Category Archives: Cats/Kittens

Fostering Part I: Tiny Peggy & Kitten Fostering ~ by Pat Lang

Have you got what it takes? What it takes to be a foster? Are you a cheerleader, wet nurse, substitute momma, poop cleaner and medicine dispenser, disciplinarian, playmate, and whatever else it takes? Are you willing to fall in love (over and over again) and then willingly have your heart broken (at least for a little bit) when your “furballs” leave for their new homes?

That’s what fostering is all about – taking in those in need, regardless of their condition, and giving them whatever it takes to get them to the point where their “forever” homes can adopt them.

How best to show you/tell you what it’s like than to report from the front lines, from Toni Welch Hiner’s foster “farm”. Toni is a kitten specialist, although she generally doesn’t take on bottle babies. She recognized that her home setup, with a separate room/garage, worked best for kittens, and the room soon became the kitten barn. Toni did kitten fostering nearly non-stop for 4 years.

But she’s had challenges of her own: she rescued Tiny Peggy and her litter, picking them up at a parking lot in Tracy where everything was closed. What was supposed to be a Momma and five kittens, turned out to be Momma and six kittens, all of whom had been stuffed in a shoulder bag for at least a couple of hours before she even got them. Intake is a flurry of activity: every kitten is weighed, poop samples taken, flea treatment administered and then they are set up in their own large dog crate, with soft bedding, puppy pads, litter pans and food and water.

Once they are settled, there is a real schedule, with weights being taken and tracked on a spreadsheet several times a week. This data gives you a real sense of who’s thriving and who isn’t….and Tiny Peggy wasn’t. It becomes a constant process of constantly adjusting feeding (Peggy’s litter had been started on cow’s milk and that needed to be replaced with KMR kitten formula, and then gradually adding in Wellness kibble and canned food when they are ready (and when you’re ready for a real mess at feeding time!). Transitional kittens tend to get more food on themselves than they do in themselves…now kittens, we EAT the food, not WALK in it!. These foster parents know all the cleaning tricks from the right kind of towels (yellow microfiber from Costco) to how to get 6 kittens clean and dry after a feeding and before they all fall asleep. The age of the kittens drives the feeding schedules, with the very young ones receiving food every 3 hours and older ones on slightly longer intervals. (Makes you appreciate that Momma’s work is never done!)
And then there was the ringworm! Peggy’s litter came down with it and it began to seem like this litter was never going to leave. Every 5 days, they needed to be dipped in a smelly lime-sulfur dip, requiring gloves and goggles. The stuff stains, it smells, and the kittens are just a mess. They also needed oral medications. And once the ringworm was gone, all the chairs had to be hauled out of the room, disinfected with Rescue Cleaner and left to dry in the sun.
But all that work with Tiny Peggy formed a bond that couldn’t, and wouldn’t, be broken…Tiny Peggy became a foster fail….and her new life can be followed on her Facebook page, Tiny Peggy. The rest of Tiny Peggy’s litter all found wonderful homes, selected personally by Toni, from the approved adoption applications

The work may at times seem endless, and your heart can be broken when not everything goes as planned…but what better reward than knowing you’ve saved lives, found these sweet little creatures loving homes, and had weeks and weeks of kitten joy and laughter along the way!

Stay with us for Part II, where we learn how fostering kittens led to fostering Owen the lamb!

-Dogwood Volunteer Pat Lang
Gray Kitten

What to do if you find a litter of feral kittens ~ by Pat Lang

It’s that magical time of year: kitten season, when it almost seems as if it’s raining kittens. Shelters are packed to the rafters (or soon will be) with every shape, size and color of kittens. And that’s just the kittens we know about! Feral moms are giving birth in bushes, in empty garages and garden sheds, wherever they can find what they think is a safe spot.

Sometimes what looks like a safe spot to them ends up being an area that we humans wander through or that presents other risks to the little feline family. So today’s “kitty lesson” is what to do if you find a litter of newborn/young kittens, with no Mom in sight. First thing: do nothing at all but watch and wait!  Many, many times Mom hasn’t abandoned her new little family but is out hunting, looking to provide for her newborns.  Moms can often be gone for several hours. In most cases, a little patience on your part will reveal that Mom returns to feed her family.  Check on the family several times a day, from a SAFE distance (binoculars are a big help!). Keep an eye on numbers: if the little family seems to be getting smaller in number, Mom may be moving them to a new and safer location.

Orange Kitten

Our first instinct is to help – and for us, helping usually means rescuing the kittens.  But this good-hearted instinct creates more problems than not.  First of all, if the kitties are truly wee little ones, they will need to be bottle fed.  And while bottle feeding little ones is a wonderfully satisfying task, it is still a lot of work.  And, even more importantly, bottle feeding is a really an unsatisfactory substitute for mom’s milk.  Mom is the best at raising her brood: her milk provides crucial nutrients and there’s no substitute for the training and discipline that Mom provides.

But we understand wanting to help. So here’s what to do: put some dry kitty food and water out for Mom but at a distance from her litter.  Mom purposely puts her litter away from food since she understands that food attracts predators..  When she returns from the hunt, she’ll appreciate the easily accessible banquet!  And keep a quiet eye on the little family, from a distance and at different times of the day.  That way you’ll have the best chance of seeing if Mom returns to care for her family.  Kittens who aren’t receiving enough milk will most likely be either crying constantly or very lethargic and inactive. Assess the health of the kittens: is their fur dry and fluffy? Or wet? Are they sleeping quietly? Or crying/squalling? Are they dry and away from danger?  Is their location away from traffic, people, bikes, etc.?

Gray Kitten

If after a day or two, you sense real trouble, seek out help from an organization experienced in dealing with feral cats.  They can offer advice and direction on how best to proceed.  In Sonoma County we are fortunate to have Forgotten Felines of Sonoma County as our feral experts, but more and more grass roots/volunteer organizations dedicated to the care and protection of feral cats are popping up all over the country.  The Community Cat Coalition in Washington state, Alley Cat Allies on the East Coast and many others.  A quick Google search for feral cat organizations should provide you with the contact information you need.

If the little family can stay  together until the kittens are old enough to be weaned (usually 6-8 weeks) then you can consider how best to trap the family for spay/neuter (once again many local organizations offer free or low cost spay/neuter) and can pull the kittens for socialization and Trap/Neuter/Return the feral mom.

Careful and watchful waiting will yield the best results for everyone.