A Little Life SavedPosted: November 9, 2009
This is my “little baby foster kitty”, six weeks later. Quite the big girl compared to the little uncoordinated fuzzball who arrived (read “A Little Baby Foster Kitten” for the beginning of this story).
She went to her forever home over the weekend, and while I miss her vibrant personality and the daily progress and development of a kitten I am also glad to hand over a happy, healthy kitten to an excellent home, and the Festive Four are happy to have their bathroom back.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had one this young, but I’ve fostered a few dozen cats and kittens in the 20-plus years I’ve been fostering, and while I hope to give them a good beginning I never feel the need to keep every one of them unless a good home just isn’t available. I’d prefer to share the love of a wonderful kitty, and if I know a forever home is available I can love them all the more knowing I won’t need to worry about the expenses of another cat in the household, since I’m already pretty full for a house this size.
Six weeks passed so quickly in my life, but in terms of her development during those weeks she went from toddler to second-grader, perhaps third-grader, in physical ability, judgment, social skills—and consuming food!
I remember when Fromage first arrived and I initially tried to bottle feed her. She wanted no parts of the plastic nipple, but was very attracted to and comforted by the warmth of my forearm. Some of the formula dripped on my arm and she found it, licking it off right away and purring, then nibbling me looking for a nipple on my arm. I dripped a little more on my arm then filled in the little pool at the crook of my elbow where she lapped the formula, warmed by my skin, and kneaded, no doubt she could feel my pulse there, too.
The next day we began transitioning to a dish for her to lap from, and after a week added some canned food and quickly left the formula behind.
With neonatal rescues like Fromage, the danger of delayed physical or social development is common, so I studied her coordination, voice, apparent vision and hearing, eating habits, everything that was a clue to her progress. She was an early star with litterbox use, played with toys and with me, and was very affectionate with me. However, she didn’t play for very long when I wasn’t in the room, and she was very shy with other people, even a little hostile.
Social interaction with people is important, and if I had had the time to spend more hours with her I may have sufficed—plenty of others have done that with foster kittens. But she really needed the company of other cats to develop both physical agility and social skills. Kittens, puppies, and young of all species when they are born in litters, play all day long at her age, wrestling, chasing, stealing toys from each other and sharing toys with each other, eating together, bathing each other and sleeping in a pile together. Aside from eating, it’s the most important thing they do at that age.
Call in the Fostering Four. One night I was sorting laundry on my bed and had the four and several other of the adult cats in my bedroom. I put her on my bed among the piles of laundry and let her explore and, one by one, meet the other cats. There was a small amount of hissing, but no one left.
Jelly Bean had known what was expected of him right away, and was the only one never to utter a discouraging meow, but purred at the shrieking kitten the first night, sniffing at the door and asking to go into the bathroom from then on. Giuseppe and Mr. Sunshine were a little doubtful at first, sitting and staring when possible, growling and swatting when necessary, for about a half day, then they began chasing her in play and swiping a little bath at her now and then. Mewsette was the only holdout, and as soon as she realized the irritating little thing could play was dancing on the top of the baby gate so the kitten could try to grab her toes.
I blocked the top of the stairs with a baby gate, closed the door to the spare bedroom and let Fromage run around the upstairs for an hour or so once or twice a day. While she could still be kept corralled by the baby gate, the adults could visit when they wanted and escape whenever they got tired of her then go back for more.
She blossomed as she quickly developed greater coordination and learned to play with four adult cats in turn. And not only them, but in the meantime I took in another adult foster who is staying in the spare bedroom, and Fromage stopped to play paws under the door with him as well!
None of my other adult cats developed any interest in her, and Mimi’s reaction was almost funny—a hostile look and a big, long hissssss. I guess she’s had enough of kittens for one lifetime.
Kittens never cease to amaze me at this stage in their development: one day Fromage got into the tub and couldn’t get out, but two days later she was hopping in and out often without touching the sides, the change comes that fast. She climbed the baby gate but couldn’t get to the top, then suddenly she was over it on the other side—where she shouldn’t be. I heard her tumble down the steps once and for a week she ignored the steps, but eventually it was too tempting and I turned around to find her crouching near the bottom studying the new room and trying to decide where to start her exploration. The next day she was running up and down the steps with a concerned Jelly Bean accompanying her; I guess he remembered those days when he and his siblings were only allowed down the steps under my supervision.
At eight weeks she can run and run and run and keep up a pace I can’t even match—and except for the fact that she’s about one-tenth their size and therefore has shorter legs, she can outrun the adult cats. As small as she is, she can outmaneuver them under the bed and around corners and if all else fails she can just run under their bellies and they have to spin around to see where she’s gone.
And she developed into a little sweetheart. Aside from leaping up my leg whenever she saw me, I would hold my hand out in front of her and she would stand on her hind legs with her front paws up then fall on my hand so I could scoop her up, holding her close to my face and cuddling. When I sat on the floor she would walk all over me, purring vigorously.
She also loved company. The first time her forever person, the person who had rescued her, came to visit, Fromage was less than social, not interacting with her at all—but that was before her socialization by the Communal Quartet. I marched every visitor to the house up the stairs to see her (and I had to twist very few arms to get people to visit with her—most people asked). The next time her forever person came to visit, Fromage strolled out of the bathroom and executed a luxurious cat stretch and furled and curled her tail and walked over to her.
But it’s the arrogance of a kitten that age that I love so much. They think they own the world, exploring fearlessly, challenging other cats and animals in their environment, playing with toys, climbing anything they can grasp, developing a vocabulary, yet they are so tiny and delicate, easily hurt, susceptible to so many diseases.
The night I took her to her new home, much larger than mine and with only two other cats, she cautiously explored the living room at first, finding a safe place behind the couch, then moving through the dining room with a little less fear all the time. She was at first a little startled at the sounds of so many voices, especially loud men’s voices, but after being around our conversation just began to ignore it. She’ll have her own room for some time to come, but run of the all but the basement whenever possible. She runs off to explore, then comes back to her person arching her back and rubbing herself against a leg with a vigorous purr, then she’s off to explore some more.
I was glad for my role in this, knowing how to handle a neonatal kitten. But it was really the people who rescued her who played the biggest role in Fromage’s life, and without them her future would be very different, if she had one at all.
If her strident shrieks hadn’t been heard that night, or if they had chosen to ignore her, chances were slim she would have lived a day or two more without her mother. If she somehow had, she should have ended up as another stray cat on the streets dodging cars and people and fighting off illnesses that cats with owners are vaccinated against. If she had survived the coming winter, next year she’d start producing kittens at two to four litters per year, and since she would have grown up without human interaction they would be considered feral, adding to the overpopulation already on the streets. Her life would likely be short and unpleasant as are the lives of most cats who live entirely on the streets with an average life span of three years, and kitten survival at less than 50%.
How much better that she has her own house and her own person and two cats to boss around, enough to eat, spaying at the right time, and she can live a good, long life with people enjoying her gregarious, affectionate personality and admiring her intelligence and beauty! I can’t wait to hear the progress reports.
Read the first article about Fromage: A Little Baby Foster Kitten