They call it a “foster fail” but how could anything this wonderful be seen as a failure?
No, we weren’t planning on adopting any of the kittens from the litter we rescued*. There were many reasons for this, and we listed them over and over to anyone who asked why we weren’t keeping one, two, or all of the babies. “It’s not the right time to grow our pet family.” “We’re just renting right now; we should wait until we buy our next house.” “We already have two elderly pets we love very much.” Blah, blah, blah. I’m going to stop here because you’re not listening anymore anyway. No one was. Everyone nodded at us, rolled their eyes, and told us we’d end up with a kitten. But we really really REALLY weren’t going to. Really.
And then… we had three kittens left, and two of them got adopted together. That left one.
The last kitten was truly the last kitten. He was the one we didn’t catch until five days after the rest of the litter. He was the one who spent most of his first day in our house exploding in tiny spits and hisses if you looked at him. He was the one who we named Will because, in our Stranger Things-themed litter, he was the one who had been lost in the upside down, separated from the others.
This solid blue, fuzzy little hot pepper had been in our house for five days when his siblings left for their forever home, and I’d already managed to get him from extra spicy to medium spicy via the use of the purrito and other methods of forced cuddling. (The little guy was never vicious, just scared. Once you got ahold of him, he never bit or scratched. It was just the being picked up part, or rather the THOUGHT of being picked up, that unnerved him.) So, on Sunday, when Eleven and Dustin went home with their new family, he was all alone again. And he started crying.
Your heart is probably already melting at the idea of a lonely kitten mewing, but let me make it even worse by telling you that his tiny cries sounded more like a screech owl than a cat. They were truly pitiful. That night, I let him out of the crate and played with him and talked to him and snuggled him and showed him the beauty of belly rubs. We bonded, and he purred against my chest as I hugged him. Then I (uh oh) gave him a real name. The next morning, I told my hubby, “We need to keep this cat.” He agreed.
Foster fail? Um, no. Indigo William Juettner was always meant to be ours, we just didn’t know it yet**. Sometimes that’s just the way life works.
Indie has been an official member of the family for two days now. It’s been a busy two days of feeding him constantly (I think he’s part Hobbit), cleaning up after him (eating constantly = pooping constantly), and helping him feel like part of the family.
Indie is currently romping around the bed as I type, falling off at regular intervals and pouncing on my back occasionally. It’s only a matter of time before he hits a button on my laptop and deletes this post or translates it into Italian or something. Any typos you find are his fault.
Indigo is such a joy, and this whole process of kitten fostering has been so rewarding. I want to thank everyone for helping us find homes for these sweet babies and for believing, all along, that one of those homes would be ours***.
Now to figure out how to live life with a growing kitten in the house. Wish me luck. (Indie just zoomed around the room, bowed up at nothing, and then hid under the bed.)
* I just asked my hubby if “rescued” was the right word for what we did, since the kittens weren’t actually in danger at the moment. He suggested we “absconded” with the kittens and told me I had to include a Willow quote, so here:
** Everyone else knew it. My big announcement that we were keeping one of the kittens was met with a lot of laughter, eye rolls, fake shocked looks, and “I-told-you-so” comments. People think they’re SO smart.
*** Yes, yes, you were right. There, I said it. Happy?
You may think you’re ready. You may have bought all the things you were supposed to buy and prepared all the accommodations you were supposed to prepare. You may even believe, naively, that you are mentally and emotionally equipped to devote your days to the care of someone other than yourself. But until you have a dog crate full of squirming, flea-infested babies who walk through their food dish, lay down in their litterbox, and then use their brother’s head as a stepstool to leap to the top of the cage only to crash down into the water bowl—only then will you truly grasp what you’ve gotten yourself into. (If you haven’t been following my blog, you might be confused or calling Child Protective Services right now. Please, calm down. The babies are kittens.)
