Fostering kittens

Tame vs Un-tame

If your kittens are tame, you may set them up in a suitable room where they can be confined, safe, warm and away from your own pets. If they are un-tame and just in from the wild (hissing, spitting, never been touched before), you will need to house them, at least at first, in a cage. Forgotten Felines uses rabbit cages – single cages for one-two kittens, double cages for three or more.

Cage/Room Set Up

Once you have found an appropriate place for the cage, cover the entire bottom with sheets, blankets or towels. This will keep kitten feet off of the wire grating.

If you have a single cage, place a bedding area in one of the rear corners, the litter box in the other corner with food and water toward the front. Make the set-up easy for you to clean and reach.

If you have a double cage, set up bedding on one side with food and water. Use the other side for the litter box. Place litter box as far from food as possible as cats do not like to eat near their toilet.

Add safe toys (ones that cannot be chewed and swallowed by kittens) and you’re set.

If your kitties are tame, find a small, cozy spot to set up bedding, litter box, food and water bowls. Remember that the only appropriate place to foster small kittens is in a place where they can be safely confined – a laundry room, small bathroom, even an extra shower or bathtub are ideal. Remember they can be moved to a larger room if available in a few weeks. To ensure that your room is “kitten proof”, please refer to the Kitten Hazards information.

Water and Food

Clean water must be available at all times.

Never feed a young kitten cow’s milk. This could cause diarrhea or constipation.

Use bowls that cannot tip. Kittens have abundant energy and can make a big mess! We want to keep their environment warm and dry.

Forgotten Felines feeds Purina Kitten Chow to all kittens. Make up a mixture of softened Purina dry kibble if the kittens are just starting to eat solid food. Make the Purina dry kibble “soft” by adding hot or warm water to it and allow it to sit for 10 minutes to absorb the moisture. Then using a fork, mix it up adding a small amount of wet kitten canned food to create a soupy mixture or gruel. The food should be the consistency of chunky soup. Place kitties in front of the food bowl. If they don’t lick on their own, place a bit of food on the tip of your finger and offer it to them. If they still don’t lick, open their mouth and place the food from your finger on the roof of their mouth. This will give them a taste of the food. Now offer them food from your finger again and eventually lead them with your finger closer and closer to the bowl. Some kittens take to it right away. Some take longer and enjoy the coddling. When they’re ready, they’ll lap it up. Keep trying until they get it down. Over several days decrease the amount of formula added until they are eating the softened food straight. During this time add a dish of dry food and water and have it available at all times.

Kittens five to six weeks old need four small meals a day with the last meal just before bedtime. Kittens six to eight weeks old need four meals a day (about one -two tablespoons of softened food per kitten for each meal) plus free choice dry kibble.

Observe kittens when they are eating to be sure each kitten gets enough food. Removed uneaten “wet” food so it doesn’t go bad. The dry kibble should be available at all times. Food and water bowls should be cleaned daily.


Use regular, clay litter, NOT clumping litter. Clumping litter is hazardous to kittens as it will cause intestinal blockages if swallowed, can get in their eyes and nose.

For small kittens, a regular litter box is too tall – they can’t get in or out. Instead, use a flat container with small lip around edge. Plastic Frisbees or dishes for under potted plants work well. Use a container that is large enough for the number of kittens you have. Once they are old enough, you may change to a regular litter box.

Be sure to clean all litter boxes and containers before using them. Use a mild bleach mixture (about 10% bleach, 90% water) to sterilize.

It is very important to clean the litter box daily or more often if required. Cats and kittens are reluctant to use dirty litter boxes.


Place clean, warm bedding inside something that will provide a cozy nest. Use a box or container with low sides so kittens can easily crawl in and out. Towels and small blankets work well for bedding. Change bedding often to keep environment clean. This is especially needed with young kittens. Be sure to remove wet and/or soiled bedding as soon as possible.

General Care

Be observant. Several times each day determine if are all kittens eating?
Do they appear healthy (eyes and nose clear, alert, etc? Are they using the litter box? Do the stools look normal Kitten stools are a great source of information. Watch carefully for any changes as kittens often do not “act sick” until they are extremely ill. Loose or watery stools give you clues to illness. Prompt medical treatment may prevent serious illness.

Get to know each individual kitten so you will know when something may be wrong.

Just noting that the kitten food is gone is not sufficient observation. Make certain that you actually see each kitten eating.


When the kittens arrive, give them a day to calm down and adjust to their new surroundings. During this time, cover the cage completely with a sheet or blanket to help them feel extra secure. When they are calm, you must pick them up.

