Welcome New Foster Family!

Thank you for taking the leap into welcoming a foster animal into your home! Our foster program was created to give animals that have difficulty in the shelter a calm environment where they can grow or heal before being adopted. Foster parents like you make that possible!

You may have a lot of questions before you get started and this guide should answer most of them. If you have additional questions after reviewing the info here, please feel free to reach out to us, foster@kyhumane.org.


Kentucky Humane Society Foster Team

What you can expect from us

  • While you have a foster animal, KHS provides all basic supplies such as food and litter, toys/bowls/other needed supplies (based on availability), medical supplies, and training support.

    • If your foster gets ill or has any medical or behavior concerns, our veterinary and behavior teams are here to help.

    • You may take your foster animals to your own vet if you prefer, but KHS cannot reimburse for any costs you incur. We provide all necessary medical care at the shelter for foster animals at no expense to the foster family.

  • We are here for you throughout your time as a foster.

    • This means any questions or concerns you have, please reach out to us. We have an amazing behavior and medical team that are here to help with any concerns. We also have a private foster website with a lot of articles, links, and other resources for our foster families. We want your foster experience to be enjoyable and can often help troubleshoot if something isn't going smoothly.

  • We will give you the most accurate picture of the animal and its behavior or needs as we can.

  • We won't forget about you!

    • We will follow up the day after you take an animal home and then check in regularly (every week or 2) after that.

  • If for some reason the foster animal you have ends up not being a good match, we will work to find them a new foster, or bring them back to the shelter.

    • We ask foster parents to give animals a few days before deciding it's not a good fit when possible. The stress of the shelter can affect animals in different ways and some of them need some time to settle in to a new home. It can also be stressful for the foster parent as they learn the personality of a new animal, and for resident pets as they get used to having a foster in the home. We often find that 2-3 days is all that's needed to get a good routine and for everyone to start to adjust to the new animal.

What we expect from you

  • You'll stay in contact with us when you have a foster animal.

    • We reach out regularly to check on foster animals and to set up needed appointments. We ask that fosters respond to emails and schedule any requested appointments when they are due.

  • You'll help prepare your animal for adoption.

    • Having a foster is definitely fun, (who doesn't love playing with puppies, kittens, dogs, and cats), but you can also have a HUGE impact on your foster's adoptability. We offer our full online puppy and dog training programs to foster parents so you can work with your foster animal while you have them. You can work on crate training, housetraining, and basic manners such as not jumping up. With cats and kittens, you can work on socialization, proper play (hands and feet are not play toys, despite what many kittens seem to think!), and making the cat carrier a good place to go. All of these things can have an enormous impact on how quickly your foster gets adopted and how well they do in their new home.

  • You'll provide a safe and loving environment for the animals we have in need.

  • You'll let us know if you are struggling.

    • Sometimes foster parents don't want to "bother us" and will not reach out if they are having some trouble with their foster animal. It's usually small things like the animal not enjoying being left alone or a young kitten not being consistent with the litter box. We have so many tips and tricks we can suggest to help you work on these issues, please don't feel you need to deal with behaviors you don't like simply because it's a shelter animal. Chances are good that if you don't like something, a potential adopter won't either so it's a great opportunity for you to help your foster become more adoptable!

Things to keep in mind with foster animals

While fostering can be a very fun and rewarding experience, there are a few guidelines that will help make the experience safer and more enjoyable for everybody. Below are some of the basic rules and guidelines for foster families. Please review them carefully, then click through the rest of our foster guide to read additional information about our foster program. If you have any additional questions, feel free to email us!

  • Be prepared for anything.

    • Remember, we don’t know what many of these animals have been through. We don’t know their past, we don’t know how they have been treated, we don’t know how their living situation once was, and most importantly, we don’t know their true personality. All we do know is what we see here at our facility and what little (if any) information their previous caretaker provided. We try our very best to tell you as much as we can about any animal(s) we are sending home with you, but they may have a very different personality once they are comfortable.

  • Never leave young children unattended with any foster.

    • This includes dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens. Children and animals can both be unpredictable. Even fun play can get out of hand quickly. Remember that what occurs in your home affects these animals now and in the future. We want to set everyone up for success.

