Socializing Foster Kittens

You Guys!

They did it again. They brought home more kittens. That’s fine. I don’t have to see them, but I am going to write about them! (We got a few photos, but it’s a bit dark in the bathroom and we didn’t want to flash them, so they’re a little grainy. More to come!)

Two of the new foster. They're getting eye meds.

Two of the new fosters. They’re getting eye meds and look a little goopy.

Here’s the scoop: The FODs were on their way to pull more kittens from being euthanized when, on their way there, they got a call that another rescue beat them to it. Hurray! That’s great news because we know they got saved. Then they got a call that thirteen kittens had been saved from an overcrowded feral situation somewhere in the city and were in desperate need of a foster home. When they said thirteen, I put my foot down. I allowed them three.

And so, today we have three new kittens  living in our bathroom. They’re being treated for eye infections so they look a little squinty, like tiny street thugs. They’re completely weaned, so it’s a little different than the last time we fostered. If you recall, last time we had to hand feed, warm them with heating pads, mix special foods, etc. This time, because the kittens are around seven to ten weeks old, they are eating entirely on their own. However, this scenario presents different challenges.

Did you know that if you take in feral kittens that are between six and twelve weeks old, they are going to need much more socialization than kittens who were trapped at six weeks of age or less?  I, of course, was a special situation. I was four months old when I showed up at the FODs house and yet all I wanted was love. I’m just a lover. It is known.

So what does socializing a kitten require? Here are a few things you may have to do:

  • Start by getting the kittens to eat in front of you. Progress to having them eat next to you, then from a spoon, then from your hand, then to allowing you to pet them while they eat.
  • Feed them at appointed times while you are there so they associate food and happy feelings with humans.
  • Use wand toys to coax them into playing. Use the toys to gently stroke them until they are ok with being petted by hand.
  • Use caution for kittens that you don’t know at all. They have sharp claws and teeth.
  • Spend alone time with each kitten to make sure they are all being socialized and that not just the most outgoing kittens are getting love.
  • When the kittens are ready, invite friends to come and handle your kittens so they accept a variety of people and not just you.
A very interesting looking kitty....

A very interesting looking kitty…. Who seems to like sitting in the litter box.

For more information, Tree House has a fantastic document with lots of information about socializing feral kittens. You can read it here.

And, of course, if you have cats or other animals at home already, make sure you practice excellent hygiene by doing lots of hand washing, wearing a smock or robe when handling the ferals, using slippers or shoes specifically for that room, and keeping your home cats separated from your ferals at all times. Safety first!

Love,

Crepes.

PS. Remember: These guys are up for adoption very soon! If you’re interested, contact Erica at Tree House or send us a note and we’ll put you in touch! Please. They can’t stay. I need my bathroom rugs back.

Fostering: Is It For You?

Alana here!

Crepes is still in exile, but she’ll be back soon, and by then we’ll likely have handed off our fosters to a new foster mom. We’ve had them for a week now and I’ve been thinking a lot about fostering. There are lots of people who still don’t know much about it. What is it? How do you do it? Does it cost anything? Let’s discuss.

our fosters Hash and Tot popping out of their box.

our fosters Hash and Tot popping out of their box.

First off, what’s the best way to get started in fostering? Simple. Contact your local rescue and ask them if you can apply for their foster program. They’ll usually ask you to fill out an application (you’ll be taking in their kittens to your home, so it’s similar to an adoption application) and then tell them what kinds of cats you’d like to foster. For instance, do you want bottle babies? Do you want weaned kittens? Would you prefer older cats? That’s something you have to decide, but here are a few things to keep in mind (and this is by no means an exhaustive list).

Fostering bottle babies requires you to:

  • Feed them. If they’re under four weeks old, you’ll likely be feeding every 2 hours. At about four weeks, you might be around every 4 hours. This includes during the night, so set your alarms!
  • Wash them. This might be a bath in the sink or daily with a wash cloth after they eat. They’re messy.
  • Keep them warm. You need to provide a heating pad and check it frequently to make sure it’s on and not too warm.
  • Hold them. Kittens love to be held. They’ll scream at you to let you know this.
  • Weigh them. Kittens need to be weighed daily to make sure they’re growing properly and eating enough.
  • Burp them AND assist them with pooping. Hurray! (Edit: I forgot to add this one to the list, but was reminded by Random Felines. Maybe I just wanted to forget.)
Tot finishing up her snack and posing for a photo. Yum!

Tot finishing up her snack and posing for a photo. Yum!

Fostering weaned kittens requires you to:

  • Play with them frequently.
  • Keep them out of trouble.
  • Provide cleaning and love.
  • Take them to vet checks.
  • Care for them after their spay/neuter surgery.

Fostering adult cats requires:

  • A safe place for them to live.
  • Love and snuggling.
  • Transportation to adoption events and vet appointments.
All done with snack time!

All done with snack time!

Fostering special needs cats requires doing things above and beyond the aforementioned items. For instance, you might need to:

  • Administer medication. Are you comfortable with this?
  • Administer subcutaneous fluids. Is that something you’re ok with?
  • Spend extra time socializing the cat in the event that you’re fostering one with emotional needs or fear issues.

