Guidelines for Cat Fosters

I. Intake

1. Approval

There are many, many cats and kittens that need to be rescued, but sadly we can’t rescue them all. So we have to be somewhat selective about which cats (and kittens; in the discussion to follow “cats” includes kittens) we take in, as well as keeping our workload manageable.


In general, we give priority to cats most in need – those who have no one else to help them – strays, cats at shelters, cats whose owners have died. In most cases, we do not take owned cats that the owners wish to give up.


Among other things, the Cat Coordinator tracks intake requests, solicits help from the fosters, monitors the fosters’ needs, and has the final say on which animals are taken in. Currently the Cat Coordinator is also our Rescue Coordinator, and handles inquiries related to give-ups and rescues.


2. Contacts

Several of our volunteers have contacts with various shelters and rescue groups. They act as our official PAW representatives with these organizations. Typically they receive requests for intake from the organizations, obtain information about the cats, pass the information on to the cat coordinator, and help in arranging transportation for the cats. Currently we have contacts with Howard County, PG County, Anne Arundel County, Annapolis SPCA, and Montgomery County.


3. Foster-sponsored cats

In general, we allow fosters to take on cats themselves if they are willing to foster them and pay for the vet care. As long as PAW resources are not required, explicit approval to take the animal into the PAW program is not needed if you are already an approved cat foster.


If you have a cat that you would like to have under the PAW program, please discuss this with the Cat Coordinator. Once it is accepted under the PAW program, it can be brought to shows, advertised on our website, receive PAW-funded veterinary care, etc. In addition, the standard PAW procedures and policies apply to its care and adoption.


4. Registering your foster cat

When you have taken on a new foster and he/she has been approved, please be sure to send in information about your cat for our database and website. Here is a write-up on how to submit information on your new kitty.


In addition, you should provide medical information on your new cat for our medical database, which is maintained by the Cat Medical Coordinator. This is discussed further in the next section.


II. Record Keeping

1. Responsibilities

We ask the fosters to keep the vet care records on each foster cat. Please set up a folder for each cat (or litter of kittens, if appropriate) and keep it up to date with records of vet care, applications, and the adoption contract. In addition, a volunteer maintains a database of medical information on each cat, so please send information on tests, vaccinations, and spay/neuter to that person.


If you would prefer not to keep the records, or wish to hand in folders for cats which have been adopted, contact the Cat Coordinator.


2. Folder contents

  • Vet papers, such as rabies certificate, spay/neuter certificate
  • Vet record – notes on deworming, distemper vaccinations, etc. See sample.
  • Shelter paperwork, if cat comes from a shelter
  • Applications, rejected and accepted
  • Adoption contract
  • Other relevant information (give up form, notes from previous owner, etc.)


3. Reporting to shelters

Some of the shelters that we work with (e.g., Prince George’s, Howard, Anne Arundel County) require that we report back to them when the cats we have taken from them have been vaccinated, spayed, etc. If you are fostering one of these cats, please be sure to stay in touch with the PAW contact with that shelter so that they can send copies of the appropriate paperwork to the shelter. You may be asked to contact the cat’s adopter to get copies of paperwork such as rabies and spay/neuter certificates.


III. Vet Care

1. Standard vet work

Here is a summary of the standard vet care that PAW provides for cats. Note that a PAW volunteer can give distemper vaccinations and do deworming, which helps to economize on our vet bills. Contact the Cat Medical Coordinator to arrange for shots and deworming.


Combined test for both cats and kittens:

  • Feline Leukemia Test
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) Test



  • Pyrantel (Strongit) – one dose at age 6 weeks or older, second dose 2-3 weeks later (0.2 mL per pound of cat) – normally takes care of roundworms. Available from PAW.
  • Droncit – needed if cat is found to have tapeworms. One dose is sufficient. Available from PAW.
  • Drontal – combination dewormer, stronger, used only for older kittens and adults. Dosage depends on weight (1/2 pill, 1 pill….). Two doses, the second 2-3 weeks after the first. Available from PAW.
  • Fecal Test – to check for worms, coccidia if suspected AFTER routine deworming (e.g., if diarrhea occurs).
  • Albon – needed if cat is found to have coccidia. Requires daily dose for 10-14 days. Must be prescribed by vet.