  • Inform us if the foster bites anyone (you included) right away. This includes any time teeth break skin, even if only in play.

  • Keep dogs on leash unless confined in your home or a fenced backyard.

    • Even if you feel certain your foster dog will not run off, animals can be unpredictable and taking the risk of your foster getting is lost (or worse) is not worth it.

  • Do not take cats or kittens outdoors unless in a secure carrier while transporting them to or from the shelter.

  • Do not take dogs to off-leash dog areas or dog parks.

    • There is too much liability for the shelter and for the dog if anything negative were to happen at a dog park, even if it wasn't your foster dogs fault.

  • Keep all foster animals separate from resident pets for AT LEAST the first 7 days.

    • Foster animals need time to decompress from the stress of transport and being in the shelter. This separation gives them time to become comfortable in your home without the added stress of multi-animal interactions. Remember that what occurs in your home affects these animals now and in the future. We want to set everyone up for success.

  • Bring your foster animal(s) in for needed medical care and be on time to appointments.

    • If you are running behind, contact us as soon as you know you will be late. We have a very full schedule at the shelter and this helps ensure we can provide you and your fosters the best care and attention possible.

  • Report any behavior or medical concerns to us right away.

  • Utilize only positive reinforcement training.

    • KHS does not permit the use of squirt bottles, choke chains, prong collars, electric collars (for a fence or otherwise), leash corrections, verbal or physical reprimands, or any other training or management methods along those lines.

    • If your foster has behaviors you are concerned about or would like to change, or even if you just want to work on basic manners with them, contact us before beginning any training with them. We have a trained behavior staff who are more than happy to help you work through any issues.

Contact Information

Foster Manager - Kelly Ledtje

Foster Assistants - Samantha Wood, Jadyn Bailey, Ashley Sapp

Cat Coordinator - Olivia Dye


Office: 502-366-3355 (ext 4007)

Emergency Line: 502-515-3135 (for after hours life threatening emergencies only)

Please note: Email and text are the most effective forms of communication as we have several staff members monitoring them. We do not communicate Facebook Messenger as this is not a reliable form of communication for our entire team to keep up with. Thank you for your understanding!

Why Our Animals Need Foster

Animals that enter the foster program do so for many reasons and can spend anywhere from a few days to a few months in foster depending on their reason for foster placement. Animals that need to be placed in foster typically are:

Too young or underweight

Kittens and puppies, either in a litter, paired with another orphan kitten or puppy, or alone, are fostered until they reach eight weeks old and weigh two pounds. Most kittens and puppies are fostered from 2-6 weeks. These animals do not have a mama that comes with them, and in some instances may need bottle-feeding.

Nursing moms and babies

Litters of kittens and puppies with their moms remain in foster until all of the babies are eight weeks old or weigh two pounds. There are instances when the mom pushes a baby away or a baby will not nurse, so sometimes supplemental bottle-feeding is required. Generally, mom does all of the work until the babies begin to have teeth. She will feed them, stimulate them to go to the bathroom, and clean up after them.

Member of the Safe Haven or Safety Net programs

KHS partners with the Center for Women and Families for our Safe Haven program. This program provides temporary care for those affected by domestic violence while they seek services and housing. It’s important not to photograph these animals, share them on social media, and to restrict their time spent out in the greater community. These animals can remain in foster for up to three months.

Our Safety Net program provides foster care for owned pets while their owners are temporarily unable to care for them due to illness/injury, housing crisis or other emergency. This program is often a last resort for families whose only alternative would be to give up their beloved pet. Safety Net animals can need foster for up to 90 days.

Ill or recovering from injuries or surgery

Dogs and cats recovering from minor and common health ailments will be sent to foster to recover outside of the shelter in a calm and quiet setting. While these are usually minor issues, it’s still recommended that these animals remain separated from resident animals to avoid spreading any illness. We also receive animals that require special surgeries such as amputations that need time in foster to recover.

Members of the Adoption Ambassador Program

Adoption ambassador animals remain in foster care until adoption. Any animal that goes to foster is eligible to stay on foster until adopted (with occasional exceptions), but sometimes we have animals who we specifically want in this program. These animals are often too scared in the shelter, are young and active and don't do well in the shelter, or have other needs that make them unsuited to be on the adoption floor. These animals remain in foster until adopted, which can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months with the average length of stay being 1 month or less. Animals are also listed on our website with professional photos.


