It’s the end of the year and time for a reflective moment about my volunteer work at my local animal shelter. We fostered 6 kittens at our house this year, not that much as there are volunteers that foster up to 25 kittens a year, but for us 6 to 8 kittens a year is a manageable amount. I usually don’t have more than two foster kittens at a time to keep things doable although we did have 4 at one point and that was a bit hectic, so no more than 2 at a time for next year 🙂
All the kittens brought to the shelter have issues, either with their health or their behavior or both. Sometimes they are found by members of the public or they are caught with traps set out by the animal ambulance. Adult, feral cats which are un-adoptable are sterilized and released where they were caught. This way they will not produce more offspring but do get to live their lives naturally. My shelter does not euthanize a healthy animal; ever; full stop. Kittens that are caught are often in bad shape and need medical attention and socialization. If they are caught young enough they can become great pets. About 3 months of age is a critical point. If they are caught at a later age they are often too wild already and cannot be socialized. Pregnant cats are kept until they give birth. If the mother allows people close to her kittens, she can stay with her babies, but if she is too feral she is separated from her babies, sterilized and placed back in the wild. The babies are then hand reared by volunteers. If mom is okay with people, she stays and rears her babies until they are old enough for adoption. Mom is then also sterilized and put up for adoption.
The first kitten of the year was Apollo. He was a handsome young man but very uncertain about people. He did not hiss or anything, he just preferred running away and staying under the couch all day. For this kind of kitten I have a trick, I put on a tightfitting sweater and keep them under my shirt all day while I go about my business around the house. This way they are forced to get used to people and after a day of two of having a strange hump on one side of my body, 🙂 they usually reach a point where they realize that I am not going to hurt them and people are maybe not so bad after all. Apollo had a VERY VERY bad flea problem, which meant I had a flea infestation in my house, which meant I had to seriously clean and vacuum and clean and vacuum my house. 😦 Luckily I caught it early enough. Apollo stayed with us for about 4 weeks before being adopted to a lovely family.
A little later we fostered Venus. Now she was a handful! She was VERY scared of people when she came to us. She was spitting and hissing at everything that moved. Not that I even pay the least little bit of attention to that. The more they hiss, the more you need to cuddle them, and indeed with a lot of TLC she turned around completely. We did have some trouble finding her a good home though because of her personality. She is extremely bossy, even to such a degree that we could not have her in the same room with other foster kittens because she bullied them. She jumped on top of them and used them as punching bags. Really, she does not quite live up to her name 🙂 She also did not like my children at all. This meant she could best go to a home without small children and pets. Tall order. She was with us for almost 5 months, and then the most perfect old lady came to the shelter looking for a kitten and she just fell in love with Venus. It was a perfect match. She had no children living at home and no pets. She loved that Venus had so much energy as it would liven up her quiet house. I will be honest, I was not sad to see Venus go. Having to uphold an apartheid regime in my house to protect other kittens from her over-playfulness was not ideal.
Later on, when we still had Venus, 3 little balls of fur came to stay for a while. I named them Diana, Cleopatra and Hercules. Especially Hercules was the sweetest thing you could imagine. The smallest of the three, but not scared to fight with his bigger sisters for food or attention. They were part of a litter of 7 identical kittens found on the streets and brought to the shelter at just 5 weeks old. They were all severely underweight and looked more like 3 weeks old. I had nail polish on their ears to so that I knew who was who 😀 These lovely little balls had some issues with eating independently and I had to feed them by hand because they could not get the hang of eating cat food at first. They also had the usual issues: worms, flees and eye infections. After a few weeks of groceries they were up on their weight and ready to go to a home. Because they were so young they were used to people in a jiffy. They found a home incredibly fast, it’s just amazing really. They were put online at 11am and by 3pm they had all found a home. I was dazed by how fast it went, especially considering that at that point Venus had already been on the shelter’s website for 6 weeks.
Our last kitten of the year was Phoebe. She was SO sweet. Seriously, if we had not already adopted Jack, I would most probably have kept her. She had all the makings of a lap cat and needed no socialization what so ever. We just needed to foster her because she was too small for adoption just yet. (The shelter has strict rules on when a kitten is allowed to go up for adoption). She was running round the house all day, following me like a puppy and got stepped on a few times because I didn’t see her between my feet, and the moment I sat down she was on my lap. However, only till my husband was around because she loved him the most. Isn’t that just typical! I spend all my energy making her better because she had a bad respiratory infection that needed antibiotics as well as the usual issues with eyes and worms, but absolutely no appreciation whatsoever! Apparently forcing antibiotics down a cat’s throat does not make them love you 😉 Phoebe found a good home with a loving family with 3 girls who had lost their cat earlier in the year at the age of 18. The girls just loved Phoebe to bits on sight.
I’m not sure how we are going to do more fostering because I have a new job starting January. I will be working more hours and from experience I know that sometimes you need to take a sick kitten to the veterinary clinic at the most inconvenient of times, like Sunday evening for example because you’re not sure she’s going to make it to Monday morning. We’ll see. If it’s in any way possible to keep doing this work I really want to because it is SO rewarding to see a kitten who came into your house as a small, scared ball of fur straight of the street leave as a healthy and socialized kitten to a good home.