On National Kitten Day, two cat parents reveal the secrets of successful fostering

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Wednesday, July 10, is “National Kitten Day,” a celebration of all cats under a year old — and amid what animal shelters call “kitten season,” there are increased calls for foster families to help free up space.

Fox News Digital spoke to two seasoned kitten foster parents about the process and their own personal stories.

“Fostering is providing a temporary home for cats and kittens that are looking for forever homes,” Linnea Gomez, of Greenbelt, Maryland, told Fox News Digital in a phone interview. 

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“You’re taking care of them in the meantime and meeting potential adopters and helping to facilitate getting them into their forever homes.”

Gomez has been fostering cats with the organization A Cat’s Life Rescue for about two-and-a-half years. She’s fostered 43 kittens since she began fostering, as she put it, “accidentally.” 

“I love animals, I love cats, and a friend of mine on Facebook had posted this desperate plea for help,” Gomez said. “She had this kitten that she couldn’t foster, and she was going to have to let him go because he was a little older and feral, and she thought he could be domesticated.”

That cat, “a 4-month-old, hissing, angry kitten,” then moved in to Gomez’s garage, where he stayed for a couple of weeks.

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“By the end of that, he and I were best friends, and I was hooked,” she said. 

Tina LeBaron of Ellicott City, Maryland, also fosters cats with A Cat’s Life Rescue, she told Fox News Digital in an email. 

“He and I were best friends, and I was hooked.”

She got into fostering after her daughter suggested it because they already had a dog and an older cat and thought it would be a good house for kittens to socialize with dogs and children. Their older cat, Stormy, was adopted from another A Cat’s Life Rescue foster home. 

Despite her relatively short time in fostering kittens, she and her family have already fostered “about 13 cats.” Right now, they have two cats ready to be adopted.

A pile of four kittens, including one that's a calico and one that has stripes.

“Ten of [the fosters] were kittens, and three of them have been adults,” she said. “Our first group was a litter of five, which was a bit of a learning experience.” 

While LeBaron had grown up with cats who went on to have kittens, fostering kittens who had previously lived outdoors was very different, both for her and the cats. 

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“When [the kittens] come from areas where they were eating trash or food was scarce, they need to learn to be comfortable with more than just humans – and some get it sooner than others,” she said. “Fostering teaches you how different each kitten’s personality is.”

‘Never know what they’ll like’

A foster kitten should have food, medication, kitten-sized litter boxes and “a lot of toys” on hand, LeBaron said. 

“You never know what they’ll like,” she said. 

Places for a kitten to hide, such as cat trees, are also useful. 

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“In some ways, it’s more important [to know] what you don’t need, too,” she said. “Everyone knows kittens can be curious or hide when they’re in a new environment, and when they haven’t been socialized to a home, sometimes they pick the strangest places to hide.”

She also said, “I didn’t know how many different types of cat playpens they made until I started fostering.”

Gomez has exclusively fostered kittens, as her house is smaller and kittens need less room than an adult cat. She has three foster kittens named Pastina, Macaroni and Ravioli. 

“I keep them in a bathroom,” Gomez said. 

She has two “resident cats,” including Fable, a “foster fail” whom she adopted directly from fostering. 

A tortie cat and a torbie cat staring at the camera.

Fable, unlike his brother, Ballad, does not enjoy the presence of his foster siblings and must be kept separate from them, Gomez said.

Ballad, on the other hand, “loves to play with [the kittens], wants to interact with them. He’s like their uncle.”

Fostering kittens is ‘doing a service’

Both Gomez and LeBaron agreed the biggest “myth” associated with fostering kittens is that a person will be tempted to keep all of them.

“I love helping all of them, but from their personalities you can tell some wouldn’t find your house to be the best fit,” LeBaron said.

Gomez said that while seeing the kittens get adopted by others is hard, “once you do it a couple of times, it gets easier.” 

She said, “You see how happy people are with their new family members and see how happy the cats are in their new homes. And so it becomes worth it.”

A split image of three adorable kittens.

Fostering, Gomez said, is “really doing a service and helping out so that the cats aren’t in shelters or out on the street.” 

Another misconception about fostering kittens, LeBaron said, is the amount of work and time needed. 

“I think the other misconception is that it’s a lot of physical work the whole time or that you’re always trying to socialize them, and they’re resistant,” she told Fox News Digital. 

While “there are times [when] it’s a lot of work, especially at first,” LeBaron said, “any comfort you can give to the kittens helps win them over.”

As the kittens grow and become more comfortable, taking care of them gets easier, she said. 

“Any comfort you can give to the kittens helps win them over.”

“Some of the older cats have gotten so comfortable that they started thinking of this as their forever home, but I’m happy to report that all three adapted to their real forever homes in less than a week and have been extremely happy there,” she said. 

Plus, LeBaron said, the experience of raising baby animals can just be downright adorable. 

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“The fosters can teach the permanent cats just as much as the permanent cats teach the fosters,” she said, noting that one of the older cats she fostered taught her cat Tiramisu how to open containers by dropping them. 

“It’s also great watching the kittens learn everything,” LeBaron said. “For instance, the first time our fosters saw a ladybug they stared out the window and watched for almost an hour.”

Adorable torbie resting on a cat platform by a window.

Anyone thinking about opening their home to kittens – or any cats in need of a temporary home – should “do it,” LeBaron said.

“If you want to try it, reach out to an organization and let them know your interest,” she said. “A lot of times they have some of the necessary items you’ll need and can help you get set up. If you don’t like it, you can always stop.” 

Gomez said fostering kittens, while it may seem intimidating, “is more doable than I think people realize.” 

Fostering kittens “is awesome,” she said. “I love it.” 

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