Animals in our fospice (foster hospice) program are typically unadoptable due to health issues or age, but still have a high quality of life. We believe these animals deserve to live out their life being loved and cared for as long as their quality of life stays high. KHS provides all medical care, food, and other supplies, just like we do with all foster animals. You only need to provide the loving home until the animal passes. Fospice animals will be evaluated by our veterinarian at regular intervals to track their condition. Length of stay can be anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on how the animals condition progresses.

Preparing for Your Foster

Before bringing your foster animal home, it’s important to have a suitable place for them to stay that’s already prepared, such as a bathroom, laundry room, spare room, office, etc. The room should be:

    • Temperature controlled (and indoors!)

    • Disinfected with a mild bleach solution (1 part bleach to 32 parts water)

    • Separate from household pets

    • Able to withstand messes such as vomit, feces, urine, spilled water, etc.

    • Free of breakable or fragile items

    • Free of electrical wires with all outlets blocked

    • Free of small items, especially those that could be easily ingested or choked on

    • Have secured windows that are closed or screened off

    • Have secured appliances

    • Have toilet seats closed

    • Be cautious of small animals climbing under furniture such as recliners, chairs, appliances, etc.

KHS provides all of the essential supplies you’ll need to properly care for your foster free of charge!

Sample foster kitten setup.

When Your Foster Arrives

When you welcome your foster animal(s) into your home, here are a few ways you can set them up for success!

  • Do not put too much on your foster animal right away.

    • Allow them a chance to settle into your home without a lot of visitors coming over. It can be very exciting to have a new foster animal, but they have gone through a lot of changes in a short period of time and need the opportunity to adjust.

  • We recommend setting animals up in a single room when they first arrive at your home rather than letting them have free run of the house.

    • This allows the animal decompression time and lets you get to know them a bit in a more controlled environment. Some cats and kittens will be nervous and find a place to hide where you can't get them, while dogs and puppies may not be fully housetrained, or could chew inappropriate items if given free rein.

    • For the first few weeks of their lives, kittens can sleep in a small carrier all day. As they become more mobile, you can set up a small playpen for them that is soft, temperature controlled, able to be sanitized, and separated from other animals.

  • Ill animals

    • Animals suffering from illness should be completely isolated from other animals in the home. Wash your hands thoroughly with anti-bacterial soap after handling foster animals regardless of whether or not they are known to be sick.

  • Shared items

    • Do not allow your animals to share toys, dishes, or litter pans with foster animals.

  • Unless dogs are in a fenced area, they should always be kept on a leash while outdoors. Cats and kittens should not be taken outside.

    • Refrain from taking puppies outside until they’re 4-5 weeks of age and have received their first round of vaccinations.

  • Do not bring foster dogs or puppies to the dog park!

    • It’s unsafe and can create the potential for fighting, conflict, disease transmission, and potential injury.

  • Be aware of the ASPCA Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants List. There are common plants that are toxic to animals when ingested and must be removed from the animal’s reach:

    • Lilies

    • Sago palms

    • Aloe plants

    • Asparagus Ferns

Foster animals should be isolated from your household pets for the first 7-10 days, regardless of sickness.

Foster Animals and Your Pets

Foster animals should be isolated from your household pets for the first 7-10 days. Other things to consider are:

  • Mother with babies

Mama dogs and cats are likely to be highly protective of their babies, and should be completely isolated from other pets when she’s with them.

  • Ill animals

Animals suffering from illness should be completely isolated from other animals in the home. Wash your hands thoroughly with an antibacterial soap after handling foster animals regardless of whether or not they are known to be sick.

  • Shared items

Do not allow your animals to share toys, dishes, or litter pans with foster animals.

  • Neonates

Young babies cannot be introduced to any other animals until they have their first round of vaccinations. If your foster is over 6 weeks and you have a friendly resident animal, you can introduce them slowly under your supervision after the 7-10 day quarantine period.

Please remember that there’s always the chance that a foster could still transmit illness to your animal. KHS provides all vet care to the foster animal, but cannot treat your animal, even if it contracts something you believe came from the foster animal. Introduce animals at your own risk.