On Thursday, July 21st, at 6:30AM, my house and my life were both pretty tidy. Yes, there were a few dirty dishes in the sink, and of course I needed to vacuum the dog hair (When don’t I need to vacuum the dog hair?) but otherwise, things were running on schedule. My to-do list included yoga, grocery shopping, writing time, and date night. None of those things happened.
After stalking mama cat (now named Maggie) for a few of weeks, I had finally located her kittens under a neighbor’s house. On a couple of occasions, with bribes of wet food and some very good sweet-talking on my part, I convinced Maggie to call her kittens out. I got the chance to glimpse a few of the adorable little fuzzy things, but she was still guarding them, and I couldn’t get close. Once, she even brought a few of the babies to my driveway. This seemed like a promising turn of events until the kittens climbed up into the underside of my car. Maggie and I agreed the visit was not going well, and she took them home again.
Finally, last Thursday, I saw my chance. When I went to feed Maggie that morning, she wasn’t waiting on my porch as usual, so I walked over to the house where she was keeping her litter. There she was, laying in the driveway, watching her kittens play all around her. At first I thought Maggie had four kittens, then I counted five. The truth was she had SIX growing babies. No wonder she was always so hungry! I could tell the kittens were healthy and well-fed. Maggie was obviously a good mama. They were seven weeks old and cute little bundles of energy. It looked as if I had interrupted climbing practice; the kittens were taking turns scaling the wooden fence while proud mom looked on. I gave Maggie a plate of food and went to get my humane trap.
Between 7:00 and 9:00AM, I had caught five kittens and Maggie. (Don’t worry, we caught kitten #6 a few days later.)
It was crazy! As my brother put it, it was like I’d found the perfect fishing hole and just kept reeling them in. I’d catch a kitten, bring it home and put it in the crate, re-bait the trap, come home to check on the kitten, go back to check the trap, and there would be another one in it. And repeat.
That’s when my to-do list went out the window.
The kittens took all of two seconds to settle in and become friendly. We could pick them up and cuddle them immediately, and they took to their kitten food like champs. Mama Maggie watched serenely, seemingly unconcerned as I carried off her children, but when SHE ended up in the trap, she was not happy. We needed to get her to a vet for her spaying surgery ASAP so that we could release her. I called a few places and found a clinic that would take her that day, so hubby and I jumped in the car, drove Maggie to the vet, got her checked in, and made it back home just in time to meet the notary at our house to sign the closing documents for selling our home in Austin. Whew! (I guarantee you I did NOT smell good during that meeting. Also, it was hard to sign my name 47 times due to a cat bite on my thumb that occurred during the process of getting Maggie from the trap into the carrier.)
Documents signed, notary departed, I let out a sigh of relief and then thought, I have a litter of kittens in my bedroom. This is going to be so fun!
I was right. Mostly.
I named the babies after the characters in Stranger Things. Meet Eleven (the tortie and only girl in the litter), Hopper (the brown tabby), Steve and Eddie (the gray tabbies), and Dustin (the blue one). The other blue one is kitten #6, named Will because he spent the first few episodes of the kitten saga lost in the upside down before rejoining the litter.
The following week was an endless loop of feeding kittens, bathing kittens, cuddling kittens, cleaning up after kittens, hosting people visiting kittens, making flyers about kittens, sending kittens home with adoptive families, looking for kitten #6, catching kitten #6, re-bathing all the kittens thanks to kitten #6, convincing Maggie to trust me again after releasing her post-surgery, herding kittens, briefly losing kittens before finding kittens under bookshelves or inside the bed, and taking many many many photos of kittens. During this time, there was not a ton of showering, eating regular meals, maintaining my house, or writing. Or sleeping. Or remembering what I did with my life before kittens.
The babies are an absolute joy. I’ve watched them learn to play and wrestle and climb. I’ve heard them purr and squeak. And I’ve felt them fall asleep in my lap as I stroke their tiny faces.
