Pregnant/Nursing Mom Foster | PAWS Chicago

Pregnant/Nursing Mom Foster

Caring for a mother and her litter is a very rewarding experience.

But it can also be very time-consuming. We value your dedication and appreciate your willingness to make this lifesaving commitment to these animals.

Stock Up on Supplies

PAWS Chicago will provide:

  • Food
  • Formula/Milk Replacer
  • Any necessary medications
  • Carrier

You will provide:

  • Big Litter box: For the mother.
  • Small litter box: For the litter; an oblong cake pan or a shallow cardboard box is perfect.
  • Litter scoop
  • Newspapers: Keep several layers of newspapers in the bottom of the box or area where the kittens will be located. These will come in handy as the kittens begin to roam around the room and litter box.
  • Food bowls: You will need two bowls—one for wet food and one for dry food. The more cats you have, the more bowls you will need. It’s important that every cat has access to his food at all times, unless directed by our medical staff.
  • Food bowls: You will need two bowls—one for wet food and one for dry food for the mom. For the kittens, any relatively flat saucer will work. The larger the litter, the larger the saucer should be so that no one gets crowded out. It’s important that every cat has access to his food at all times.
  • Water bowl: Use ceramic, porcelain or stainless steel bowls, which are heavy and impossible to tip. Do not use plastic; it is difficult to disinfect. It’s also important that every cat has access to clean water at all times.
  • Scale: This may not always be necessary, but it can be helpful in tracking the kittens’ weight, which should increase approximately 4 oz. per week.
  • Bedding: Old towels make the best bedding! We suggest making a nice, warm sleeping area by using a cat carrier or tipped over box.
  • Heating pad: Unless the nursery is at least 85° and your kittens are two weeks or older, you need to supply extra heat.
  • Clean towels and blankets: These will serve as the bedding/nest for your foster kittens.
  • Toys: Disposable and easily sanitized toys are a must! We also encourage cardboard scratchers or a scratching post.

Set Up Your Foster Room

You will need to keep your foster family in one room. The foster room is where your foster family will eat, drink, eliminate, sleep and play.

Choose a room in your home that can be easily temperature controlled (no drafts or open windows). We highly recommend that this room have floors that are easy to wipe up and mop. Bathrooms are often the best choice—just don’t forget to put down the toilet seat!

The family should be kept in a large box or cat carrier lined with a towel for easy cleaning.

In the room, place the litter box as far away from the cats’ food as possible.

Disinfect the room before the new family is introduced to it. The most effective disinfectant is a fresh dilution of bleach at the following ratio: ¼ cup chlorine bleach and 2¼ cups warm water.

Make Sure It’s Safe

Kittens and cats are curious, playful and often mischievous. Don’t leave anything out that your foster pet can chew, swallow or break (electrical cords, hair ties, glassware, etc.). Look for places where your foster can hide and be sure to block access to those areas.

One tip: Lie down on the floor and look at your safe space from your new foster’s point of view to ensure it’s completely safe.

Caring for Your Foster Mom and Litter

  • Isolation
    Keep your foster cat isolated from any other animals in the home unless otherwise discussed.
  • Health checks
    It is crucial that you monitor your foster cat’s appetite, attitude, energy level and appearance every day. We encourage our foster parents to keep a log. If something seems off or different, it’s easy to go back and pinpoint when the problem began.
  • Warmth
    It is very important to keep the kittens warm. A heating pad is ideal for doing this. Place the heating pad under half of the carrier so they can move away from the heat if they need to and set it to medium. The more kittens in your litter, the better able they will be to keep warm by sleeping together in a heap.
  • Weighing
    We ask that you weigh your kittens at the same time each day and keep track of any gains or losses. Ideally, kittens gain 0.25-0.5 oz. per day. If your kittens are not eating or are losing weight, please contact our foster team right away. We will likely need you to bring your kitten in immediately for a medical check.
  • Feeding
    Cats should be fed at least twice a day. Please feed the mom the food we have provided. If she refuses to eat her food, please contact us. We will help you determine your next steps. Wash her wet food dish between servings.
  • Cleaning
    Scoop the litter box in the morning and evening. Clay litter should be changed every other day for two kittens or daily for two or more kittens or if the kittens have diarrhea. Note stool consistency.
  • Enrichment
    All foster cats crave playtime. We recommend two play sessions per day with interactive toys like wand toys. Discourage play with hands, which can lead to bites. Change your foster’s environment daily by adding new objects and toys.
  • Socialization
    Socialization starts the moment mom allows people to handle the kittens (usually by the middle of the first week). Even before their eyes and ears open, it’s important they get used to new scents and understand that gentle handling is normal and pleasurable. Please visit your foster at least two to three times a day for at least 20 minutes per visit. Encourage affectionate behavior with food treats or play sessions.
  • Vaccines
    Kittens will need routine visits with our veterinarians regardless of their health. They need to be vaccinated every two weeks. Please check with your foster coordinator to find out when they need to be brought in for their next vaccine.