Bottle Babies

Bottle babies are any puppy or kitten who is not yet old enough to eat on its own. They must be fed a specially formulated kitten or puppy milk (KHS will supply this). Puppies and kittens should never be fed cows milk or any other dairy products.

  • Bottle babies need to be fed frequently, general rule of thumb is 1-2 hours per weeks of age. For example a 1 week old baby needs to be fed every 2 hours, a 3 week old baby should be fed every 3-4 hours, including overnight.

  • If you are interested in bottle feeding but have never done it before, please visit The Kitten Lady's website for information. Feeding puppies and kittens is fairly similar when they are under 4 weeks old.

Puppies and Kittens

  • Weaning can occur gradually around 4-5 weeks using canned food (mixed with warm water or puppy/kitten milk if needed), dry food soaked in warm water, or dry food mixed with canned food.

  • Puppies and kittens should be fed frequent, small meals, rather than 1 - 2 big meals each day.

Feeding Adult Dogs and Cats

  • The amount of food am adult needs daily is determined by its weight. The recommended amount can be split in two and fed twice during the day. We recommend feeding foster animals separate from other pets and away from children. With dogs, it's a good idea to pick up the bowl and put it away when they finish eating. Feeding instructions for each foster will be given when you pick the animal up.

Moms and Babies

Moms require a calm environment with minimal stress. Stress can cause moms to stop caring for their babies so it's important their area be in a quiet part of the home away from resident animals or lots of foot traffic.

For the first few weeks, mama will do everything necessary for her babies including feeding and grooming. Puppies and kittens begin nursing shortly after birth.

For the first two weeks after birth, mom does everything necessary to care for her babies. Mom and her litter should be mostly left alone, besides to feed her and provide potty breaks. Provide them with a quiet, private, and calm nesting area, and allow mom to have a few days to adjust to her new space. Make sure she has access to fresh food, water, and a clean nesting area.

Each mother is different. Some may allow you to handle and interact with her babies, but some may not. If she’s okay with you handling the babies, doing so throughout the day is a great way to begin socializing them early. Mothers may be allowed to interact with your animals after the 7-10 day quarantine period and ONLY when she the babies are not around. Mom needs socialization as well, but give her the opportunity to approach you, and stop the session immediately if you notice signs of aggression such as swishing tail, ears laid back, head jerks toward you, tensing up, moving away, or growling. Move slowly and use caution when reaching into the nesting area.

When fostering a mom and babies, watch for:

  • Maternal aggression

It’s normal for mom to be aggressive toward people and other animals while she’s around her babies. Do not introduce household animals to her at this time. If the aggression becomes severe or is directed towards her babies, contact the foster team for assistance.

  • Maternal neglect

In about 8% of cases, die die due to poor maternal care. Some dogs lack maternal instincts, or stop caring for sick or weak puppies. Environmental stress can contribute to such cases, so take care to provide a calm space for her and her litter. Contact the foster team if you notice signs such as the mother avoiding feeding and grooming, or if she begins ignoring their cries.


While animals are in foster, begin to note any behavioral issues you observe, and contact the foster team for assistance with training or if behavior becomes severe or dangerous in any way.

Positive Reinforcement Training

KHS solely endorses the use of positive reinforcement training, free from scolding and physical corrections. Decades of research supports positive reinforcement training as the most humane and effective form of training.

Please keep in mind that we do not allow the use of choke collars, prong collars, electric collars, spray bottles, leash corrections, or any other form of physical or verbal correction/punishment of foster animals.

If you need help with a behavior concern, contact us and we are happy to help.

There are also plenty of resources available on our active foster website. You will receive the link to that once you become an active foster.


Socialization is VITAL for healthy development in all animals. Many of our puppies and kittens are in foster during prime socialization periods. It's important for foster parents to begin work on socializing their foster babies which helps to prepare them for life.

The most important age for socialization is between three weeks and three months, when they’re biologically primed to learn that new experiences are positive. It’s the most crucial, sensitive part of an animal's social life. Socialization does not involve just exposing puppies or kittens to new things, but actively working to ensure that every experience they have is a positive one. Whenever a puppy or kitten meets a new person, ensure it’s a positive and fun experience that involves lots of treats and praise. If your foster seems fearful, go slowly.

