Wednesday, December 6, 2023
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Cats for Adoption: Bottle-feeding Kittens and Fostering Cats

tiny black kitten
Fromage takes a break in feeding, with formula on her face.

It is officially kitten season.

In fact, it has been for a while. Many of the calls for assistance to rescues and shelters, and from friends, involve a mother cat with very young kittens or orphaned kittens with no mother to be found, and generous people finding a place in their homes for them. Rescuers and shelters alike are looking for people willing to spend a few weeks housing a mom and kittens, socializing them and seeing to their health needs, or willing to bottle feed often days-old kittens every two hours until they can be weaned

Bottle-feeding kittens is not for everyone, but it’s not as difficult as it seems—I’ve seen some highly unlikely people, ready to hand me the litter of kittens they found instead change their minds and find they “could do this”, happily changing their schedules, warming formula and helping kittens with bodily functions in a way they’d never even thought about with the reward of watching the kittens grow at an amazing rate and thrive with the nurturing they’d received.


If you find kittens, don’t automatically assume they are orphaned. Their mother may only be off hunting for her own food and will come back to feed them and you don’t want to separate a mother and kittens unless it’s absolutely necessary. Spend part of a day observing, because the best thing would be to capture the kittens and the mother. You can even try feeding the kittens where they are if you are skilled, and then continue watching for the mother, remembering that she may be wary and not visit if you are within sight of her kittens. If you feel you need to take the kittens, try to check back for the mother, or even set and watch a trap in that spot in order to catch her. If you’re not sure about all this, check with your shelter or local feline rescue organizations for assistance.

More importantly, if you have the time and space, offer to foster a mother and kittens or an orphaned litter of kittens that’s already in the care of your shelter or a local rescue—they can never have enough volunteers to do this, and it’s the little family’s best chance for a healthy life and adoption after the kittens are weaned. If you’re not up to feeding kittens or helping a momcat, offer to foster an adult cat or two to open up cage space during this annual parade of mothers and kittens. And if you can’t do either one, donate food or formula or just cash—raising kittens is expensive, even for a large shelter. In any case, you will save lives, and make a huge difference at a time when it’s needed most.

But I will warn you that tiny kittens are about the cutest things on the planet, and you might become totally smitten with your kittens, or completely devoted to feeding bottle babies.

At the top, my last little bottle kitten from 2009, Fromage, takes a break between feedings in my lap—she tried drinking from the bottle but didn’t like it, but when some formula spilled on my arm she readily licked it up, so she ended up lapping her formula from the hollow inside my elbow. This made perfect sense as she leaned in on my warm and soft arm, kneading as she would have kneaded her mother’s belly (ouch!!!), lapping her formula and nibbling on my arm. Below, she wanted nothing about my cleaning her face with a wet rag—I had to wait until she fell asleep after playing really hard with her ball.

tiny black kitten with ball
In fact, the world does revolve around me.

Fostering also helps other cats in shelters who need a cage break, or cats who are ill and need a greater level of care than the shelter can offer. Most of the cats for adoption I feature here were rescued by individuals through a shelter or rescue organization, often pulled right from the street. Kittens and cats arriving at shelters with an illness needing treatment or simply with a really bad attitude were pulled by alert rescuers who couldn’t see them be euthanized when all they needed was a little help. Others were rescued before they even made it to a shelter, and still others were pulled in off the streets because of noted injuries or simply because they were too nice to be out there, often through one of the TNR clinics where each cat is assessed and given a chance at coming in from the cold.

With the number of animals in need, shelters and rescues are constantly overburdened and have to focus on the ones they can find homes for, and need the assistance of people who will volunteer to help with the animals who need some time in a quiet home, or a couple of weeks with special food and medication to get them over an illness they picked up on the street.

tabby and black and white cat
Fred and Barney just need a little socializing to come out of the stone age.

Read a message from Fred and Barney—in January they were going to be euthanized because they couldn’t be handled when they arrived at the shelter, but all they needed was a full belly, a lot of love and a little time, and they’ll be wonderful forever cats for some lucky humans.

They are only the “tip of the iceberg”. Every day there are more cats who are pulled from shelters and sent home with fosters for a little wellness and socialization, giving the shelters and small rescues more time to work hard to find homes for the cats who are ready to go. Still more are found or trapped by dedicated people who sit or search for hours in the cold or heat, often for days or weeks, waiting to catch a cat who is injured or in a dangerous place, all brought in by the personal efforts of people who simply care what happens to all these cats.

All of these efforts result in only good things for people and cats:

  • happy cats in loving homes
  • fewer homeless cats
  • fewer unwanted kittens each year
  • a healthier cat population
  • more knowledgeable cat owners
  • fewer cats in shelters
  • shelters and rescues able to focus on finding homes for animals in their care

Can’t adopt? Foster! Can’t foster? Donate or volunteer.

There are so many ways you can help cats who need homes and care. You may not have room to adopt another cat, but can foster a cat or kitten for a few weeks. If not that, you can volunteer at a shelter or with a rescue, or donate. You do this because you love your cat, and by doing so you help all cats. No matter which of these actions you take, you help to save a life, and make life better for all cats.

  • Adopt one of the cats I’ve posted here, or from any shelter or rescue near you, or from Petfinder, to open up a space for another cat to be rescued and fostered.
  • Offer to foster cats or kittens for a shelter or rescue near you.
  • Volunteer at a shelter or rescue.
  • Find a group of volunteers who work with homeless cats and help them with their efforts.
  • Donate to a shelter or rescue near you.

If you can foster kittens or adults cats to help prepare them for a forever home, please run to your nearest shelter and find a cat who needs you! Anyone can help with this effort at any level, even if all you do is donate to a shelter or rescue so they can help to pay for the food or medications needed for their foster, or the spay/neuter/veterinary care during a clinic.

Need to know more? Read Fostering for Your Shelter and Fostering Saves Lives

Browse some rescued cats and kittens!

cats for adoption

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.

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Blog the Change

This is the day we pet bloggers affirm that we are working for the good of all animals and show support for people helping animals in need each 15th of January, April, July and October. We write about a cause near and dear to our heart and hope readers share their comments and ideas. I couldn’t even begin to share the rescue stories that pass by me every day from all the people out there on the streets who rescue ill and injured animals and provide spay/neuter and veterinary care for cats who are homeless through no fault of their own. TNR has been challenged all over the country, but it’s the only way to reduce populations—aside from finally convincing people to get their own cats fixed and stop them from dumping unwanted cats in other neighborhoods.


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3 thoughts on “Cats for Adoption: Bottle-feeding Kittens and Fostering Cats

  • Pingback: ‘Kids n’ Kittens’ a win-win program | | My Feral Family

  • Bernadette, I think you just gave me the kick in the butt I needed. The TNR group I volunteer for sent an e-mail today saying they had litters of kittens as well as kittens that need bottle feeding that need foster homes. I donate food and money to them and help with fundraising but I have always shied away from the fostering with eight of my own to take care of. I will call them tomorrow and see what I can do to foster. I’m feeling like a slacker. Thanks again for your post. Janet

    • Janet, I can’t wait to hear, but if you decide not to I’m sure your donations are very much appreciated. I’m sitting this one out but trying my best to inspire others! My TNR group and the shelters have been overwhelmed and it’s only April, so I may have to relent.


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