation. Also we ask you to let us know as soon as you know yourself, if you are considering adopting your foster cat, so that our adoption counselors know that and do not promise the cat to another already-approved applicant.
Feline Foundation of Greater Washington
Formed in 1995, the mission of the Feline Foundation of Greater Washington is to provide necessary veterinary and loving foster care for every animal in our program, to find them permanent, adoptive homes where they will be treated with love and respect for the rest of their lives, to provide foster care for life if no adoptive home can be found, and to educate the public regarding responsible cat care. We are a 501(c)(3) organization (EIN 54-1749459).