Vaccines for kittens

  • FVRC-P-C – 1st shot at 8 weeks or older then one booster 3 weeks later, then once a year. Available from PAW (Rhinovirus-Calicivirus-Panleukopenia(Distemper)-Chlamydia Psittaci).
  • Rabies – 1st shot at 4 months old (CPAH does at 3 months), then a year later, then once every 3 years. Must be done by vet.


Vaccines for adult cats

  • FVRC-P-C – Annually. Available from PAW.
  • Rabies – 1st shot is good for 1 year, subsequent shots are good for 3 years. Must be done by vet.



  • Spay (female) – by 6 months old, as early as 3 months if medically sound
  • Neuter (male) – by 6 months old, as early as 3 months if medically sound


All animals should be spayed or neutered to minimize cancer risks as they age, prevent pregnancy and reduce behavioral problems. Note that we CAN spay pregnant cats. Also if you can wait for a cat in heat to go out of heat, it is both cheaper and less stressful on the cat.


2. Authorizations

All vet work should be authorized in advance, except in the case of a serious emergency. The list of vets that PAW works with is maintained in a list on the web “PAW Vets and Vet Clinics”. The Cat Medical Coordinator approves vet work.


When the vet care has been approved, an authorization sheet is faxed to the vet office. We are doing this since sometimes there is confusion over exactly what work has been authorized, especially when the cat is dropped off at the office for the day, and some vets require written authorization. Many of our vets then bill PAW directly for the care. A few of the vets give us a special rescue rate but the foster must pay for the care and be reimbursed by PAW.


3. Emergencies

In the case of a serious emergency, contact a vet or emergency vet clinic immediately. If (as usually happens) this is after hours, only the emergency vet clinics are available. You should know in advance which emergency clinic is closest to you. The list is maintained on the PAW website at “List of Emergency Clinics”.


Once things are under control, please contact the Cat Medical Coordinator or the Cat Coordinator as soon as possible. At most of these clinics you will need to pay for the vet work and be reimbursed through PAW. However if you go to the Montgomery Emergency Animal Clinic in Rockville, tell them that it is a PAW animal and PAW will be billed directly and we receive a discount.


IV. Adoption Shows

1. Which cats can come

The following requirements must be met for a cat to attend the adoption show.

  • Up to date on shots (rabies, distemper) according to age
  • Feleuk/FIV negative
  • Healthy (no respiratory infection, fleas, etc.)
  • PAW has clear ownership
  • Can be handled/touched and remain in a cage for 3 hours


Kittens should not come to a show until they have had their first distemper shot, even if they are less than 8 weeks of age. This virus is very easy to transmit to them and is usually fatal.


Cats from other rescue groups may not come to our shows due to insurance limitations. We are protected by our insurance in case someone is scratched or bit, but for this to work we have to make sure we follow the rules (for instance, keeping our cats up to date with their rabies vaccinations). This is very important.


2. Supplies – checklist

You should make sure you have the following items, or have arranged to borrow them, for the show.

  • Cage
  • Towel or other soft liner for the cage
  • Name tag, description, photos, etc.
  • Toys or other items that help the cat to relax in unfamiliar surroundings
  • Carrier for cat
  • Table
  • Litter box (most adults don’t need it but you never know)


Most cats do not eat or drink at the shows, so you don’t need to bring that. Treats or a little catnip are fine.


A little description of the cat and its personality are good to have printed up and on hand. Often the cats don’t show their real personality at the shows so description or a photo of them playing helps communicate what they are really like to potential adopters.


