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Cat Foster Basics: Responsibilities, Dos and Don'ts

The 3 H’s: A Foster’s Responsibilities


HAPPY:​ Most cats coming from the shelter are scared and stressed, but you can teach your foster to love the company of humans! Your shy kitty will blossom if you provide lots of petting, brushing, playing and treats. Timid cats benefit from being confined to a very small space – such as a bathroom – at first, while they get to know you and become comfortable in their new surroundings. When your foster cat greets you with a purr and a head butt, you’ve succeeded! If you have any cat behavior questions or problems, email us at


HEALTHY:​ Your foster pet may need regular booster vaccines, spay/neuter, flea medicine, etc. You will receive an email when you take in a new cat explaining exactly what medical needs your foster has, when they are due, etc.  


If your cat or kitten is showing ANY signs of illness (sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea, not eating, runny eyes or nose, hair loss, urinating out of the box, losing weight, fleas, etc.), or if you have questions about their health, please email the foster team.​ 


HOME:​ Once your kitty is happy and healthy, it is time to find him a home! Please provide at least 3 photos and a description of your cat (or each kitten) within two weeks of receiving them, even if they're not yet ready for adoption. This photo and description will go on our website and will help jump-start the adoption placement. Email your photos and description to See our Foster Pet Marketing page for more information and support!


  • DO carefully review all of PVAS’s cat foster communications and resources, and follow the rules and responsibilities set forth therein.

  • DO understand that cats often need time to settle in and get used to a new routine. 

  • DO make sure any resident animal is fully vaccinated before fostering.

  • DO keep your foster cat separated from any resident animal for at least the first 10 days (longer if they are showing signs of illness) in order to protect the health and safety of your beloved pets. 

  • Do immediately notify our Foster Team if your foster cat is showing any sign of illness, injury or a behavioral challenge you need support with (including if the cat has patches of fur missing). A cat’s health can deteriorate in a matter of hours, and kittens are particularly fragile. You must be vigilant in monitoring their food intake, behavior, appearance, and even their waste.  

  • DO give our Foster Team at least 4 days advance notice if you need to rehome your foster cat or need a sitter. Also post a request in the PVAS Volunteer & Foster Facebook group to increase your chances of finding one.

  • DO email pictures, videos, and bio information to our Foster Team to market your foster cat. For help with this, visit our Pet Marketing page.

  • DO respond to ALL adoption inquiries within 24 hours.

  • DO always let potential adopters know there is or may be other adoption interest in your foster cat. Setting expectations is key!

  • DO immediately notify our Foster Team if you want to adopt your foster cat.

  • DO immediately report any foster cat bite per our Foster Bite Protocol.

  • DO immediately report if your foster cat is lost or stolen to our Foster Team at

  • DO shower your foster cat with love!


  • DON'T forget to check your email. We'll be reaching out to you about changes within the program, medical care your foster cat needs, etc.

  • DON’T allow your foster cat outside unless they are secured in a crate and supervised at all times, as when you are transporting them for medical appointments.

  • DON’T introduce your foster cat to any animal other than your resident animal(s).

  • DON’T travel out of the area with your foster cat without express written permission from the Foster Team. 

  • DON’T hand off your foster cat to a foster sitter, another foster, or any other person without getting permission from the Foster Team. Sitters must be PVAS-approved fosters.

  • DON’T use boarding facilities, groomers, or any other third-party care providers for your foster cat without express written permission from PVAS.

  • DON’T let a potential adopter take your foster cat on a trial basis. Your foster cat must be in the custody of an PVAS-approved foster at all times until officially adopted.

  • DON’T use aversive behavior modification tools.


Key Dos and Don'ts

Feline Body Language

A Visual Guide to Cat Body Language (Alley Cat Allies)

Feline Communication: How to Speak Cat (free online course)

Feline Body Language
Lost Cat

Lost Cat Protocol for Fosters

If you have lost your foster cat, contact the Foster Team at to report them missing.


Losing a cat is extremely frightening, but try not to panic. Be mindful to tailor your search to your specific cat. How do they respond when people yell or run straight at them? Are they aloof? Will they respond to their name? Swift action, coupled with neighborhood networking, will increase the odds of recovering your animal. Don’t be shy in enlisting help to get the word out. 

