As of last week, we have a new batch of foster kittens. We foster from Liberty Humane Society, and keep the kittens until they’re big enough to be fixed and adopted out (2 lbs).
Anyone who follows me on Twitter/Facebook knows that our fostered kittens tend to have a stream of health problems. A few people have commented on our “bad luck” and I thought I’d take the time to explain that fostering feral kittens is unlike raising kittens born to a housecat.
Like most animals born in litters, kittens don’t have the best mortality rate to begin with. The feral kittens are at a distinct disadvantage over the average housecat. For starters, the mother hasn’t been vaccinated against a whole host of diseases. Kittens get antibodies from the mother’s milk, so from day 1 feral kittens are already more susceptible to disease. And unlike your house cat who gives birth on your favorite sweater and eats cat food, feral cats give birth in an alley and eat whatever New Jersey rats they can find running around. Many things which are trivial to an adult cat are fatal to a small kitten.
From there the mom and kittens head to the shelter. The good news is the shelter is able to give them healthy food and treat them for parasites such as worms. The bad news is the shelter is a great place to pick up a URI (head cold) and fleas. The staff do their best to keep sick cats away from healthy ones, but anyone who works in an office knows how hard it is to keep a cold from going around.
Getting the cats out of the shelter and into a foster home is good for a number of reasons. First, it gets their fragile kitten immune systems out of the hot zone of germs. Second, it helps keep anything they may be harboring from spreading around the shelter. Third, they get more attention (both in terms of health care and affection) in a home than they would as one of the dozens of cats at the shelter. And perhaps most importantly, fostering reduces the load on the shelter giving them more resources to care for the animals there.
Our current batch is battling the usual URI, which means a room full of sniffles. The cold isn’t a big deal by itself, but when their noses are clogged they can’t smell, and when they can’t smell they can’t eat. I’m armed with a humidifier, pedialyte, saline nose drops, and subcutaneous fluids to help them fight it off. Subcutaneous fluids are injected under the skin. It sounds scary, but is actually much less of an ordeal than trying to force feed a cat water.
It’s a lot of work, but totally worth it to watch the little bugs chase each other and slide around on our hardwood floors.