3. Handling and supervision at the show

  • Cats should not be removed from their cages without the foster parent’s consent. This applies to both visitors and PAW volunteers.
    If your cat should not be picked up, is terribly afraid of dogs, etc. please let the other volunteers know too.
  • If your cat doesn’t like other cats, please bring a towel or other material to screen off the sides of your cage.
  • If you let someone hold a cat, keep close track of it. It would be easy for someone to walk off with a cat right out of the store!
  • If you plan to leave your cats at the show, arrange for someone to be responsible for them. Do not plop down a cage and expect someone else to automatically know they are supposed to care for your cats. Please leave the volunteer information about the cat and how to contact you if questions arise.
  • If you need to leave the display area during the show to use the bathroom, grab lunch, or buy cat food, please check with another volunteer to keep an eye on your cats.
  • When setting up and taking down the tables, cages, etc. someone should always be present to keep an eye on the cats, etc.
  • Please clean up the show area when you are done.


4. Reporting

We try to have someone keep track of the applications that come in during the show.


V. Applications

1. Review

When you receive an application at an adoption show, it’s a good idea to go over it immediately with the applicant. This allows you to spot any potential problems or questions quickly and address them. It also provides an opportunity to ask questions and get more information, such as “tell me more about the cat that just passed away.” Some folks are quite chatty about their animals and family, and others are quiet.


You’ll want to take a close look at the entire application, but there are a few questions that are particularly important to check on at the show.


  • What animals do they have right now? Are they altered, indoors only?
  • What happened to their prior pets? Cause of death? Were they altered, indoors only?
  • Have they provided adequate information so you can do a vet check? (You may have to chase down the phone number.)
  • How many people are in the household, and how many of them have you met at the show? How old are the children? How are they with animals?
  • Do they plan to declaw, or checked “not sure”? Many people can be educated about declawing, so discuss this with them openly and try to get a sense of where they really stand.
  • What kind of residence do they live in? Do you have the information you need to do a rent check, if needed?
  • Do they plan to let the cat go outside? What do they mean by that? If the cat is on leash or in an enclosed porch, that’s OK.
  • Check for any unusual responses, like “cat will sleep in the basement at night.”


If you receive an application by email or mail, you may wish to call the people and chat with them on the phone. “Going over the application” is a good excuse to call. You may also wish to invite them to a show, especially if they haven’t met the cat, before proceeding much further with the application.
If an issue comes up about declawing, neutering, allowing the animal to go outside, etc., you can try to educate the person, but if they aren’t cooperative, explain that this is the group’s policy. Avoid making this a personal issue, which can initiate an argument.


If you have a negative response to the application, you should try to communicate this in a fair way to the applicant. For instance, if you and the applicant have discussed declawing and they are insistent, you can tell them that it is PAW policy not to permit declawing and it is specified in our contract. Or if you are uncertain about something, you can say so. For instance, you can say that you aren’t sure that the kittens would do well with the young child, because he would be impatient with them and they could scratch him, not meaning to hurt him. The basic idea is not to let someone leave thinking they are sure to adopt the cat, especially if you are likely to turn them down!


You are encouraged to “compare notes” with other fosters. If someone else has talked with the applicants, find out what they learned and their impressions. If you have uneasy feeling about someone, talking it out with another foster is often a good way to figure out exactly what it is that concerns you. We encourage people to trust their “gut instincts” because often these are due to concerns that are hard to verbalize. If you can figure out the concern, that will help you address it fairly, pro or con. Some of these “uneasy issues” that come up include income (does this person make enough money to properly care for the cat?), single pets (this kitten would really be better with a playmate), housemates (what are the roommates like and do they want a cat too?), and so forth.


You are not required to call people back to tell them they have been turned down. When you go over the application with them, you may wish to point out the note at the end of the form that says that “If you have not heard from us within 7 days, please assume that we have adopted this animal.” You can also let them know that there may be other applications to review.


2. Vet, Rent, and Home Checks

The vet check is very important and often very revealing. Otherwise very nice people may be neglectful about regular vaccinations. You may also learn about other pets that they “forgot” to mention. See the write up about vet checks on the PAW site for a discussion of the kinds of questions you can ask.


If the applicant is a renter, it is important to confirm that the landlord will permit the new cat. If pets aren’t allowed, they could be evicted. Some places have rules against pets but don’t enforce them. However, this can change suddenly when the management of the complex changes. Another approach is to ask the applicant to get a special amendment to their lease from the landlord.


