I’ve never fostered kittens before. We don’t have or want cats, so I thought that fostering kittens wasn’t for us. But, we’re spending all of our time at home. It’s the height of kitten season, and shelters are overrun with underage kittens not yet big enough to be neutered or spayed. So I thought, why not try?
With the assurance from Alachua County Animal Services that I could bring back the litter of four the moment that I decided I couldn’t handle them, I headed home with a meowing pink carrier and a few bags of supplies. I set them up in my home office in a giant dog crate and hoped for the best.
For the first night, they were sleepy and timid. The next morning, the female gray tabby came out meowing and ready to make friends. She was rubbing against us and the dog, purring in no time.
As the next two days passed, the rest of the litter slowly warmed up to us as well. Each display of trust feels like a great compliment. We chose a musical theme for their names, perhaps because their little voices have become such a charming part of our lives in such a short time.
They are so much easier than I expected them to be. They make fewer messes and fewer demands than I thought they would. Mostly, they sleep, play with one another, and seek out affection. All of them play gently and go out of their way to avoid accidentally scratching us.
They are each so different from one another:
Harp is stunning with her intensely blue eyes, creamy coat, and black tips. She is most interested in playing. She loves to roll on her back and have her fat belly rubbed.
Harp follows her siblings’ leads. She was the last to adventure out of the kitten room, and told us all about how worried she was being alone until we carried her out. She is a careful girl who is loving and downright hilarious when she’s comfortable.
Bongo is an absolute lover. He wants to be not only close, but on top of us if at all possible. He likes to sit on my shoulder while I work on the computer and fall asleep in my lap while we’re watching TV. It doesn’t matter how loud or scary the show, Bongo sleeps on.
Bongo enjoys being held on his back and having his head thoroughly rubbed. He is extremely trusting. He has a big meow already and is always the first to let us know if the food bowl is empty.
Oboe is a handsome tuxedo boy with cute white whiskers. He is VERY smart and quite adventurous. He warmed up to the dog more quickly than he did to us, and seems determined to learn how to play with her. He was the last of the litter to be friendly with us. Now, he loves curling up on our laps to watch TV and playing with our hands. Of all of them, he might be the most expressive in his interactions with us.
Tamborine was the first of the litter to warm up to us. She is confident, happy, and loving. She walks around like she owns the place. Wherever we are, Tammie is usually perched nearby. She likes being held, but she prefers to just sit near you, whereas Bongo generally wants to be on top of you. Tammie has an incredibly sweet, thoughtful expression. She makes everywhere she is seem a bit more peaceful. Unless of course, she’s viciously attacking a bit of string.
I never thought much about kittens before. All of my rescue efforts have been focused on dogs for a long time. I’m overwhelmed by just how much is in these tiny little lives that are so plentiful, handed out like party favors on social media, “free kittens to a good home.”
They have the most intense little dramas among one another. They fight like mortal enemies and get tired and snuggle like lifelong friends.
They are so small, and they have to be so brave. They walk boldly up to me and snuggle on my feet while I work. They rub against the dog, determined to make friends, despite the fact that the dog is utterly bemused by them.
These little lives, which could go on for twenty years or more, have such value.
I won’t be keeping any of them, and I wonder what their futures will be. I feel protective, as you do, when you foster.
They deserve great lives
I wish these lives had been planned. I wish that someone wanted them before they were born. I hope that they will be cherished as they deserve to be, but I know that making that happen is a matter of socializing, marketing and luck. Thousands of other kittens as deserving as these four will be born this season, unplanned, unloved, and destined for hard, short lives.
We are so lucky here in Alachua County to have a chapter of Operation Catnip. They provide free and low-cost spay and neuter services for community and owned cats, through the University of Florida Small Animal Hospital. Veterinary students hone their skills, cat populations are humanely reduced, and euthanasia of cats has dropped tremendously here in Alachua County.
And yet, a walk into the kitten room at Animal Services or a glance at local pet rehoming sites makes it clear that there is still much more work to be done. There are lots of ways to help:
What you can do to help
- Foster kittens. It’s so much easier than I expected! Hundreds of kittens just like these guys come into Animal Services too small to be spayed or neutered and adopted, but big enough to be separated from their mother. Foster homes enable them to gain weight faster, provide socialization, and offer exercise, helping them to be adoptable more quickly. Not to mention, fostering clears room for another cat (or litter) in need. All supplies, medical needs, etc. are provided.
- Foster cats. Cats that are terrified at the shelter can open up in a home, greatly increasing their potential for adoption. Cats that have medical needs, are raising a litter of kittens, or who have been at the shelter for a long time and are becoming stressed, all need a temporary place to hang out. All supplies, medical needs, etc. are provided.
- Donate. Operation Catnip uses donations to prevent unwanted kittens. Rescues use your donations to place more homeless kittens and cats. Your money can prevent suffering for cats and kittens in your county.
- Volunteer. Volunteers are greatly needed to transport cats, assist at adoption events, manage social media feeds, make cat toys, and for all sorts of other tasks. Whatever time and energy you have to offer, cats in your community need your help.
What about dogs?
Do you or someone you know need low-cost spay neuter services for dogs? That is also offered here in Alachua County. The Humane Society offers low-cost spay and neuter for dogs. If you’re recieving any kind of government assistance, services might be free. Do you think there should be free programs for dogs too? So do I. Contact me if you have ideas, donations, or if you’d like to be on a mailing list for more information.