Introducing Foster Kittens to Your Pets: Pros and Cons

After a quarantine period, introducing your foster kittens to your resident pets is a great way to discover the kittens’ compatibility with other animals. However, there are several precautions to take and drawbacks to be aware of if you’re considering integration. If you foster for an organization, please make sure you are aware of their policies regarding introductions. 

Pros of Introducing Foster Kittens to Resident Pets

Fostering kittens when you already have pets of your own is a tremendous help to the animal welfare community. Introducing your healthy resident pets to your foster kittens has several benefits, from behavioral flexibility to enriching experiences.

Foster kittens learn about different animals

Being introduced to different species can help foster pet parents learn whether or not their foster kittens are compatible with animals such as dogs and other cats. In addition, the introduction process and any reactions you observe will help you determine if the kitten will be comfortable in a home that already has other pets. 

Learning about this aspect of your foster kittens’ personalities has the potential to make them seem more adoptable to homes that have other animals. For example, if you’ve introduced a foster kitten to your dog and they get along well, you can advertise the foster as a dog-friendly kitten. This unique qualifier may very well be the reason someone decides to adopt them. 

Foster kittens can also experience comfort from being able to spend time with other animals in your home. This is especially true if they are a single kitten who’s been quarantined in isolation. Interacting with other animals can help encourage the kitten to eat and play more. Other animals in your home, especially other cats, can also help the kitten learn how to behave as a cat in a home environment. 

Foster kittens are raised to be true house cats

Having the ability to explore more of your home helps kittens get used to being a true house kitty on an entirely different level. Many foster rooms and spaces are very controlled environments. While this allows the kittens to be safely quarantined and to build confidence in their territories, that’s not necessarily what they’re going to experience in their forever homes. 

Moving forward with the introduction process and finding that your foster kittens and resident pets get along opens up a new world to the kittens. Suddenly, there’s a multitude of new sensory experiences for them to explore and get accustomed to. Homes have more space and unpredictable stimuli, such as new noises and smells. Going through this challenge will set up your foster kittens for success in their new homes. 

Resident pets better understand fostering

If your resident pets are friendly and well-behaved, allowing them to become familiar with the creatures that keep coming and going from the foster room can help them understand what’s going on. Once the quarantine period ends, giving your resident pets a chance to put a face to the smells and sounds they’ve been hearing for the past couple weeks can sometimes alleviate the anxiety of the unknown. 

Being able to eventually interact with the fosters also provides mental enrichment to your resident pets. Now they have a new temporary buddy to observe, sniff, and play with. This can also keep your resident pets more open to new animals if you ever decided to adopt another pet in the future. 

Cons of Introducing Foster Kittens to Resident Pets

Introducing your foster kittens to your resident pets comes with a few risk factors that you should be aware of, including exposure to illness and increased stress levels. 

Exposure to illness

Even after a strict quarantine, there is always some level of risk that introducing your foster kittens to your resident pets will expose your resident pets to new bacteria, parasites, and illnesses. This is why it’s best practice to obtain a negative FeLV and FIV test and, ideally, a clear fecal test to ensure you have the lowest level of risk. 

Even so, please know that FeLV and FIV test results in young kittens have a higher likelihood of being inaccurate. False negatives and even false positives are common, which is why re-testing is often recommended after adoption or when a kitten is around 6 months old. 

Because of this, please make sure your resident cats are up to date on their FeLV vaccines. FIV is most often transmitted through deep bite wounds, so there is still a small level of risk of exposing your cats to FIV even if you know each animal really well. 

Risk of fights and injuries

Animals can be unpredictable, so you always run the risk of fights and injuries if you choose to introduce your fosters to your resident pets. As mentioned above, significant injuries, such as a deep bite wound, can expose an animal to illness. It can also lead to psychological trauma, to the point where the foster kitten or your resident pet develops a fear of a certain behavior, size of animal, species, etcetera.

While these risks do not happen often, please proceed with caution and be aware of the situation you are putting each animal into. Evaluate each animal’s personality and be ready to intervene if you sense things are about to take a hostile turn.

Increased stress for the animals

Your resident pets may feel stressed for a number of reasons. For example, resident cats may feel stressed because their territory has been invaded by a tiny, unfamiliar kitten. Resident dogs and cats may also experience an increase in positive and negative stress levels due to the general excitement of interacting with a new animal.

You can support your resident pets during these times by giving them a safe space to be alone when they want. You can also support their immune systems by giving daily probiotics and L-lysine supplements

However, you should also be cautious of how attached you let the animals get to each other. You don’t want them to become extremely confused once the foster kittens leave for their forever homes. You can achieve a functional balance by letting the foster kittens spend part of their time in the main areas of the home and returning them to their foster room afterwards. 

Now you’re aware of the potential risks and benefits of introducing your foster kittens to your resident animals. Again, please make sure you adhere to your organization’s policies on this matter, and always proceed with caution. 

To learn more about all of the measures you can take to ensure everyone is happy and healthy along the way, check out the following articles:

How to Quarantine Your Foster Kittens

Disinfecting Your Foster Room

Cat-to-Cat Introductions

Cat-to-Dog Introductions

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Any purchase made through these links may help me earn a small commission.

Exploring animal welfare one foster kitten at a time

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