Your cat is missing…tips & tricks

  • A lost cat is likely still close to home, if not still inside, hiding.

  • Cats may not act like their indoor self when they escape outside. Cats tend to find the nearest hiding place and stay put until it feels safe or they are hungry enough to return home.

  • Check your property and your neighbors’, including garages and sheds. Use a flashlight with a strong beam to search under and around potential hiding places. The light might reflect off their eyes, revealing their location.

  • Shaking a food dish or treat jar will sometimes lure animals out of a hiding place.


Step 1: Search your home

  • Unless you saw your cat escape outside, don’t immediately assume that your cat is out of the house. Your cat could be hiding in a room or closet that is usually closed or may have found a new hiding space.

  • Make sure to check every room, shelf, closet, drawer, trunk, box, and behind every piece of unmovable furniture. Cats can squeeze into small spaces!


Step 2: Search your yard

  • A lost indoor cat that escaped outdoors is likely within 150 feet of the initial point of escape. More details on why

  • Think like a cat: Imagine you’re a foot tall and searching for a place to hide. Where is the closest place you could run for cover? Use this thought process everywhere you search inside and outside your home. Did kitty run under the deck or porch? Is there an open grate that goes under the house? Do you see a line of bushes your cat could hide in?

  • Do not assume a normally gregarious cat will come when called. Many cats silently hide when they’re frightened.

  • If possible, leave the door or window the cat escaped out of open. They will most likely feel safest to come out of hiding once the sun sets and will return home along the same route they escaped.

  • Since this may not be possible due to other pets or safety concerns, consider placing a humane cat trap near your cat’s escape route. We realize setting a trap sounds drastic and a little scary, but if kitty is unable to reenter your house overnight, you may never know they attempted to come home. By placing a trap near this exit/entrance point, you may discover kitty waiting for you in the trap when you wake up in the morning.

  • Search during the day, lure at night. Only leave food out inside a humane trap, that way you will know who (or what) is eating the food when you check a few hours later or in the morning.


Step 3: Expand the search

Expand your search radius to about 500 feet from home.


Step 4: Talk to your neighbors

  • Have you looked around your yard at the most obvious places your cat could have run to for cover?

  • Did this include places in your neighbor’s yard?

  • Do they have a garage door that may have been open when they took the trash out and is now closed?

  • What about their hedges, crawlspaces, and deck?

  • Ask if you can walk into your neighbor’s yards to check for your cat or if they would mind opening their garage door so you can take a quick look for kitty inside. You are the key figure here; you will look more thoroughly for your cat than neighbors, and receive greater peace of mind if you perform the search.


Step 5: Make Flyers

Post flyers in your neighborhood to get the word out that you are actively searching for your cat. Make sure to include key information such as:

  • Color photo with a brief description of color, hair length, or distinguishing marks. If you do not have a photo, email our foster team for one at

  • Use phrases like…

    • Do Not Chase

    • Call upon sighting: Do not approach

    • Please call or text a photo to [your number here]

  • A cell phone where you can be reached/texted at any time


Before you post any signs, make sure they will draw attention. If you printed it out on white paper, tape it to a large fluorescent piece of poster board to draw the eye. Post signs where they can be seen by drivers. You can make flyers using any text program or writing directly onto a bright poster board.


For help making flyers, you can also use any of these sites:


Step 6: Utilize Social Media!


More resources:

Cat Foster Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)



General (Feline)


I brought my foster cat/kitten(s) home. Now what? 

Congratulations on your new foster(s)! Being in the shelter can be really stressful for your foster, so the first thing you want to do is give them a calm place to relax so they can get used to their new residence. We usually recommend a bathroom or guest space so your cat feels safe. Make sure they have access to food, water, and a litter box. 

All cats & kittens coming from the shelter must go through a 10-14 day quarantine period apart from all foster animals and resident pets. Even if they look healthy, we need to make sure they are not incubating any illnesses. We strongly recommend quarantining in an easy-to-sanitize area such as a bathroom.


