Foster Handbook: veterinary care

All medical care is provided by HCH and our consulting veterinarians. Emergency care not affiliated with HCH must be approved by the Foster Managerr in advance of treatment. HCH will not assume responsibility for any expenses incurred without prior approval by HCH.
If a foster parent thinks a cat requires medical attention, contact the Foster Manager at any time and we will arrange vet care. If there is a life-threatening emergency after hours, call this number for Animal ER: 719-260-7141.
Please call your Foster Manager to discuss veterinary care for any of the following:
Kittens younger than 6 months:
  • Diarrhea that lasts for more than a day.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea that lasts for more than 6 hours.
  • Vomiting more than once an hour.
  • Labored breathing, excessive panting or coughing.
  • Lethargy to the point you can’t wake the kitten
  • Unconsciousness, seizures, uneven pupil dilation or fainting
  • Marked behavioral changes
Cats older than 6 months:
  • Not drinking for more than 24 hours
  • Diarrhea that lasts for more than 2 days
  • Diarrhea and occasional vomiting for more than 24 hours
  • Vomiting more than 2 or 3 times in an hour
  • Labored breathing, excessive panting or coughing
  • Not eating for more than 1-2 days
  • Lethargy without fever for more than 1-2 days
  • Lethargy with temperature over 103 degrees or under 99 degrees
  • Unconsciousness, seizures, uneven pupil dilation or fainting
  • Marked behavioral changes
Sometimes foster parents may just get a feeling that a cat isn’t doing well. In that case, call the Foster Manager to seek advice.

Common cat illnesses

  • URI — The most common condition a foster cat or kitten will have is an Upper Respiratory Infection (URI). This is a “kitty cold.” The symptoms are sneezing, runny eyes and/or nose and congestion, just like a cold in humans. In kittens and in some cats, however, it can have serious consequences.If your foster cat or kittens come down with these symptoms, please contact your Foster Manager for instructions. If you are willing to nurture your fosters through this process, you may be able to prevent the URI from becoming severe.You will need to be thorough in isolating your fosters from your own cats, if you have them, and provide extra TLC to the fosters, especially if they are kittens. Please contact your Foster Manager for more information on how to do this. There are also tips on our website here.
  • Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper) – Feline Distemper is highly contagious and usually fatal. It is a resilient virus that attacks the lining of the intestine and is transmitted only between cats. The incubation period is 2-14 days.It is most common during the warmer months and during the spring and summer when most kittens are born. Kittens and unvaccinated cats are highly susceptible, which is why we vaccinate so young.Symptoms include the sudden onset of lethargy (sitting in praying position with head on paws), lack of appetite, vomiting, drooling and yellow diarrhea, generally followed by death within 24 hours. Please contact your Manager if any of these symptoms appear suddenly and harshly.
  • Parasites – There are many common parasites seen in cats and they usually present with intestinal upset like diarrhea. Stress diarrhea is common in shelter animals, so if you suspect your foster cat is having issues beyond that, please contact your Foster Manager. The Koret School of Shelter Medicine has a good reference page here if you would like to learn more. 
  • Ringworm – Also known as dermatophytosis, this a fungal infection affecting the skin, hair and occasionally nails of animals. It is zoonotic, meaning contagious to all pets and people.This usually presents as a bald spot on the face, ears, chin or feet. We screen visually for ringworm during initial intake exams, but if the fungus is just getting started, it may not yet be visible. If you notice any bald patches appearing, please contact your Foster Manager immediately.
  • Dehydration – Dehydration can occur when the cat is either not taking in enough water (like with the loss of appetite) or losing too much water (through frequent urination, diarrhea, or fever).Dehydration can be identified by lifting the loose skin over the lower back. The skin should snap down quickly when released. If the skin remains lifted when released or slowly settles down over the body, the cat is probably dehydrated.Appetite can be stimulated by feeding a more palatable food, like Beechnut meat baby food or Hills A/D canned food. Warming the food a bit in the microwave can also help, but do check for hot spots with your fingers. Please contact your Foster Coordinator so that we can arrange to give you this food if needed.If the cat is dehydrated, we may have you bring him or her into HCH for subcutaneous fluids injected under the skin. Here is a link for how to check for dehydration.
  • Injuries or surgeries – If you are interested in fostering a cat through his or her recuperation, please let your Foster Manager know. You will be given instructions on how best to help your charges heal from these issues.
  • Medications — If you are able to provide medications to your foster cats or kittens, please let your Foster Manager know that too. We can give you instructions and tips on how best to do that and support your support of the cats in your care.Direct dosing is stressful and can harm the bond you are building with your foster cat or kitten. We have a protocol for dosing in food, which is far less stressful. However, the protocol must be followed exactly in order for the kitty to receive the full dose. Please discuss this with your Foster Manager if your cat or kitten needs medication.You will be provide with a Medication Sheet to keep track of your medication and dosing. Please return that to your Foster Manager when returning the cat or kitten.