Take any opportunity to expose your foster to these situations with lots of treats and praise:

  • People

MEN – tall, bearded, variety of ethnicities, younger, older, men with canes/walkers, hats, etc.

WOMEN – tall, younger, variety of ethnicities, older, with purses, walkers, canes, crutches, etc.

CHILDREN – behaviorally appropriate children with adult supervision. Ensure children do not manhandle the animal, and that the animal is allowed to move away from the children when they want to.

  • Behaviors

Laughing, talking loudly, walking, jogging, running, etc.

  • Items

Vacuums (off), mops, brooms, bikes, skate boards, tricycles, lawnmowers (off), etc.

  • Surfaces

Stairs, carpet, tiles, hardwood, grass and concrete (puppies only, kittens should not go outside), etc.

  • Health & Grooming

Nail clippers (not used), touch paws, touch ears, touch tail.

Maintaining Your Fosters Health

Medical Concerns

Due to the unknown history of the animals in the shelter, the animals are susceptible to and are potential carriers of many infectious diseases, including intestinal parasites, bacterial infections, and viral infections.

While the shelter thoroughly checks and treats all animals upon arrival to the shelter, most illnesses have an incubation period, meaning they can begin showing signs after arrival to their foster home. Please observe animals carefully and note any changes in their behavior or habits.

Do not attempt to treat any illness or parasites on your own. Always contact fostertech@kyhumane.org so we can provide any medication needed.

If you notice any of the following symptoms, contact the foster team immediately.

  • Coughing or sneezing

  • Watery, goopy, red eyes

  • Lack of appetite or refusal to drink water

  • Ongoing vomiting

  • Ongoing diarrhea lasting more than 12 hours

  • Blood or parasites in stool

  • Lethargy

  • Sudden hair loss

  • Itchy dirty ears

Many of the above can either lead to or accompany dehydration, a serious condition marked by diarrhea, vomiting, and/or loss of appetite. To check for dehydration, pinch the animal’s skin gently. If the skin springs back slowly, taking more than one second, your animal is dehydrated and you should contact KHS immediately.

Contagious Illness

If you notice any of the below, please contact the foster team right away for assistance.


All puppies and kittens over four weeks old are treated with Advantage Multi by KHS before they go to a foster home.

Foster animals should NEVER be flea-dipped, flea-powdered, or flea-collared. These products are toxic, and have a higher rate of adverse reactions in animals. If you notice fleas on your foster, we can treat them with a mild flea preventative. You can also give them a bath with Dawn dish soap (be sure to keep young kittens WARM after a bath so they don't get sick) and keep their bedding clean to prevent and eliminate flea infestations.

Skin Issues

Mange and ringworm and the 2 most common contagious skin conditions we see at the shelter. Mange is caused by parasites that infect the skin of an animal while ringworm is a fungus similar to athlete's foot. Both ringworm and some forms of mange are contagious to other animals and humans. If you notice excessive itching, hair loss, or sores on your animal, contact the foster team for treatment information.

Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)

URIs are common and caused by contagious viruses and bacteria. Look for signs of:

  • Sneezing and discharge from eyes/nose

  • Congested breathing

  • Loss of appetite

  • Lethargy (lack of energy)

  • Dehydration

Parvovirus and Panleukopenia

Parvovirus and panleukopenia are deadly and contagious viruses that can be fatal is untreated. Making sure your animals at home are up to date on vaccines is their best protection as the vaccines are VERY effective at preventing infection. Once these illnesses are present in an environment it can be difficult to remove. It’s transported through direct contact with contaminated feces. Signs of parvo and panleuk include:

  • Lethargy

  • Dehydration

  • Loss of appetite

  • Abdominal pain and bloating

  • Fever

  • Low body temperature

  • Vomiting

  • Severe diarrhea with and without blood

If you notice signs of Parvovirus or Panleukopenia, you MUST contact the foster team IMMEDIATELY. Successful treatment is directly tied to how quickly treatment is started.

Tips for Reducing Risk

The spread of disease can be greatly reduced by practicing thorough, frequent hand washing hygiene before and after coming into contact with your foster animal. You should also clean and disinfect items frequently. Soaps and detergents are cleaning agents that suspend dirt and grease and break up organic matter, but do not necessarily disinfect. Disinfectants are chemical solutions that kill germs. Bleach is a common disinfectant. When bleach is diluted to a ratio of one part bleach to 32 parts water, it makes a great solution for disinfecting surfaces.

