Thank you Paws & Fins Pet Shop for sponsoring our weekly Animal Tales feature!
It’s that time of year again—kitten season! The first litter brought into PAWS in 2012, earlier this month, unfortunately was a case of inadvertent kitten-nabbing. A person called PAWS saying he was on his way with a “box full of kittens.” It seems a friend of his mother’s “rescued” them from an abandoned house. She said the mother cat hadn’t been around for several days.
What she and many other people do not understand is that just because you don’t see a mama cat doesn’t mean she isn’t around. This is true for wild animals too, which is why West Sound Wildlife Shelter advises people against picking up wild baby animals.
So, the woman took the five one-week-old kittens from their hiding place and dropped them off with a friend who had no idea what to do with them and ended up taking them to PAWS. The kittens’ first stop was to the PAWS vet, who confirmed the obvious: that their mother had indeed been around and taking good care of them, assiduously feeding and grooming them into fat, clean little kitten chunks.
Although PAWS will eventually find homes for them when they are old enough, it is painful to imagine the mother cat’s distress when she discovered her babies missing. And it is unlucky for the kittens that they have been deprived of their mother’s love, milk, antibodies, and socializing for the crucial early weeks of their lives.
What to do with the five tiny helpless kittens? The PAWS people called one of their most reliable foster parents, Flo, who immediately took them home and put them on a schedule. Taking care of newborn kittens—these hadn’t even opened their eyes yet—is round-the-clock work. The kittens need to be fed every two hours. Some are hearty eaters, but some take a bit longer to get the food in. And after every feeding each one needs assistance to do its business, which the mother cat does by licking its bottom to stimulate it to “go.”
Fostering newborn kittens—and any other animal—gives you a whole new respect for animal moms. We humans have our hands full with one. Can you imagine having to take care of five? That’s what Flo is doing for these new little ones now—and it’s something she’s been doing for years.
PAWS is always looking for loving, dedicated fosterers, who understand that young kittens are fun but are also work. Once they open their eyes and refine their motor skills, they are on the move constantly—climbing up things (curtains, Christmas trees . . .) and fitting into spaces you didn’t even know existed. Often they come with upper respiratory infections. Last year it seemed nearly every other kitten that came in to PAWS had ringworm, which requires sulfur dips and smearing lotion all over them several times a day. Vaccines, worming, and getting them fat and happy for their new home are all part of the foster parent’s job.
When the time comes to drop them off for their spay/neuter and life in the adoption center, some fosterers breathe a long sigh of relief. Others, like faithful Flo, say, “Who’s next?” And away she goes. We hope next time Flo gets a litter that is already at the solid-food stage and likes to sleep and snuggle a lot. It’s good to know that we can count on people like Flo and her husband Dave and son Ty to give these little guys and gals the best start in life they can possibly get from a nonfeline.
PAWS is grateful for its network of foster parents and is always looking for new ones. But often PAWS loses its fosterers because they end up adopting the kittens and/or mamas and then don’t have room for others. (Case in point, the second author of this story did this very thing.) If you’d like to become a foster parent for PAWS, learn more at their website.
Please note that “Flo’s kittens” won’t be ready for adoption until they weigh about 2 1/2 pound, which is usually at about 8-10 weeks of age, around late May or early June. Interested in adopting a PAWS kitten or cat? Contact PAWS of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Miller Road Cat Adoption Center at 206-780-0656.
Photos courtesy of PAWS of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap County.