Typically one can call an apartment complex office during the day to inquire if pets are allowed, and if so, what rules there are. You don’t need to tell them why you are asking (they’ll assume you are looking for a new apartment). Some require pets under a certain weight, or no more than two cats. Some places even require that cats be declawed! If the landlord is an individual owner, be sure to ask the applicant how best to contact them and what hours are best to call. Some owners are hard to contact. If there is a clear statement in the lease allowing pets, then you don’t need to confirm with the landlord.


The home visit is an excellent opportunity to see where the cat or kitten might live. Try to meet all the family members at the home visit, especially if you haven’t at the adoption show. If you have brought the cat with you, note how they react and interact with him/her. Let them know all about the cat’s personality, food preferences, litter box preferences, and quirks. Ask where the litter box will be and check it out. Suggest a better place. Check out any plants to make sure they aren’t poisonous. There is a cat housecheck checklist on the website.


Depending on the circumstances, you may wish to have the home visit as a separate visit, or you may bring the cat with you on the home visit and do the adoption (if otherwise approved) at that time. One advantage of doing both visits together is being able to watch how the kitty reacts to the new home and how the people are with him/her. Often you can get an immediate sense that this will (or will not) work out fine. A separate home visit is a good way to scope out a possible home when you aren’t sure about an application. You can ask another foster to join you for their added perspective.


3. Reporting to shelters

Some of the shelters that we work with require that we send them paperwork within a certain time frame or when the cats are adopted. This often includes proof of vet work, rabies vaccination, and spay/neuter. Be sure to note this when you first take in the cat, and work with the appropriate PAW shelter contact to get the proper paperwork returned.


VI. Adoptions and Contracts

1. Adoption Packet

Please provide the adopter with a packet of information they will need. It is helpful to provide a folder for these documents.

  • Summary of vet work (what shots, tests, deworming were done, when will they be due)
  • Copies of relevant vet records (rabies and spay/neuter certificates are especially important) Instructions on spay/neuter reporting and refund, if the kitten being adopted has not yet been altered
  • Copy of the signed adoption contract
  • Name and phone number of person to contact in case of questions or problems (typically the foster parent)
  • Other helpful documents as needed, such as the Cat Care Handbook, How to Care for Your Kitten, or other information.


2. Contract Paperwork

You should go over the contract point by point with the adopter before signing. Try to make sure that they understand clearly their responsibilities:

  • that they must provide needed vet care,
  • that they cannot declaw or allow their cat to go outside (unless on leash or otherwise restrained),
  • that they must have a kitten spayed or neutered by 6 months of age, and
  • that they must contact us if for any reason they feel they can’t keep the cat.


If the kitten is not yet spayed or neutered, please emphasize that we require that they send us proof of the spay/neuter whether or not they request their $35 deposit back. Please encourage them to contact us to discuss any problems that arise – we prefer to deal with problems while they are small, and before they become a major (and possibly insoluble) problem.


Make sure the contract is fully filled in and legible. You may wish to have the adopter fill in the information on their name, address, etc. You should sign on the PAW line, the adopter on the adopter line, and any other party (e.g., spouse) may sign on the witness line (this last signature is not required).


You should make 2 copies right away, so that you keep one copy and the adopter keeps the other. The adoption fee is typically paid at the same time. Check or cash is acceptable (no credit cards). In any case, the cat should not be delivered to the adopter until the contract is signed and the fee paid.


Please send the check and one copy of the contract to the PAW P.O. Box (or give them to the Treasurer at a show or to the Cat Coordinator), and give one copy of the contract to the Cat Coordinator. You should also keep a copy for your records.


3. Follow Up

It’s an excellent idea to check with the adopters after a week or two to see how things are going. This helps to make sure that there are no problems developing and allows the adopters to ask questions. Some adopters are very nice about staying in touch, either by phone or email.


It is especially important to follow up on kittens to make sure they are spayed or neutered by 6 months of age.



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