I’d like to connect with other PVAS fosters. Is there an online group for fosters?

Yes! Join our Facebook group, PVAS Volunteers and Fosters, where you can post photos of your fosters, ask questions, get updates about our program and give support to other fosters.


How long of a commitment am I getting myself into?

This can vary quite a lot! It will depend primarily on the age of the cat(s) or kitten(s) you take home. We encourage fosters to keep their foster pets  until they are adopted. With kittens, this usually happens within a few weeks after they turn 8 weeks old. For example, if you take home 7-week-old kittens, you could theoretically have them for as little as a week! But if you take home 2-week-olds, you're going to have them for at least 6 weeks. 


The time adult cats will be in foster varies widely. It also depends greatly on the needs of your cat/kitten(s). Kittens with special needs or health conditions, such as kittens with incontinence issues, can take significantly longer to adopt out. Remember, the more marketing you’re able to help us with, the higher your chances of finding an adopter quickly.

If you are unable to keep your kittens for the length of time it will take for them to get adopted, we can help you arrange to transfer them to another foster. We need a significant heads-up to pull this off, so please give us at least a week's notice if at all possible and post about your need in our Volunteer and Foster Facebook group.


How do I find out which cats and kittens are available to foster?

We send out “foster plea” emails regularly and often post needs in the PVAS Volunteer and Foster Facebook group, especially if we are trying to place cats with a deadline. The emails and postings usually include all of the relevant information we have about the kitties as well as a photo. Additionally, we post cats or kittens who urgently need fosters on our website here.  To offer to foster one of these pets, email us at


What do I do if I have to go out of town? Can a friend babysit my cat/kitten(s)?

Babysitters for PVAS foster pets must be approved fosters. If your friend is interested in becoming a foster for PVAS, thank you for helping us recruit them!! They’ll need to apply on our website and complete our normal onboarding process. If your pet is a neonatal kitten, babysitters must be trained to care for them. 


If you are going to need a babysitter, please email one week in advance with the following information:

  1. Start-date and end-date for the babysitting gig (i.e. drop-off and pick-up dates)

  2. Any current medications they are taking

  3. If you have kittens, tell us what they are eating (are they bottle babies, independent eaters, or syringe gruel kittens or a nursing mom and litter)

  4. Attach a cute photo for our foster plea.

We will add them to our foster plea and let you know once we have found a babysitter. Babysitters are often found at the last minute. Please don’t panic if it takes us a few days to find one. We always have backup solutions in place, so your kittens will have someone to take care of them!

Please Note: Fosters ARE NOT PERMITTED to take their neonatal fosters out of town with them! If you will be traveling for any length of time, you MUST request a babysitter.


What do I need in order to foster a cat?
  • Food, water and bowls for each

  • Cat litter, litter box, scoop & bag

  • Toys

  • Scratching post


Can I foster more than one cat or litter of kittens at a time?

Sometimes! We find that it works best to start out with one litter so you can become familiar with kitten care and PVAS procedures. Once you have a little foster experience under your belt, you may be able to foster up to two cats or groups at a time, though this will be at staff discretion. A “group” is a litter of kittens, a mom and her litter, an adult cat, or a pair of bonded adult cats. You will need to have enough room to keep your groups separate from each other as well as any resident pets. Moms need to be kept separate from all other animals the entire time they are in foster. Kittens can be introduced to other cats and kittens following a 10 to 14 day isolation period if they are symptom-free and not on any medications.


I have resident cats. Can I still foster?

Yes! Most of our fosters also have a resident cat or two or three. You do need a separate space for your foster kittens, like a bathroom or spare bedroom. If your resident cats are vaccinated and indoor-only, you can introduce them and let them interact while supervised after 10 to 14 days if everyone is symptom-free and medication-free. 


Can my foster cat/kittens meet my dog?

If your dog is cat-friendly and you are fostering an adult cat, you may introduce them and allow them to interact while supervised. We love dogs, but unfortunately we do not allow foster kittens to meet dogs. Since even friendly dogs can unintentionally injure kittens, we ask that you wait to introduce your kittens to dogs until they are adult cats. Pregnant or nursing moms need to be kept separate from all other animals the entire time they are in foster.


