A month or so ago I took our local shelter’s class on becoming a foster for animals. The shelter often uses fosters to help save animals when the shelter gets overcrowded, or if the animals are too young for adoption, or too ill, or need socialization or other special time to prepare them for adoption. Our adoption manager decided I might do best with small dogs, since I have an elderly cat that was none too happy about the two male felines I fostered a year ago. At least, that was the plan.
One evening as my grandson was playing on the computer while I made dinner, a notice came across the Facebook page from the support group for our local shelter, asking if any registered fosters could take some kittens. The deadline to save these three kittens from euthanasia was 6 pm, and it was 6 pm when I read the notice. I commented that I was a registered foster, but was supposed to take dogs, not cats. One of the administrators for the shelter support group contacted the kennel manager, tagged the kittens, and I was thus committed to becoming their foster mum.
When I went to the shelter to pick up my three new babies, the kennel manager asked me if I wanted to take two puppies, too. I said I would, but the foster program manager nixed the idea (wisely), knowing my nature and not wanting me to be overwhelmed. The next day I saw a man taking the many puppies away in a large crate together, and I breathed a sigh of relief. It felt like Sophie’s Choice to decide between species. Puppies are usually in high demand, unlike kittens, who have a much rougher time finding homes. Since I had already committed to the kittens, kittens it would be.
Stinkin’ Cute Kitties
First thing I had to do was give each kitten a bath – they were really very dirty and their dishsoap bathwater, warm and sudsy, soon turned to mud. Each kitten had their own bath towel in which to dry off and they quickly became little balls of nice clean fluff. I set up little low boxes for litter and found some very tiny trays for their food. At first they required daily bathing, at least for their tails (we called this “tail dunking” and it seemed necessary the first week or so, to keep their little hind ends clean). One was a climber and considered me her tree. My grandson said she must think I was a pirate, because she would only perch upon my shoulder like a parrot might! She was soon named Bird, a tiny Calico and white little girl with a perpetually dirty face. She was the runt of the litter, and I had to love her for that alone. Her big sister was named Bear, because she was always on the go, always lumbering around in search of adventure. Then the final little guy was Mouse, a small black large-eared kitty with a crooked white stripe down his face, just missing his nose and leaving it pink. He was my cuddle bug, the one that always ran to me, found a tiny place to burrow, and purred. Initially, he was the one who slept alone and hissed at me. Within two days he gave up the tough guy act and his true loving colors emerged. Each one had totally won my heart and my protectiveness seemed to increase daily.
My grandson, too, fell in love with them.
“Why were they so dirty when they came to us?” he asked me.
“They were thrown away and did not have a mother cat to lick them clean.”
“How could anyone throw them away? They are so cute!”
As one of my friends said, they are so “stinkin’ cute” and I affirmed they were both! It was a lot of work (but still fun) to daily clean their temporary nursery, to scrub the floors, clean the litter boxes, launder all their bedding and prepare their food. It is also a daily challenge to my sense of ethics to save these little carnivores. And even while loving them more each day, I need to prepare myself to let go, for in only two more weeks, they will be old enough for adoption. They just had their six weeks shots, vaccines, and blood tests and are healthy and happy babies. They run to me, climb on me, and cuddle with me at every opportunity. The snuggle with one another, too, and I so wish they could stay together throughout their lives.
One of the challenges in fostering is being there for these fragile little lives no matter what. Most fosters have lost a kitten or puppy on occasion, the little ones that just are not strong enough to survive their infancy. Some brave fosters have taken care of newborn litters with their hourly feeding schedules and their small chance of survival. Despite all the obstacles, it is something to consider, this opportunity to save young lives. To find out more about fostering, contact your local shelter or rescue. This is one way those of us who live within city limits can nonetheless set up our homes as temporary animal sanctuaries. And it is one way to foster a lifelong connection with other animals!