But, to be fair, the kittens are also disgusting and exhausting. I’ve watched them roll in the litterbox right after going potty in the litterbox (Hopper). I’ve heard their persistent mews at 4:00AM (Thanks, Eleven). I’ve smelled their not-so-little kitty farts (Cheers to you, Eddie). And I’ve cleaned up the accident someone had right underneath the center of my bed (I’m looking at you, Steve).
Motherhood, as it turns out, is actually kind of difficult.
Now, eight days from that exciting Thursday morning, life is finally starting to go back to normal. Hopper, Steve, and Eddie have all gone to their forever homes, and the three kittens who remain have stopped crying at night and using the litterbox as a playpen. I’m finally getting some writing time and have even taken a shower today. Woo hoo!
I’m so grateful that I found these precious babies and had the free time to take care of them. It’s been a gift getting to spend time with cats this young. I’ve loved every second of it (even the gross parts) and now I’m ready to send them on to loving homes. Hubby and I have decided that it’s not the right time for us to take on a new baby. We have an 11-year-old dog and a 24-year-old cat (no, that’s not a typo) who we love very much, and they are enough for us right now. Plus, there wasn’t a troublesome orange tabby in the litter.
I’m also grateful that we were able to get Mama Maggie fixed. She didn’t like being trapped and taken to the vet, but I know it was the best thing for her. Since my last post, I’ve learned that this was actually her third litter, poor thing.
I have someone interested in Dustin and Eleven, but little Will still needs a loving, patient home. If you’re in the Dallas area (or willing to drive here) and looking to adopt a new little fur baby into your family, send me a message!
Tips for Trapping and Caring for Baby Kittens:
Buy or borrow a good trap. Kittens are tiny, so you need a trap that won’t hurt them but that’s sensitive enough to spring with very little weight. We have this one, and it worked great. Also, figure out how to work the trap BEFORE you need to use it. For me, the trap wasn’t intuitive, which meant I had to wake up Hubby to show me how to work it.
Don’t be a hero. Wear gloves when interacting with a feral cat. I’m very fortunate that the bite on my thumb didn’t become infected. Thanks to thoroughly cleaning the wound, soaking in Epsom salts, applying Neosporin, and a fair amount of luck, my bite healed nicely, but it hurt like heck and I couldn’t open a bottle or a turn a doorknob without wincing for days.
Don’t let personal feelings sway the facts when describing a feral cat. When we took Maggie to the vet, they asked how feral she was. I thought about how after weeks of patience she would now eat just a few feet away from me and how I had touched her twice (briefly) and not been killed, and I said she was “moderately feral.” When we picked her up from the vet, they informed me that she was “extremely feral.” Oops! Perhaps a chart of some sort would have helped me.
Acquire a lot of towels. No matter how many towels you think you might need to care for a litter of kittens, you need more. Prepare to do a lot of laundry.
Labels are important. Toothbrushes are excellent tools for kitten care. They’re useful for bathing, especially when you’re soaping up their tiny necks to keep the fleas from running to their head, and they’re good for gently stroking their widdle faces to remind them of their mama. But when you decide to take your own old toothbrush and use it on cats, you need to label it for that moment when you are severely sleep deprived and need to brush your teeth.
I’ve spent the past few days setting up stakeouts to stalk a cat.
There is a mama cat in my new neighborhood that recently had kittens. My sources say they were born on or around June 1st. No one has seen the kittens yet, but mama cat (who will be properly named once I get to know her better) is obviously nursing a litter, and she comes out of her hiding place to eat the cat food that people are leaving out for her before disappearing again to wherever she has her nest.
Why am I stalking her? For several reasons.
Reason #1: Kittens!!!
Duh. I want to see her baby kittens and snuggle them and play with them and convince my hubby to let me have one or two of them. * I’m hoping there’s an orange one because 80% of orange cats are male, and I want a boy. (It’s a fact, you can look it up.) Plus, 90% of orange cats are trouble, and I love the troublemakers. (This statistic is not so much “factual” as estimated based on personal experience. For data points, see: Rusty, Tiger, Murcott, Phoebes, and Zeus.)