I need to return my foster cat/kitten(s). What do I do?

We understand that emergencies and circumstances arise that may mean you need to move your kittens before they are adopted. However, foster kittens cannot simply be returned to PVAS, as we may not have a kennel immediately available for them and due to the fact that their immune systems are still developing, the risk of them getting sick in the shelter is high. Just like we rely on fosters to step up for kittens the first time, we count on fosters to step up if you have a family emergency. Always give us advance notice if at all possible. Please email the following information: 

  1. The date you need your foster moved

  2. Any current medications they are taking

  3. If you have kittens, tell us what they are eating (are they bottle babies, independent eaters, or syringe gruel kittens or a nursing mom and litter)

  4. Attach a cute photo for our foster plea.

I only want to foster healthy cats/kittens. Are you able to make sure my foster is healthy?

We do our best to identify and begin treatment for any current illnesses pets have before they go to foster, but this is not always possible. Even the best shelters are stressful for pets, and stress can impact a pet’s immune system, making it easier for them to get sick. Most illnesses have incubation periods, so cats/kittens that appear healthy in the shelter may develop illnesses once they are in foster. 


Kittens’ immune systems are still developing, so illness is very common. It is highly likely that your kittens will experience mild to moderate symptoms of illness and infection such as diarrhea, upper respiratory infections, or ringworm at some point. This is one of the reasons why they need our help! 


For these reasons, if we match you with a cat or kittens who arrive with mild to moderate symptoms or develop them in foster, we need you to continue to foster them and treat them –- with our help of course! Exceptions include kittens who arrive with more serious illnesses or who unexpectedly test FeLV+ on intake.


Why isn’t my foster cat being social?

 Cats can sometimes take a few weeks or more to get used to their new residence, especially if they need socializing. Give them time. We often suggest a bathroom or closet to limit the possible hiding spots. Don't try to force them to interact with you by grabbing them or forcibly holding them.  Treats are a great way to get your kitty to open up. If your kitty likes treats try putting some out when you come into the room. Toys are also a great way to bond with your foster. Teaching your foster to associate you with treats and toys is a great way to get your foster to come our of their shell.


My kitten is sneezing/has diarrhea/has fleas/has some other mild to moderate symptom(s) of illness. What do I do?

Please contact the foster team at


The Adoption Process


When do foster kittens go to their adoptive homes?

Adoptions MUST be officially approved & all fees/deposits must be paid before a kitten can go to their new home. Once the adoption has been approved, please transfer the adopted animal as soon as possible, and notify PVAS staff if there are any delays in transferring care.


How do I get my cat adopted?

Visit our foster pet marketing page for tips and tricks!


Can I pick the best adopter? 

We’re sorry, but no. PVAS does adoptions based on a first come, first served basis. We understand you might feel one adopter is the absolute best, but this practice helps us avoid letting personal biases get in the way of finding our pets the best home.


Can I/a family member/a friend adopt my foster kittens?

Absolutely! Fosters always have “first dibs” on their foster pet, but still need to go through the official adoption process.  The pet(s) must stay in your possession until the adoption is completed.


Can I advertise my kittens on social media?

Yes, absolutely! You can find guidance on our foster marketing page.


Do I have a say in who adopts my kittens? What questions should I ask adopters?

Our open adoption process is designed to prevent all of our internal biases from unintentionally affecting the families we adopt to. We’re all, as humans, really really prone to judging each other, and there’s lots and lots of data to show that that doesn’t actually help cats find better homes—it just unintentionally slows down the process of kitties finding homes, and makes it harder for loving families who don’t look like we imagined the perfect home to adopt. For these reasons, PVAS adopts out pets first come, first serve to qualified adopters.


What do I do if I don’t think the adopter is a good fit?

If you have genuine concerns about a particular adopter, we definitely want you to share them with us! Email us at Our open adoption process is just to make sure that we don’t allow any personal or societal biases get in the way of animals going to good homes.


I'm concerned about fostering kittens with ringworm. Can you please make sure my foster kittens don’t have ringworm?

