It’s “Kitten Season”!
With warmer weather comes more mama cats in heat and more kittens being born. Shelters are under tremendous strain in the spring and summer to take in and adopt out kittens and cats. Many high kill shelters end up resorting to euthanasia due to lack of space.
Kitten season is a stressful time for many who work in animal welfare. Don’t get me wrong, I worry about the kittens too, but I am also reminiscing about my foster kitten journey, because for me, it was a life-changing experience that broadened my perspective on animals and our relationships to them.
My first batch of fosters were from a high-kill shelter in Mississippi. Three kittens were on death row and were saved at the last minute by a compassionate shelter volunteer. They were transported via a long car ride to Northern Virginia, where they were bathed and sent to their foster homes.
After a few weeks, the Mississippi kittens found their adoptive homes in the DC area (one of them with me) and I decided to continue my kitten foster journey with “bottle babies” - neonatal kittens who are too young for solid food and must be bottle fed around the clock. I was introduced to bottle babies after binging on Kitten Lady videos on Instagram.
I’ll never forget the day I went to the shelter and left with four tiny, fuzzy, gray lumps in my comparatively large carrier. I took them home with me and was terrified; they were so young and so fragile. Relying on training from my local shelter and working with a kitten foster case manager, I cared for these kittens, waking up in the middle of the night, bottle feeding them with bottles and syringes, stimulating them so they could urinate, and carting them back and forth to their vaccination appointments until they were weaned. Then they went to their next foster situation and I got my next batch of neonates.
For some, this could be an absolute nightmare. For me, it was empowering to help such a vulnerable population of kittens reach their next milestones.
My last foster, possibly my most memorable foster, was Bao, A.K.A “Little Bao” A.K.A “Bao-Bao”. Bao was a kitten who was absolutely adorable, but turned out to be an incredibly difficult medical case. Working alongside my husband, shelter staff, case manager, and veterinary professionals, we cared for Bao until she was well…and then we foster-failed her. Here is Bao in all her glory featured below. It’s a miracle that she is thriving, because in the early months of her life, she was incredibly ill.
There is actually a lot of variety when it comes to kitten fostering. There are socialization cases, medical cases, mom and babies cases, tube feeding cases, unweaned, and weaned kitten cases. There is an absolute range of how easy or difficult fostering kittens can be. Some enjoy the challenging cases, while others wouldn’t mind a litter that is thriving but just needs a place to hang out until ready for adoption. Either way, it is incredibly rewarding and can make a difference in kittens’ lives.
So this kitten season, think about volunteering to be a foster parent. It may just change your life for the better too.