Reason #2: I agree with Bob Barker.
This is mama cat’s second litter, and she needs to be done. She’s young and deserves to enjoy her life without being tied down. And there are too many stray cats around here already. So, my plan is to find her, feed her, befriend her, locate her kittens, and when they’re old enough to be weaned, take mama to be fixed. The babies too, of course.
Reason #3: I think mama cat wants to be found.
She’s not feral. She allows humans to get close and lingers curiously nearby after eating. With a little patience, it won’t take long for her to trust people. I’m pretty sure, when her babies are old enough, she will want to bring them somewhere safe. I want to be that safe house.
So far, my stalking has been mostly unsuccessful. The problem is that the block where I live has very few houses but lots of sheds and bamboo thickets and woodpiles where a smart cat could make a nest. I’ve meowed outside a couple of likely locations ** and “here kitty-kitty-ed” near several more and listened for tiny, adorable mews, but no luck. I climbed into my parents’ treehouse and sat for half an hour watching for movement, but no luck. I put a bowl of kibble outside my house in view of my reading corner and read/watched for an hour, but no luck. I’ve realized I just have to be patient (<– not my strongest trait) and wait. The next time I see mama cat, I’m going to dash outside with a can of wet food, sweet-talk her while she eats it, and then follow her to her lair. ***
Despite the fact that I don’t have any kittens to snuggle yet, my stakeouts have not been completely in vain. While I haven’t found a troublesome orange tabby, I have found a stillness I didn’t know I was searching for.
I’m a fidgety person. I cross and uncross my legs when sitting, pace while talking on the phone, pick at my fingernails while reading, and pause movies half a dozen times to use the restroom, get a snack, write down a random thought, or walk outside to see if the moon is full. I used to hang out at a coffee shop once a week with a good friend who we’ll call El (because I’m not sure if she wants her real name in my blog and because I’m really into Stranger Things right now). I was always fascinated by how still El could be. While I shifted in my seat, adjusted my ponytail, stretched my back, took my sweater off and put it back on again five times, El simply sat. I talked with my hands, scratched my elbow, and popped my knuckles. El sat. During the drafting of this blog post, I have rearranged the pillows in my chair, laid on the floor to stretch my back, and taken at least five breaks to look out the door and see if mama cat is strolling by. (She isn’t.) Meanwhile, back in Austin, I’m certain that El is sitting serenely at her computer without so much as a twitch. (Though perhaps she is smiling while reading this.)
My fidgetiness isn’t a usually a problem, so it’s not something I try to change about myself. When I want to practice being still, I go to yoga or take a nap or choose to see a movie in the theater where I can’t pause it because I’ve randomly decided to water my plants. But stillness was necessary this week while stalking mama cat. I needed to stay in one place for a decent period, not make too much noise (except for the occasional meow), and limit my own movements so that I could notice if something around me stirred. When the reward is the possibility of kittens, I can calm my fidgets. Although no kittens appeared, I did find benefits to being still. Sitting in the treehouse, straining to hear the mewing of hungry baby cats, I heard so many more birdcalls and squirrel chirps and insect buzzes than I normally would have. Staying in one place and watching for movement below allowed me to see more clearly what was right in front of me: a cobwebby hole in the tree, ants climbing the bark, the delicate veins of an oak leaf.
My stakeouts have reminded me how important it is to stop and be present in the moment. There’s so much to see, hear, and notice when we take the time to be still and breathe.
Also, somewhere there are kittens, and I intend to find them. Wish me luck.
* I have a sneaking suspicion that my husband doesn’t read my blog anymore. Perhaps I’ll find out for sure after this post.
** Yes, I’ve been meowing in my new neighborhood. I’m not ashamed of it. Before you get concerned that the neighbors might think I’m weird, you should know that the neighbors are my parents, and they already know I’m weird. They’re WHY I’m weird.
*** This is probably a good time to remind everyone that I don’t have a job right now.