Kitten tails: Fostering isn't easy, but worthwhile

Susan Manzke

A couple of weeks ago, I reported how we had rescued four kittens. Their mother had abandoned them. I believe it was her first litter and she didn’t know what to do.

The four seemed healthy and took well to being bottle-fed. Taking care of all these little balls of fluff took up much of my day and night. After about a week, I left them after their evening meal and playtime, only to return to find one lying listlessly on its side.

From 10 that evening, until two in the morning, I tried to breathe life into that little body. For a time, I thought it was rebounding, but then suddenly it was gone. I went to bed, exhausted, only to lay awake, wondering what else I could have done.

I knew the kittens were warm. Under an old towel, I had tucked a heating pad. This little nest was in the shower of our downstairs bathroom. I had fenced them off with a toddler gate reinforced with cardboard so they couldn’t climb out.

My worry kept me up at night. 

A few days later, a kitten developed diarrhea. That poor little one drained of its life quickly.

I kept wondering if I would return to their nest only to find all the kittens had died in my absence.

The following day the remaining two kittens also had diarrhea. I called our vet and was given an emergency appointment.

Foster parents, Bob and Susan, with Smudge and Ghost.

The two had been eating well, but so had the two that had passed on. They had started to eat some solid food besides feasting on the kitten formula I was bottle feeding.

The vet looked the kittens over — I had named one Smudge and the other Ghost. He said they were females. Their eyes were clear and their breathing was sound. He treated them for worms.

The three-day treatment didn’t stop the diarrhea — the odd thing was I had also developed diarrhea. I worried I had caught something from the kittens.

We tested the kittens' stool and I went to my doctor’s office and did some of my own testing. Luckily I hadn’t caught anything from the kittens. Smudge and Ghost were given an antibiotic.

For a week, I administered their meds twice a day. That seemed to do the job. The problem disappeared.

I had two homes that offered to adopt a kitten or two. Though I had grown attached to Smudge and Ghost, I knew they couldn’t stay here. I couldn’t risk Bob tripping over a scampering kitten. Also, our dog and two old house cats hated the kittens.

Sunny didn’t like how they followed him around the kitchen when I let them romp. The cats took refuge upstairs, where they hid from the youngsters.

After the course of medicine was finished I called the first home to ask if they still wanted to adopt a kitten. They actually wanted both as they had two young children — the whole family was missing their late cat who had passed on in August after a long, 20-year life.

The family was coming from Iola to meet the kittens. If it was a good match, they would be going home with them.

I teared up. It was the right thing to do. The kittens would become housecats, loved by all in the home — actually, knowing the family had cohabitated with a cat for so many years was a good sign this was the right decision.

The family arrived and immediately bonded with Smudge and Ghost. I explained about all the issues we had faced. The kittens demonstrated why I used two dishes for their food — Smudge devoured her food while Ghost ate daintily. 

Eventually, the kittens were packed up and their new family took them to their new home. I felt happy for those cute balls of fur and sad for myself. I’d miss their antics as they raced around our kitchen. Being a foster mother isn’t easy, but it is rewarding.

Susan and Bob Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net/blog.