Ringworm is very common in Texas. We can do our best to match you with kittens that do not appear to have ringworm, but if they arrive with ringworm or develop it once they are in foster, we would need you to continue to foster them and treat them -– with our help of course! Have a look at our ringworm resources for fosters for more information about fostering kittens with ringworm here.

I am concerned about spreading disease to my resident cats. How can I be sure my cats won’t get sick?

We recommend making sure your resident cats are current on their core vaccinations, and in fact, we require them to be current on their vaccinations if you would like them to interact with your foster kittens. Although the risk of transmitting illness to your resident cats is not zero, you can minimize it by complying with our isolation period requirements and practicing good sanitation (washing hands, not sharing items between foster kittens and residents, cleaning frequently, etc.). If you still have concerns, consider keeping your foster kittens separate from your resident cats the entire time you have them.


My kitten is sneezing/has diarrhea/has fleas/has some other mild to moderate symptom(s) of illness. What do I do?

Please contact the foster team at



What cleaning products can I use? 

Start with an all-purpose cleaner like 409 or Simple Green. They are safe for pets and kill most germs.


If you're fostering a cat who has ringworm, you can find additional cleaning tips here.

Cleaning and Disinfection in Foster Homes (16 min. video)


Why are there so many orphaned kittens?

Orphan kittens require constant care that can’t be adequately provided by shelter staff. Kittens’ developing immune systems have a harder time fighting illness, and even the best shelters can be stressful for pets. Stress inhibits the immune system and can make it harder for pets to get better. Foster homes are ideal for kittens because of the reduced risk of coming into contact with illnesses, reduced stress and the ability foster parents have to focus on just one or a few pets at a time.

Some kittens may need to be fed every 2-3 hours, including overnight. We try our best to find fosters for all kittens ranging from bottle babies to sick older kittens who need to be fed every 4 to 6 hours.

What food do I need to feed my kittens?

Bottle babies (up to about 4 weeks, or when all four canines have erupted) need to be fed KMR (kitten milk replacer). Once the kitten's canine teeth are fully in, they need to be fed premium canned kitten food mixed with water until it is applesauce consistency (and blended if the kitten is being syringe fed) and premium kitten kibble. Kittens may not be interested in kibble at first, but you will still leave it out for them at all times so that they can learn what it is.


How much do kittens need to eat?
  • Bottle babies and kittens eating syringe gruel need to eat 5% of their body weight at each feeding.

  • For bottle babies, that's every 2 to 3 hours during the day (6 overnight).

  • For kittens on syringe gruel, that's every 4 to 6 hours during the day (8 overnight).

  • For independent eaters, or  "gruelies", they need to have fresh food put out at least every 6 hours. They must be provided enough food at each feeding to eat 5% of their body weight. They also need a bowl of kibble and a bowl of water available at all times.

How should I kitten-proof my home?

Kittens are small, fast, and seem to squeeze themselves into any nook and cranny they can find. Here is a short list of common household hazards to watch out for when kitten-proofing your home:

  • Reclining or rocking chairs

  • Toilets and bathtub drains

  • Doors, exits, and the outdoors

  • Dogs

  • Appliances, such as washers and dryers

  • Holes

  • Chemicals and cleaners

  • Houseplants

  • Electric cords

My kitten is lethargic/cold and I can’t rouse them. What do I do?

Please start Fading Kitten Protocol immediately. Once you have have the kitten wrapped in the blanket and heating pad and have begun giving the sugar-water/Karo syrup drops every 3 minutes, please call us at 956-330-3206 to let us know you have a fading kitten. We will instruct you to continue Fading Kitten Protocol and will give you further instructions for when the kitten is out of the fade.

Do I get to name my foster kittens?

If you foster a pregnant cat, you will be able to name her kittens. Once the kittens are born, we will assign you a litter letter/number combination, and the kittens’ names need to start with that letter. All other cats and kittens are assigned names by the staff.  

Cat Foster FAQ
Adoption Process FAQs
Medical FAQ
Cleaning FAQ
Kitten FAQ
General Feline FAQ
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