Some conditions that can spread to humans are:

  • Rabies

Rabies is transmitted through a virus carried in saliva. Signs of rabies include personality and behavioral changes, loss of coordination, difficulty swallowing, seizures, and death. Rabies is fatal, and there is no cure in humans or animals. All animals over 4 months of age at KHS are vaccinated for rabies upon intake.

  • Roundworms

Almost every animal is born with roundworms contracted from its mother. These worms can be transmitted to people, especially children. Most infections in people are mild and display little to no symptoms, but cases can be more severe. Any feces should be removed and disposed of daily, and everyone who handles the foster animal should wash their hands frequently, especially children who tend to put their hands in their mouths often.

  • Ringworm

Ringworm is not a worm at all, but a fungal infection on the skin, similar to athlete's foot. It can be difficult to diagnose in animals because the lesions can vary in their presentation. Some animals can carry the fungus in their coat without displaying symptoms. In people, the classic lesion is a raised, red ring.

Routine Care

KHS provides all routine veterinary care that your foster animal will need. Our veterinarian is available at our Steedly location Monday-Friday from 8:30-3. Our veterinary technicians and foster team can also provide minor care, administer medications, and administer vaccinations on the weekends and during the evening. All routine care, including vaccines, foster pick ups, and foster returns, require appointments. Please remember that KHS cannot reimburse you for emergency or routine care provided to your foster animal by an outside veterinarian.


All cats and dogs over one month old are vaccinated upon arrival to the shelter. Adults receive booster shots two weeks after their initial vaccination while puppies and kittens four weeks and older receive booster shots every two weeks. Animals will also need to return for their spay and neuter surgery prior to going up for adoption around eight weeks, when they’re at least two pounds. The foster team will help schedule appointments when your animal is due for their vaccinations. Vaccinations are only done at the main Steedly campus by appointment.


We have a relationship with several veterinary clinics to provide after-hours emergency care. It is important to utilize these resources only in life and death emergency situations as stated below. Many instances can wait until regular business hours; however we are here for you should something arise.

If you suspect that you have an emergency situation, please call (502) 515-3135 and leave a message. If you do not receive a return phone call within five minutes, please call again. We will instruct you to the proper veterinarian on call for the evening if we determine your foster needs to be seem immediately.

Please see this page for guidelines on what type of situations and illness require emergency care.

Returning Your Foster

Congratulations! You have saved a life!

When it’s time to return your foster animal for adoption, the foster team will contact you to arrange the return. Please email any photos you have of the animal. We also provide a link to a form so you can provide a description of their personality and behavior to share with potential adopters..

All foster parents are encouraged to promote the animal for adoption on social media and to friends, family, or other potential adopters. If someone is interested in adopting the animal, their information must be provided before or at drop off to ensure that they’re held for adoption. Adoption prices are as follows:

Dogs and Puppies:

Under 5 months - $350 - $400

5 months – 7 years - $200 - $250

7+ years - $100 - $150

Cats and Kittens:

Cats under 5 months - $150

Cats 5 months - 7 years - $75

Cats 7+ years - $30

When your foster animal is adopted, we will let you know! Otherwise, all animals up for adoption can be viewed and monitored on our website on the available animals page.

Adoption Ambassador Program

As an Adoption Ambassador, you will foster a shelter animal in need while they remain available for adoption. Any adult animal that goes to foster is eligible to remain there while up for adoption (with occasional exceptions).

This program is unique because we are not faced with physical limitations of the shelter walls and are therefore given endless opportunities to help pets in need. It helps us to have more space available for new animals entering the shelter, animals adopted out of foster homes are less likely to be returned, and the animal is able to live in a home environment and never has to come back to the shelter!

As an Adoption Ambassador, you are taking your foster commitment to the next level. These fosters will require a lot of participation on your part to help them find a forever home. If you enjoy taking your dogs out and about, would be comfortable speaking with interested adopters and are good at advertising on social media, these fosters will be great for you!

All foster parents are encouraged to promote the adoption of their foster pet to friends, family, and other potential adopters.