Foster Cat Program

Reasons to foster

Fostering is a wonderful experience for you and your family; you can feel good knowing you have helped save a cat's life. Even better, you've created space in the shelter to accommodate other homeless cats. Foster cats provide companionship and purpose. Your act of kindness is repaid in rewards that are beyond words.

Cats needing foster homes

  • Cats that require more socialization than available at the shelter.
  • Older or senior cats that will be more comfortable in a home environment.
  • Injured cats and/or those recovering from surgery.
  • Neglected or abused cats that need tender loving care.
  • Cats suffering from "shelter stress" in need of a calming home environment.
  • Cats with colds or with special medical needs.
  • Bottle babies and mom cats with litters.
  • Any cat when the shelter becomes overcrowded.

Requirements for all foster parents

In order to become a foster parent, you will need to complete the following:

  • Submit an online foster care volunteer application.
  • Submit the foster cat questionnaire.
  • Attend the foster cat orientation.
  • Optional: Attend a Kitten Care class (offered only when there is a need for more kitten foster parents).

Important rules and reminders

  • Always wear your foster parent badge at all times when picking up a case.
  • Always report a new case to the Cat Foster Team and your case manager(s).
  • Foster cats must be kept indoors at all times.
  • All vet visits must be pre-approved by calling the vet hotline.
  • You must visit a vet listed on the preapproved list located in the foster cat packet.
  • Foster parents must respond within 24 hours to communications from shelter staff, Foster Cat Team members or potential adopters.
  • Seattle Animal Shelter staff may remove a foster cat from a foster home for any reason they deem necessary.

Apply to become a foster care volunteer today! Complete our online volunteer profile and select "Foster Care Volunteer–Cats" as your program preference.

Frequently asked questions

It completely depends on the cat and the situation. The average stay in a foster home is about 2 months. However, most kittens and some cats with great photos and stories on the web may stay only a few weeks. Others, recovering from an injury, senior cats, may stay much longer.

Daily Hours (estimate)
Cats with a cold - 3 hours
Anxiety in a cattery - 3 hours
Weaned kittens - 4 hours
Injured cats - 3 hours
Baby bottle kittens - 8 hours
Behavior cases - 3 hours
Mom with kittens - 3 hours
Cruelty victim - 3 hours

Foster parents provide space, food and love for the cat. The shelter will provide you with all the other supplies, meds and equipment needed throughout your foster experience.

Do I need to have prior medical knowledge or expertise?

No, but you may be asked to dispense medicine to your foster cat so you will have to be comfortable following veterinarian's instructions if fostering a sick or injured cat.

All veterinary costs are paid by the shelter through the generous donations to the Help the Animals Fund. If a foster cat becomes sick, foster parents must call the vet hotline to request an authorization for a vet visit. There is a selected list of veterinarian clinics which will bill the shelter directly.

Yes, but keep in mind that it's always a health risk to expose your animal to other animals. The health risk is minimal if your animals are current on their vaccinations, maintains a healthy diet and lifestyle, and are not elderly or very young. If you or someone in your household is immune-compromised, consult your doctor before fostering since working or living with animals exposes humans to a group of zoonotic diseases.

Fostering is a wonderful family experience and can build a foundation of philanthropy in your children. It's important to select a cat that is "age" appropriate with your children.  You must also be diligent about providing guidance, instructions and rules to your children about caring for an orphaned cat.

YES! As long as foster parents meet the shelter requirements necessary for adoption, foster parents have first choice to adopt their foster cat.

Photos and stories of all adoptable cats in foster homes are posted on and at the shelter where the public can view them.  Foster cats are also promoted at monthly events throughout the city.  Foster parents can also help promote their foster cat to their family, friends, colleagues and the general public through a variety of means including flyers, emails and social networking sites.

There are two ways to make a foster cat more adoptable. First and foremost is marketing. If no one knows about your foster cat, or how wonderful he is, then it will be next to impossible to find him a forever home.  In addition to supplying great photos and a bio and updating these regularly, giving a foster cat additional exposure by telling friends and family about them will help create a "network effect" and will speed up the process of finding a forever home.

We prefer that foster parents continue to foster until we find a permanent home for their foster cat. It's extremely stressful for a cat to be returned to the shelter environment.  However, we understand that situations change and it may become necessary to discontinue fostering a cat. We request that a foster parent provides as much notice as possible (minimum 1-2 weeks) so that we can find an alternative foster home to transfer the cat to. Of course, in an emergency a foster parent may always bring their cat back to the shelter.

If given enough notice, we can usually find volunteers that can foster sit for short durations. We ask that foster parents always keep their case managers aware of any temporary foster sitting situations.

Much energy, love, time and vet care is devoted to our foster cats, and the shelter is committed to finding homes for ALL the adoptable cats within its care. Some cats are in foster care because they're seriously ill or injured. If, after medical attention, these cats are too young or too weak to heal and are suffering, then the shelter staff will humanely euthanize these animals. Fortunately, most cats in foster care heal beautifully. Your safety is our #1 priority. You must always inform the shelter staff and your case manager if your foster cat exhibits any aggressive behavior.