Foster Handbook: keeping safe & healthy

We try to test at-risk adults and mother cats for FeLV/FIV before going into foster care. However, there is always a health risk to expose your pets to other animals.

Dogs are not affected by feline upper respiratory diseases, FeLV or FIV. However, parasites and fungi can be passed between cats and dogs.

We recommend your foster cats or kittens remain separate from your other animals in their Safe Room for at least 21 days. Kittens from outside have a better chance of being exposed to the Panleukopenia virus before we get them and that can take 14 days to incubate.

If we have no background on your foster cat or kitten, strict isolation for your own animals for at least the first 21 days is important to see if any contagious illnesses develop and minimizing any transmission of disease.

Foster cats can be particularly susceptible to illnesses carried by household pets because they are already in a vulnerable state, so they likewise need to be isolated for at least 21 days from your household pets. Again, this is why it is important to wash hands between animal populations and change shoes and/or clothes as mentioned below.

Be aware that a mother cat with a litter of kittens can be very protective and might act aggressively toward other animals and people to protect her kittens. That’s another reason to keep them completely separate from your other pets at first.

However, some cats in long-term care will do better if integrated into the household. After 21 days, the health risk should be minimal if your pets’ vaccinations are current, they are in good health, and they are not very young, very old, or immune compromised. Please consult with your veterinarian before becoming a foster parent if you have concerns.

A zoonotic disease, like ringworm, can be transmitted between humans and animals. If someone in the household is immune compromised or pregnant, a potential foster parent should consult a doctor and/or a veterinarian before fostering.

Proper sanitation and hygiene reduces the risk of transmitting diseases. Washing hands with soap and water before and after touching foster cats will help minimize the risk of transferring infections.

Try to keep a pair of washable shoes, like Crocs, in your foster room and change into and out of them when visiting. For kittens, we also recommend changing into and out of a scrub top or sweatshirt.

If you have something that can work as a coatrack, keep it just outside your foster room to keep contaminated clothing on. It’s good practice to keep hand sanitizer right outside your foster room so it’s readily available. Please see this Infection Control video for how diseases can spread from room to room.

Before foster kittens arrive at the foster home and after they leave, the entire room should be thoroughly cleaned. All surfaces should first be washed with a mild soap solution and dried. Then they should be disinfected with a solution of either 3% bleach or 3% Accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide (Rescue brand…can borrow from HCH).

Make this by diluting 1 ounce either disinfectant in 1 quart water. Allow the solution to sit for 10 minutes after applying to surface. Please also use bleach when washing any bedding and disinfect with either solution any equipment borrowed from HCH before it is returned.

Please avoid commercial cleaning products because many are highly toxic to cats, including Lysol, Pinesol, 409, Tilex, Spic & Span and many others. If you need to wash any surfaces, make a simple soap solution with a squirt of dish soap and 1/2 t. plain vinegar in a quart of water. The Environmental Working Group also has a good guide to toxicity in cleaners here.

Also, be aware that many plants and foods are toxic to cats. Please see the ASPCA Animal Poison Control website for poisonous plants, toxic food and household products.