In August I became a volunteer for Cats Protection, with my main interest being fostering. I discovered Kitten Lady about a year ago but up until a few months ago I had a very old and defensive cat. It wouldn’t have been fair to him to put him under the stress of kitten roommates. When he passed, it was unbelievably heartbreaking. But eventually I realised that I now had the opportunity to help cats find homes with people that would love them like I loved him. The adventure started with looking after three kittens for 24 hours, and here’s what I learnt…
1. It’s hard.
Seriously, kitten fosterers who deal with orphan newborn kittens are warriors. The three tiny babies I was taking care of were maybe three weeks old and I probably got about four or five hours accumulative sleep while I was taking care of them. They needed feeding every two hours because they were so malnourished, and because they weren’t used to a bottle it took about an hour and a half to get them fed and settled. Half an hour later, it started right back up again!
2. You have to recognise your limits.
These three-week old abandoned kittens were originally estimated at about five weeks. At five weeks kittens are starting to wean from the bottle to solid food, they’re starting to use a litter tray, they’re much less dependent and I like to think I could’ve handled it. But when I actually got them, they were much younger, hadn’t been fed overnight and throughout the day I discovered they were far from healthy. They needed more help then I could give and that was tough! I felt like a failure. But kittens come before pride and I knew that there was a limit to my knowledge. They were taken back to the vet, then taken in with a more experienced fosterer and have since flourished!
3. Kittens are always cute, even when they pee on your hand.
Very small kittens can’t pee or poop on their own. They need stimulation. Normally this is the mother licking them but luckily a paper towel rubbing also does the trick. Sometimes, though, there’s a very full bladder and pee gets on your hand. I swear I washed my hands more times in those 24 hours then I normally do in a week. But- kittens! They were so cute, they could pee on me and I’d just be like- oh you little sweetheart! Good job!
4. It’s lifesaving.
While the kittens I had were under the wing of Cats Protection
and luckily there were fosterers other than me to take care of them, in certain areas and shelters- there isn’t. Orphan kittens who require bottle feeding every two hours, heating pads and manual help to pee and poop, are put down in a lot of shelters because there just aren’t enough people to do the work. And not everyone can do it! It’s full-on and full-time for the first couple weeks. But it literally saves kittens lives and even though I was only keeping the little guys alive for 24 hours, it felt really great to be able to do that.
5. Boy names are tough!
Throughout this post, the kittens didn’t have names because they were three little boys and I couldn’t think of any for the life of me! And just as I thought of some, they were leaving. I have so many girl names but boy names? I’m lost. Luckily, the kittens I’m looking after now are a boy and a girl so it wasn’t quite as tough. Esther and Gilbert are named for Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Literary names are the best.
Have you ever fostered kittens? Aren’t they just the cutest?