Helping foster kittens: Spell it out
Amanda Dykstra, DVM, knows it’s not uncommon for technicians or assistants in shelters or private veterinary practices to bring home a litter of kittens to bottle feed on occasion. Unfortunately, she also knows that pre-weaned kittens are a population that's still at risk for euthanasia when there's a lack of resources available to care for them and lack of homes ready to adopt them when they reach a transition age.
Enter a formal foster process to help make the process run smoothly without putting the burden on shelter and veterinary teams. At a recent CVC, Dr. Dykstra gave topnotch tips, tricks and advice on how to run the best foster program. One that specifically spelled itself out, however, was to, err, specifically spell stuff out.
According to Dr. Dykstra, a detailed foster manual, one that clearly defines the responsibilities, protocols and expectations for fosters, will not only provide clarity but also minimize problems and liability. And the more detailed the foster manual, the more educated the foster program coordinator. The more educated the coordinator, the fewer problems the foster program will run into in the future. We’re sensing a pretty cool theme here.
With the help of a consulting veterinarian or a shelter veterinarian, Dr. Dykstra says the private practice veterinary team will need to write a thorough foster manual that details care for kittens and what to do with minor maladies. Detailed care instructions will help the foster families give kittens in need the best start in life, all while saving the veterinary team's time and resources.
The foster manual should include instructions, tips and facts on housing, feeding, elimination, bathing and socialization. The manual should also provide a discussion of weight gain and milestones, so foster families can get a better idea on what to expect and what to do when things don't go according to plan. Dr. Dykstra says it’s also a good idea to provide answers to some common medical concerns and what to do in case of an emergency.
“We are in a place now where saving this vulnerable population is a possibility,” Dr. Dykstra says. Once things are written in (proverbial, of course) stone, it's easier for shelter programs to get other necessities under control, such as assigning a coordinator, gathering supplies and assigning foster families. After that, you just need kittens.