More about fostering kittens

We have been fostering kittens since April; this means we take them home, feed them, care for them, socialise them and love them to pieces until they reach the magical weight of two pounds. When they're at two pounds, they can handle the anaesthetic and surgery for sterilisation; much like us, they have to be healthy enough for surgery, and it's my job as a foster parent to help ensure this.

The first group was ten kittens; two litters, one of six, and one of four. The six-litter was older, perhaps six weeks old; the four was barely three weeks, and all of them still had blue eyes! One group had been dropped off at the Hermitage, and the other was abandoned at Valley Animal Hospital-- in a tupperware bowl! Imagine our horror, those poor babies, just dropped off like they were rubbish to be left on the side of the road.

We worried ourselves sick over the little dudes, as the tiniest ones (their names are Bavard and Finn, now!) were barely fifteen ounces when we got them. Kira, Moxie, Pierce, Ritz, Ai and Sayuri were with us about three weeks, and as of right now only Ai and Ritz haven't been adopted!*

Of course, Finn, Bavard, Sadie and Pippin are ours now, and running amok through the living room, or are draped in random places snoozing. You know cats have to nap-- otherwise they aren't rested up for their main evening sleep. We had them for almost two months before they were big enough for surgery, but now you'd never know they weren't always loved, pampered, adored babies. Last time I weighed Pip, she was almost five pounds, so we don't worry about them starving any more (OK, OK, I still worry! But I'm their mum, and I love them fiercely, so that's my job).

After we dropped our "First Six" off at Valley, we went and picked up another six. This was the litter with Manx kittens, and we got an added duty: watch them like hawks and see if they've got Manx Syndrome**. First, though, we had to give them baths; they stank so badly from PACC [Pima County Animal Control] where the Hermitage rescued them... yeah, what a welcome home we gave them, huh?

We were thrilled when we found that both Manx's, the Stubb (a Manx with a little teeny bit of tail) and all three "regularly tailed" cats were just fine. No trouble going in the box, and they were all so damned cute!

Of course, the last couple weeks we had them, we let all ten mingle, and if you've never slept with ten kittens, it's an experience! We had kittens on our pillows, and in our hair; we had them by our feet, and behind our knees; they were between us (which make cuddling your spouse kinda hard, and weirdly furry!) and at random intervals would pounce our faces! It was awesome, and irritating, and wonderful, and I loved it!

Emoji, Randi and Marius were our Manx's... and they were adopted pretty quickly. Houdini, Davenport and Peter were snapped up pretty quickly as well. In fact, Davenport and Marius were the last two, and were adopted at the same event, one of our Saturday's at Bookman's. The rest of them were adopted at the Kitten Shower, the same event weekend we adopted our four..

We were foster-less for maybe a week. Then we got the call, "Can you take in a momma cat and her kittens? [The Guy] who has them now has to travel, and can't keep them."

So we said, "Sure, when do we need to pick them up?" We picked them up a couple days later, and welcomed Megan, and her three babies, Peter, Paul and Mary.

No, I didn't name them... The kittens we've named have had reasons for their name. Marius, named for a Noise Marine because he squawked; Emoji, named because the tabby markings on her face looked a lot like the Japanese emoticon: =@.@=; Houdini and Davenport, named for early 20th century escape artists, because -- you guessed it, they could fly, I swear! Bavard, which is French for Chatterbox, because he talks. I'm sure you're getting the idea.

Megan and her brood were with us for a month or five weeks. They grew so quick, and were so much fun! Paul (who we called Nerfer, because his mew was more of a "Nerf?" sound) was a cuddle-bug, and Little Miss Mary-Contrary likes to nibble on little toes. I expect they'll be adopted pretty quickly, the kittens anyway-- Megan is so shy and retiring. We may end up fostering her some more, to help socialise her; I will definitely keep you all posted with them, too!