A kitten that is born on the street to a unowned/wild mother can become will also become wild by five weeks of age. If the mother is fearful of humans, she will teach her kittens at an early age to be fearful. It is important to be cautious with kittens, because out of fear they can inflict some painful bites and scratches. Try to avoid being bit or scratched. Accidents may happen, however and you must remember that if the cat or kitten bites you, it is out of fear, not malice. Cat bites can be serious. If you are bitten, clean and disinfect the bite area immediately. A sensible, careful approach is needed at all times For successful socialization of a wild kitten, we suggest the following:

Confine in cage
Approach often and with food
Wrap and hold in a towel
Play radio/tv
Have both female & male friends visit
Speak softly, move slowly
Be patient
Try to be with the kittens at least an hour in the am and hour in pm
If you have more than one kitten from a litter, it is sometimes necessary to separate them. This is often difficult to do because our natural tendency is to want to keep them together. However, sibling kittens will bond with one another and what we want them to do is bond with a human. It will take a great deal of time and effort to socialize a feral kitten if it is kept with others. There is the possibility that a wild kitten will not be able to be socialized if it is not separated from other kittens.

Remember that the separation is temporary and kittens can and should be reunited with their own kind once they are socialized.

To begin kitten socialization, take the kitten out in a secure area only. Make sure all doors and windows are shut.

To pick up an un-tame or unsocialized kitten, wrap your hand in a thick towel and “scruff” the kitten (hold the loose flesh on back of neck). While holding the scruff with one hand, wrap the towel around the kitten with the other hand. A secure grip on the scruff is essential.

Wrapping a frightened kitten in a towel while you pet it helps it to feel secure while getting used to being held and touched. Pet the kitten on the head with your hand coming at it from behind. Many kittens will flinch at a hand coming toward their face.

Hold them, pet them, talk to them, play with them, love them. The more socialization they receive from you the better companions they will make. Never use your hands as play toys and discourage kittens from biting and scratching. If they become rough, stop playing immediately and ignore them for a few minutes. If they are playing inappropriately, redirect their play to toys. Never hit or spank a kitten. This just teaches them to fear human hands. Always supervise closely when kittens are handled by children.

Some kittens will socialize very quickly. Others will take much more time and patience on your part. However, the majority of kittens can be socialized and are good candidates for adoption.

Play with your kittens. Use kitty teasers and dangle toys. Also, keep toys in the cage so kittens will be able to play when you are busy. During socialization sessions, offer small bits of canned food from your hand. Kittens will begin to associate pleasant treats with your hand and become less fearful.

You will know your kittens feel safe, secure and trust you when they come to the front of the cage when you enter the room (instead of hiding in the corner). Do not allow your kitten run of a large room unless it exhibits this type of trust. You may choose to never allow run of large rooms for their safety and the safety of your personal pets.

Kittens need to be handled frequently. In addition to socialization times, try to reach in and pet the kittens every time you walk by the cage. This takes just a few minutes and can have a dramatic impact on how fast the kittens tame.

Food can play an essential role in kitten socialization. Frequent approaching a kitten with food can be very effective.

Give your kittens as much attention as possible. Kittens who are caged too long or not handled regularly can develop psychological problems. Severe loneliness can develop if you do not have consistent quality time with your fosters. However, with love, affection and a keen eye, you should be able to avoid this problem.

Symptoms of Illness

We hope your foster kittens do not become sick, but if they do, immediately call the numbers on your contact card.

Symptoms of a sick kitten include:

refusing to eat
continuous vomiting
bleeding of any kind (nose, urine, stool, etc.)
changes in eating or drinking behavior
difficulty breathing
rectal temperature below 99.5 or above 102
eye or nasal discharge
hairless or crusty patches of skin that normally have hair
Dehydration from diarrhea can kill kittens. It is important to hydrate them immediately. Forgotten Felines recommends unflavored Pedialite rehydration fluid. You may offer this instead of water. Please call for assistance at the first sign of diarrhea.

If kittens become sick, be sure to clean bowls, litter box, toys and bedding with a mild bleach solution (10% bleach to 90% water) to kill any bacteria that are lurking.


Fleas are tiny insects that love to feed on kittens. Although each flea only consumes a small drop of blood, fleas commonly attack in large numbers and an infestation can literally drain blood from a kitten’s body producing anemia and death.

It is essential to remove fleas from kittens and bedding. Change bedding frequently and flea comb kittens daily. Older kittens may have Advantage flea prevention applied. Contact the Adoption Program Coordinator immediately if your kittens are covered with fleas.

Make a difference


We can’t do what we do without a fantastic group of volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering, fill out this form and we will contact you.


All donations go to providing needed care for Sonoma County’s unowned cats. There are multiple ways to give. Learn more