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Fostering Under-socialized Kittens
Hosted by the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society, Molly DeVoss, Certified Feline Behavior Specialist, teaches fosters how to socialize unaffiliative kittens. Molly explains her three phase process of earning trust and developing a healthy relationship with fearful kittens.
The Best Cat Treats:
My favorite cat treat is Lick 'n Lap. Why? Because I work with a lot of shelter cats who are so frightened in the environment, they act out defensively with aggressive behaviors. It's very important to quickly establish something positive with our presence. If the treat is not appealing enough, cats won't venture out of their comfort zone and give you a chance to build trust. Most cat treats only appeal to about 50% of the cats, but Lick 'n Lap is preferred by about 98% of the cats I give it to.
It's manufactured in Germany at a high quality, small batch facility. Try some - your cats will LOOOOVE it! You can buy it on Amazon through the link to the right, or we sell it in our store here.
Cat Stress Score (CSS) Cards - Set of 3 cards/6 pages:
Objectively identifying a cat’s level of stress in a shelter setting is important for deciding what behavior modification tools to work with. What looks like “mean” to one person is “grumpy” to another. Anthropomorphic terms are subjective and not an accurate depiction of the cat’s stress. It’s important to describe cat stress using a universal system, where everyone is observing and evaluating the same components. Kessler & Turner published a Cat Stress Score chart in 1997 that we use for the basis of evaluating cat stress. Molly has built upon that foundation by adding what the cat is doing and how it is responding to your hand/approach, and provided realistic illustrations.
One Set of 3 cards/6 pages: These are printed on thick paper with a high gloss finish, for longevity and to minimize fingerprints and dirt getting on them. There are six levels of stress – each printed on one side of the three cards, which are bound by a metal ring. Easy to hang on a wall or carry on a clip.
These are used in behavior modification sessions. Just dab some Lick 'n Lap on the flat back of the scratcher and offer it to the cat. These are great for touch testing a cat because they are small and create a cat-friendly "scratch".
When you're working with cats in shelters, you're trying to juggle treats, notes, pens, toys, catnip, and more! I recommend getting these short aprons with divided pockets in the front. They repel water and are durable.
Even when we're diligent about paying attention to cat body language, one will surprise us with a swat or bite. When I am uncertain about cat handling, I use these puncture resistant gloves for added protection. They are still tactile enough you can feel the cat - much better than the huge leather handling gloves.
Catnip + Silvervine
Once you have used the backscratcher, and sanitized it, often the cat doesn't like the smell of the soap/sanitizer. I carry a ziplock bag of catnip in my pocket to dip the scratcher into, between sessions. I particularly like the catnip + silvervine, because not all cats like catnip alone.
Foster Pop-up Pens
Having a large, affordable, pop-up pen is essential when fostering kittens and cats recovering from a medical procedure. I have all of these shown below and they work well for different situations. The first two are good for kittens and the tall metal cage is good for adult cats. I often foster behavior cats. The first two would be good for a medical foster who can’t jump high (amputation, FHO, etc.)
Furhaven Pop Up Playpen Pet Tent Playground - Gray, Extra Large -
Tespo Pet Playpen, Portable Large Plastic Yard Fence Small Animals, Puppy Kennel Crate Fence Tent, 28 X 20 Inch, White, 12 Panels -
My 2 go-to Supplements for Fosters:
L-Lysine is an amino acid that helps treat upper respiratory infections, conjunctivitis and more. I put it on the food for all my foster kittens. I like the Tomlyn brand because it taste great (to cats - I haven't personally tried it yet.)
Probiotics are important for your foster kittens to maintain a healthy digestive tract. I use the Pro Plan FortiFlora because most cats LOVE the flavor of it.
If you are making homemade or raw for your cat, it is vital that you add taurine to the food. This is a good one that is specifically mixed for cats.
This is a phosphate binder. If you have a cat with elevated kidney levels, I highly recommend getting them on this to support the kidneys. Processing phosphate is hard on the kidneys and this helps.
Sometimes your foster kittens or cats need help with healthy stool. Pumpkin acts as a digestive supplement helping with regularity and gas relief. It helps with diarrhea, constipation, anal gland discomfort, and provides stomach relief and reduces indigestion.Tabasco won't eat his food if I put canned pumpkin in it, but he likes the taste of this Organic Pumpkin Powder.
Laxatone also helps as a digestion aid and hair ball remedy.
If you have to give your cat medication, these Pill Pockets are a great thing to try. It doesn't fool all cats but I have clients who swear by them.
Pilling a cat can cause your cat to avoid you and the unpleasant experience. No matter what you hide the pill in, some cats will eat around it and leave the pill on the floor for you to find later. Pill Pockets is a good masking alternative and worth a try if you're struggling with pilling your cat.
Tomlyn also makes a good pill masker. The great flavor of this gooey paste will often do the trick to fool your cat.
Unlike the pill pocket above, which has a hollow center for placing the pill, the pill masker is a peanut butter textured substance that you mush around the pill.
Pet Houzz Soft Tip Pill Gun is a good tool for "shooting" the pill back into the throat of your cat. If your cat absolutely refuses to take the pill with one of the maskers above, then this might work for you. I hold tilt the cat's head back with my left hand and pry the mouth open with the pinky of my right hand, then pop the pill to the back of the throat. It is a good idea to then gently hold the cat's mouth closed and stroke the neck, or blow a little into their face, this will cause them to swallow. Some cats will sit still, looking as if the pill has gone down and as soon as you leave the room, they'll spit it out onto the floor. Kind of like I did with peas as a kid.
Food Puzzle Cats in the wild spend 6 hours a day hunting and when we feed them meals they don't have to work for, pent-up energy builds, which can result in behavior changes. Food puzzles are one of the best mental stimulators you can provide for your shelter cats. We sell a couple in the Behavior Boutique and there are more complex ones like this Catit Digger and Food Tree.