We dropped them off early last week, and then on Sunday when I was leaving work my boss asked me to take his "little monsters". I'd already offered to take in the litter so I wasn't surprised at all. There were two of them; one had died just as we found them, and the other one was still at Valley***. These guys had been starved, dehydrated, at just a month old were so emaciated that they were the size of three week old kittens, and covered in ear mites! They also looked like little fuzzy Muppets, and my heart went out to them immediately. We brought Opie and Black Attack home Sunday night, and the cuddles and fattening up began.

The medication and ear drops began, too! The poor guys. Opie had to have antibiotics twice a day, too, and if you've ever had to give medicine to a cat, you know it's not easy, at all. They are harder to medicate than a cranky three year old, and have teeth and claws to boot!

Wednesday night I noticed Opie wasn't doing very well, and took him into Valley. I love that vet-hospital so much. They were there for us when we had to let Neko go and were so full of compassion and love that I can't even explain to you how comforting they are. Our vet was on Wednesday night, and they whisked little Opie in the back and started fluids and IV medication, and we crossed our fingers.

Even though the kittens aren't mine; I'm just the foster parent, they took my number to call me with updates. And I'm so glad they did. At about 1:30 Thursday morning the vet called; Opie was gone.

We don't know, exactly, why he died. Part is his early privation; part is something called "fading kitten syndrome"-- basically the kitten, or puppy, version of sudden infant death syndrome. Often, no matter how quickly you catch it, there's no hope.

I know this, intellectually, but I've been kicking myself for almost 48 hours. What if I... it circles over and over.

So, I'm hanging on to the fact that I loved that little Muppet so much in the three days I had him here with me. He got food, water, love, cuddles, play and sweet words. I told him about the Hermitage, and the cats and kittens he'd meet when he was big enough; I told him that he'd get adopted straight away, and how much I was excited for him! I told him I loved him, and called him my precious little Muppet, my little Punkin-eater.

 Opie's the first foster we've lost, though... and I'm such a softy that I'm just heartbroken over it.

As you can see, he was an adorable little guy with the cutest face!

Black Attack, officially called "Attack", and called Inkblot here at the house, is doing fantastic, however.

He's already gained three ounces, and is eating and playing like a champ.

I take him in for a check-up this afternoon, and I expect that he'll get to his two pounds with no trouble.

I'll still worry about him, though, and I'll keep a close eye on him, just in case.

That's the thing about fostering, really. You give these kittens and cats a chance at life they may not have had. Often, without us, they'd be dead, either starved or euthanised. We give them as much love as we can pack into the time we've got them, and send them out into the world to be adopted and loved by their new families. And damn, it's hard to send them back!

But I wouldn't change that one bit. I want to give them a chance at life; and even if it's a short one, it will be full of love, and they'll know they were wanted and welcome, not lost and alone.

I don't think love is a finite resource; that I'll run out if I use it up. Rather, I think love is one of those multiplicative things-- the more you give it, the more you have. I know that these little Muppets, and all my fosters have given me back so much more than I have given them, in the short time I have been blessed to have them in my life.


*Pierce, Ritz and Ai got sick after their surgery; they caught an upper respiratory infection. This is pretty common in kittens, kinda like a toddler getting a cold; but it can turn into kitty pneumonia, and so they have to be monitored very closely. Pierce was adopted last week, and I know the other two won't be far behind.

**The TL:DR version of Manx Syndrome: Manx cats, those born without tails, some times have an additional mutation that causes their spinal nerves to be malformed. This causes several physical problems that range from severe spina bifida, paralysis and death; however, most of the time the cat merely is completely incontinent. So, they can't hold their bowls or bladders, and dribble. Most shelters-- all of them that I've ever heard of, except the Hermitage actually-- euthanise these cats, because they're unadoptable. At the Hermitage we have four of them, all sponsored for life, and all the sweetest, cutest little guys. They have normal life spans, and are active, playful and loving, they just can't control where they void... they're probably my favourites there, but don't tell the FeLV babies!

***Oz never made it back to the Hermitage; he passed at Valley late Sunday night.

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