One of the things we often say at Marin Humane is that while our shelter is quite nice, it’s still a shelter. Animal shelters can be loud and stressful places for animals, especially those that require extra TLC. One of the best things we can do for those animals is to place them in a loving foster home until they’re ready for adoption

I asked foster coordinator Suzanne Gollin a few questions about foster homes. In this edition, we’ll focus on foster homes for kitties:

Q: What kinds of cats need foster homes?

A: We rely on foster homes for four types of felines: Neonates, which are recently born kittens that have arrived at Marin Humane without their mom. These tiny felines are quite vulnerable and their first few weeks of life are critical to their health and growth; cats that are healthy but have litter box issues and just need a quiet space to relearn their bathroom etiquette; kitties with a common skin condition called ringworm, and “skitty kitties,” that is, cats that are quite scared and shy.

Q: What is the feeding schedule like for neonates and how long does the foster family keep them?

A: Just like a newborn human baby, these kittens need to be bottle fed often, about every two to three hours until 2 weeks old and every four to six hours until 4 weeks old. They stay in their foster home until they are at 8 weeks old and weight at least 2 pounds.

Q: What would you most want people to know about neonates if they’re considering fostering?

A: Our neonate foster families love caring for these special kittens. It’s pretty amazing to watch the kittens change and get stronger with each day. Neonates especially delight families with kids and can help teach compassion, patience and how to nurture vulnerable creatures.

Q: For cats having litter box issues, what is required and how long do they need to be in foster?

A: It’s actually easy to get a cat with litter box issues to change its ways. With the help of special litter, a quiet space and no other resident cats, these kitties can kick their litter box issues, making them much more adoptable. They usually only need about two weeks in a foster home.

Q: What are the most common myths about ringworm and what’s required of a foster home?

A: First, there is no worm. Ringworm is simply a fungal infection, very similar to athlete’s foot, that’s common among cats under the age of 1. The second myth is that if you’re around an infected kitty, you’ll get ringworm, too. The fact is, that while highly contagious, with the proper protections the risk is minimal (in humans it’s treated even more easily with over-the-counter topical ointment). Fostering ringworm kitties is actually pretty easy; they simply need a daily dose of oral medication and a weekly visit to the shelter where they’ll receive a medicated bath. Treatment is usually about six weeks.

Q: What sort of household is best for “skitty” kitties?

A: The shy or shut-down felines need a calm home with a consistent schedule. Sometimes they do well with polite resident animals, but oftentimes they simply need a quiet place. What’s most important is to have a patient foster home that will give them time to come out of their shell.

Q: What about food and supplies for cats in foster homes?

A: All food and supplies are provided free. The only thing required of the foster family is time, patience and love.

Fostering these types of special kitties is not necessarily glamorous, but it’s extremely rewarding and the key to getting them adopted into loving homes.