I foster kittens for Foothills Animal Shelter.
In 2016 I had around 14 kittens that came and stayed at the Bar B Ranch.
I’ve fostered before; for Intermountain Humane Society. That’s how Petticoat, Skeeter and Buzz came to be in the house. Petticoat and Skeeter were born here and Buzz was one of 9 kittens that came in a “Super Litter,” a desperate situation for kittens who had nowhere to go at the overcrowded shelter. I had to stop fostering because one of the kittens, Domino, brought ringworm in the house.
Four years later, Foothills brought me in as a foster parent and it’s been almost non-stop since March.
The entire range of colors, markings and personalities have made their way here: calico, black and white, all black, siamese, gray, orange tabbies and gray tabbies.
Foothills is an extremely well-run shelter. Those in charge of the foster program are steeped in cat knowledge and behavior. They are incredibly supportive and wonderfully intuitive about their charges. They are gracious and kind.
I can’t imagine working in such an environment. Most times I wait for my new charges or wait for weigh-ins on current kittens rather than be in the foster office and kennel area. I sit on a concrete bench in the surrender area and watch the parade. People looking for lost pets, people trying to surrender their pets and today, a man who wanted to have his cat, Talea, put down due to cancer.
The cat, a big white female, yowled loudly as the mostly deaf owner replied, “Eh?” to the questions asked by the intake person. He was unmoved by his task, and abruptly told the technician: “I need the carrier back.”
Hopefully Talea crossed the Rainbow Bridge held by gentle and loving hands.
But this post isn’t about the sad part of the animal shelter, it’s about the joy of young life and forever homes.
All of the kittens I’ve fostered found wonderful homes. Foothills makes me feel heard when I tell them that certain kittens might need special consideration. A home without small children, no other cats in the house, something to climb on or a hidey-hole up high away from the reach of busy-ness.
Most kittens find homes in a few hours. One, a little tabby that I would have kept with me languished in a PetsMart for more than two weeks. I went by her kennel and she looked sad. She didn’t see me. She finally found a forever home and probably now rules the roost.
Most of the kittens needed medications and some where very sick. They needed a warm, quiet place to get their legs under themselves and all survived. Giving kittens the sour-tasting medication is tricky. Sometimes they barf it up as quickly as it went down.
Upper respiratory infections (URI) is the most common problem. Eye infections are also common. I didn’t have any that had physical injuries. All the kittens came from “lost and found” situations.
Once they start to recover, the goal is to get them to 2 pounds. That’s the magic number for adoption and spay/neuter.
With some it was difficult to get them to eat. First, start with the Purina kitten food provided by the shelter. If they don’t eat that, then it’s on to Purina pate, and for real tough cases, I add meat baby food. Occasionally I have to “frost” the food with meat baby food. Few picky eaters can resist Gerber! Last resort is tuna. Nobody really likes giving them tuna but real tough cases call for drastic measures. Most are happy with Purina. Almost all the kittens snuck my cats’ food once they had full run of the house. Petticoat and Skeeter would growl from the security of the tall cat tree.
Some cats’ currency isn’t food. They could care less what’s in their bowl or plate. They want to play.
I have acquired quite the selection of cat toys and I rotate and clean them with each batch of fosters. The MOST favorite toy is a purple feather wand. Every cat that’s come through has gone mad for it. Wave it around and they leap and jump like Olympians. They hone their predator skills on that poor wand.
I enjoy taking pictures of all the kittens. Taking a picture of a kitten is hard work simply because they hate stillness. They are hot-wired bundles bursting with feline energy. Most times I use my iPhone and I try to grab a few second video as well. Black cats are really hard to capture because they’re fur just absorbs the light so there’s no definition. Most of the time they just move so fast all you get is BLUR.
I had a couple kittens that stayed only for a few days because they were a bad fit so I have no pictures of them. Either the room was too large and they were too traumatized by it. Others were too hissy and needed intense socialization that can only happen in the shelter. Despite their hissiness, they were welcome here and I tried to give them a few weeks or even days of care, love and safety.
As the kitten parade starts to dwindle, I look back on the Class of 2016 and I’m glad I could help. There’s only been a couple who were close to being foster failures but I can’t keep them safe up here. I have to let them go to better homes than I can provide.
I’m sure I’ll have a few stragglers this year and then the kitten tide will recede.
Then it’s on to the Class of 2017.