Sunday was a bittersweet day for us, or maybe just for me. It was the day our spunky little foster kitten went to the shelter to find his forever home. The house doesn’t feel quieter without him around, but it does feel a bit empty. Aside from a few photos here and there, I haven’t discussed the little bugger much here. Knowing the date for Blog the Change was approaching I saved all my big foster-related stories for today in hopes I could convince someone else to give it a try.
I can’t say whether or not my fostering experience was at all typical as it was my first time. It’s something I wanted to do for a long time but I was afraid of being a failure. Not a “foster failure”, in the normal sense – I wasn’t worried I’d be tempted to keep the kitten. I was more afraid that I would screw the animal up or that something would go wrong and the animal would get hurt and it would be all my fault. The last thing the world needs is one more person with good intentions getting in over her head. However, I read so many positive accounts and I know what a difference providing an extra space for homeless cats makes, that I decided to just go for it. With all the resources at my disposal I figured if the worst thing happened, I would have lots of help. And if it turned out to be awful, I never had to do it again.
The whole process was simpler than I expected. I didn’t have to sign away my life and apparently, they don’t require foster parents to have a degree in veterinary medicine! My mind was blown. The kitten we took in was healthy and had little trouble adapting to our home. It wasn’t long before caring for him became just another part of our daily routine. The organization we fostered for provided us with all the food and litter, as well as a bed and cage for him to hang out in when unsupervised. All we had to do was feed him, give him fresh water, play with him, and watch him grow. Even I can get that right.
My concerns for how my own pets would handle the addition were also set at ease. Our nutjob of a dog was a lot better with him than I ever expected. Over-excited, yes, but she kept her prey drive in check and was more interested in sniffing his butt than treating him like a toy. After a few days of clicking-and-treating her for good calm behaviour, Shiva learned how to handle his presence. Our cat was another matter. He didn’t appreciate the young feline in his territory and only grew to dislike him more the longer he stuck around. However, there was an easy solution to that problem: we kept them separated. The kitten and his set up remained in a spare room behind a closed door. This way all interactions between the animals were strictly supervised. If things looked like they might derail, the kitten could beat an easy retreat.
Unfortunately, as much as I’d love to say fostering was all sunshine and rainbows, there was a moment early on in which I wondered if I was cut out for the task.
At this point the kitten had been with us for almost seven days and was about five weeks old. I had gone out that morning to purchase a new toy for him, something we could play with together. All excited, I opened the door to the kitten’s room, singing out to him: “Kiiittttennnn, look what I haaave!”
I waved the feathered toy over the top of the cage and moved to open the door. He was laying by his food bowl and didn’t stir, not even when the cage door clanged against the bars.
I reached my hand inside and stroked his head with a finger. He still didn’t move. I picked him up and noticed the towel beneath him was wet. He lifted his head when I cradled him in my arms but his eyes remained closed. I put him down on the carpet and he remained still.
I started to freak out.
Several frantic text messages and multiple phone calls later, we drove him as quickly as we could back to the rescue. My contact had suggested we try giving him some corn syrup in case he had just run himself into a coma. But after slathering it all over his mouth there was little change. He had turned from a fuzzball of hyperactivity into a withdrawn and lethargic baby. He wasn’t interested in any of his toys and seemed to have trouble moving. It was as if he had been drugged. Fortunately, we didn’t have to go far to get help. The woman in charge of the rescue reassured me there was nothing I could have done and took him back into her care.
A few more days passed and the wee lad had made a full recovery. No one knew what had caused his sudden downturn but all seemed well again. He was a singleton, his siblings having already not made it. When kittens are that young and have no known medical history, it’s a guessing game. I was asked if I wanted to take him back for the remainder of his foster care.
I was unsure. The biggest reason I didn’t want to foster was because I was scared something bad would happen. What if I took him back and he became ill again? What if I was at work or in bed at the time? What if I found him and it was too late? All of those questions and more crossed my mind. In the end, I decided to bring him home again. I had made a commitment and would see it through. I felt I owed him that.
Luckily, the worst never happened. As far as I could tell he remained in perfect health the rest of his stay with us. That doesn’t mean he was easy, of course! He is a kitten, after all. Crazy one minute, then sweet and snuggly the next. When I opened the door to his room, I never knew which I was going to get. And I still have the scars to prove it!
Now that he is gone, off to a new life, I do miss him a little. No doubt he is cute enough to get himself adopted right away. I just hope the mischief make behaves himself well enough to stay there. I feel fortunate that I got to be a part of his beginning. Fostering is definitely one of the more rewarding things I have done in the last year. It was fun having a new animal around and I got a kick out of watching him learn. Every day brought something new into his world. Hanging out with him gave me a new appreciation for the little things.
So have I convinced you yet? I hope I’ve at least inspired you to consider it. In my opinion, whatever stress is involved is well-worth the benefit you get from helping a little fluffy animal get his first start in life. And this is coming from me, a professional worrier. If I can do it, anyone can.