You can also specify if you want to be a long-term or short-term foster. We ourselves have done mostly short-term, anywhere from a few days to provide safety while a long-term foster is found to six weeks for Crepes and her siblings. Some people foster for a year or more if the animal is having trouble finding a home. Work with your rescue to figure out what you can do.

Vet bills, food, etc. are often covered by the rescue, as well. You can figure out what’s required of you when you apply. This is not an exhaustive list, by any means. The needs are different for every cat/litter you take in. Your rescue may also have special rules, and some may be more flexible than others in what kinds of services you have to provide.

The last part is, of course, the hardest: Letting go when it’s time. We’ve fostered maybe ten kittens thus far. Even though it’s only been a week, we’ve really started to love little Hash (Brown) and (Tater) Tot. Their faces are darling and they like us, but it’s just about time for them to move on. We’ll find comfort in knowing that we saved their lives and they’ll have a wonderful future to look forward to because we helped. We had a hard time saying goodbye to Crepes’ siblings. I cried a lot when I let them go, but they have great homes now. And, of course, I couldn’t say goodbye at all to Crepes. Sometimes that happens, and that’s ok.

Fosters are always in demand. Fosters save the lives of kitties who have no where to go.

A few weeks of your time could mean two decades of life for a kitty. Please foster if you can. It would mean the world to so many little lives.

Love,

Alana.

 

 

Kitten Season: A Serious Need For Fosters

Alana here today. I’m a little late with our post today, but we have good reason. You see, last night, I saw online that there was an emergency need for bottle baby fosters. There were thirteen kittens in Chicago that were going to be euthanized that day.  And, while we’re still living in a hotel and our house is a mess from repair work, I still couldn’t think of a good enough reason for me not to step up and help.

You two! Come with me.

You two! Come with me.

Would I miss out on sleep? Yes. Would I have to section off a portion of my house/room for them? Yes. Would I have to wash my hands 900 times a day for sanitation reasons? Yes. Were any of those good enough reasons to ignore their need?

No. 

I could not justify not doing something, not after just this week I’ve had a plea from Tabby’s Place to advertise their bazillion kittens, a plea from Feral Fixers to help find fosters for babies, and a plea from Tree House to help save bottle feeders that only had a few hours to live.

The thing about kitten season is that it’s not just about the fun and joy of cuddling kittens. It’s about the very real fact that thousands of kittens, many of them only days or weeks old, are being euthanized because there isn’t anywhere to put them. CACC (Chicago Animal Care and Control) in Chicago often euthanizes kittens under six weeks old the same day they arrive because of a lack of resources to care for them.

Kittens that come in without a mother are in real trouble. Either they need a surrogate mom to nurse them, which means someone already has to have a nursing mom somewhere, or they need a human being willing to mix their formula and feed it to them with a bottle every two hours. They need someone that’s willing to help them poop, change their towels, keep them warm, and bathe them.

Foster dad preparing the bath. I have a lovely husband.

Foster dad preparing the bath. 

Nursing bottle baby kittens is a serious job, and not everyone is willing to do it.

Keeping all that in mind, I still decided that we couldn’t leave that on our conscience. We knew they were there, we had the ability to help, and so we did.

Thank you for saving me!!!

Hurray! I’m safe!

As part of the Tree House Kitten On Deck program (a program where at-risk, unweaned kittens who arrive at CACC without their mothers will be transferred by Tree House out of CACC),  we went to CACC with the intention of pulling two litters of bottle babies. When we arrived, we found out that eight had already been taken to safety thanks to Tree House, and another kind lady (also through Kitten on Deck) was there waiting to take the two very youngest, who were only a few days old. Sadly, as we walked in, we found out that one of those two had already passed away, and when they went to get the second, he too, had died. Without a mom, they just couldn’t make it.

Since this other lady was about to leave without kittens, I asked her if she’d take one of our litters, and she agreed. She took three tiny bottle babies home, and we took two, slightly older ones. In fact, I feel like we lucked out, because they were older than we expected. Instead of having to get up every two hours to feed them, I was able to feed them every five. I only had to wake up three times during the night instead of five or six, mostly to make sure their heating pad was still on.

After his first bath. That's me, looking a little sleepy.

After his first bath. That’s me, looking a little sleepy.

And now we have two kittens in our bathtub, completely oblivious to how close they came and how lucky they are. They are two of thousands who just happened to be in the right place and are now fortunate enough to call themselves Tree House cats for life.

I'm a Tree House kitten!

I’m a Tree House kitten!

If you have a space in your home, even a small one, please consider helping, especially during this season. Contact your local rescue and ask how you can be involved in fostering. They’ll more than likely be very happy to train you and provide you with supplies, and you will be making a big difference to all the tiny ones you save.

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Alana (and Crepes, who exists today because of Tree House’s foster program.)

PS. I’m calling them Hash Brown and Tater Tot, or Hash and Tot, for short. That’s subject to change.

Click here to donate to Kitten on Deck.