Caring for the Mother

  • Keep the mother healthy
    This is your main goal. If the mother is healthy, she will be able to take care of her babies without much help from you. You are her backup if there is a part of parenting she cannot do on her own.
  • Give the family space
    Even the sweetest cat can be protective of her babies. Give the mom time to trust you. For the first couple days, only visit minimally to make sure the babies are nursing and the mom appears healthy. Once you have gained the mother’s trust, you can start interacting with her babies.
  • Minimize stress
    The more stress the mom endures, the less she will be able to do for her babies. To minimize stress on the mother, never take the family out of your home or even the designated foster space. Have only the people directly involved in her foster care interact with the family.

What to Monitor—Daily Mother Check

It is important to check the mother daily.

The table below describes what to monitor and how you can help if needed.

 

What to MonitorPositive SignsNegative SignsHow to Help
Weight Weight stays constant or increases Weight decreases Increase food intake by feeding more often and/or providing more food during each feeding; consider heating up food, adding water to food or trying a different brand of food (only after consulting with the Foster Team)
Firmness of mammary glands Mammary glands are soft to the touch Mammary glands are firm to the touch Contact the Foster Team
Energy level If healthy, energy level stays constant or increases; if sick, energy level must increase If healthy, energy level decreases; if sick, energy level must increase Contact the Foster Team
Congestion Congestion decreases Congestion increases Use a warming humidifier or steam of the shower to clear up congestion
Eye and nasal discharge Discharge decreases Discharge increases Wipe eyes and nose with a warm, damp cloth two or more times a day as needed

 

 

Caring for the Kittens

To help the mother care for her kittens, keep an eye on them regularly and make sure to jump in when the mother is not able to do it all.

The Mom’s RoleWhat to Do if the Mom Is Unable
Bathe the babies by licking themWipe the eyes and nose with a warm, damp cloth to clean discharge
Stimulate the kittens’ urination and defecation by licking their genitals and anal glandsWipe the genitals and anal glands with a warm, damp cloth until they urinate and defecate; this should be done prior to feeding
Nurse the babies every three to four hoursBottle- or syringe-feed the babies every three to four hours

What to Monitor—Daily Baby Check

It is important to check the kittens daily.

The table below describes what to monitor and how you can help if needed.

 

What to MonitorPositive SignsNegative SignsHow to Help
Weight Record weight daily Weight increases Weight stays constant for more than three days or decreases in the span of 24 hours Increase food intake by feeding the baby more often and/or providing more food during each feeding
Urination and defecation Stomach is soft to the touch Stomach is firm to the touch Stimulate urination and defecation by wiping the genitals and the anal glands with warm, damp cloth until the animal eliminates
Energy level If healthy, energy level stays constant or increases; if sick, energy level must increase If healthy, energy level decreases; if sick, energy level must increase Contact the Foster Team
Congestion Congestion decreases Congestion increases Use humidifier or steam of the shower to clear up congestion
Eye and nasal discharge Discharge decreases Discharge increases Wipe eyes and nose with a warm, damp cloth two or more times a day as needed

 

 

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