Where did the school kittens go for a field trip? The mewseum
You know well just how adorable and hilarious kittens can be. Much as we love our adult cats, there’s so much joy to be found in those few and fleeting months when your home is graced with a goofy, tiny, endlessly entertaining kitten. Now imagine this: you have the opportunity to have a tiny kitten, or four, in your home all the time. While you do that, you’ll be literally saving that kitty’s life.
As a member of the Louisiana SPCA’s Kitten Krewe foster program, this is exactly the experience you would have.
Every year, we receive hundreds of orphaned kittens in need of homes. All animals adopted from Louisiana SPCA are spayed or neutered. We have too many homeless kittens and puppies already, so we make sure that all adoptees won’t add to the problem and produce offspring of their own. In order for that surgery to be safe, a kitten has to weigh 2 pounds. However, the majority of the kittens that we receive are too small, and won’t reach that weight for several weeks.
Keeping the kittens in the shelter while they grow up and gain weight isn’t ideal, since the presence of many animals in one place increases the risk of illnesses being transmitted among them. While we have vaccination and sanitation protocols in place, most of the kittens surrendered to us are too young to receive their first vaccines, and because their immune systems aren’t fully developed, they’re much more susceptible to getting sick (much like human toddlers at a day care facility).
The solution to this problem: foster care! Through our Kitten Krewe program, foster parents take home an adorable litter of kittens, and care for them until they’re big enough to get spay/neutered and go up for adoption. We provide our Kitten Krewe volunteers with food, litter, vaccines, spay/neuter surgery, and any additional necessary medical care. The only things that foster parents need to do are to give the kittens a safe space to hang out and grow, and give them lots of love. And that space does not need to be a large one – a spare bathroom is ideal, or you can even use inexpensive collapsible fabric pet playpens that can be purchased online.
By giving an underage kitten a place to crash for a few weeks, you’re saving not one, but at least two lives – your foster baby, and the animal that Louisiana SPCA is able to take in and house in the space that the kitten would otherwise have occupied. All the love that you lavish on your foster kitties plays a critically important role in getting them adopted: unless kittens are handled by people while they’re very young, they won’t be socialized to life with people, and won’t make happy, relaxed pets. Moreover, enjoying toys with them teaches the appropriate way to behave while playing (a kitten who thinks fingers are toys turns into an adult who might chomp on an unsuspecting owner’s digits later in life). So the time kittens spend in foster care is crucial to their physical and emotional well-being.
The time requirements to foster aren’t as much as you might think, either. Kittens that are eating solid food on their own can be left alone in their safe space for all of the 8 hours that you are at work (it might just be harder on you being away from them than it is on the kittens!). If you have more time and a thirst for challenge, we’d absolutely love for you to consider becoming a bottle baby foster. Kittens who are still nursing need around the clock care, so we’re always on the lookout for generous souls willing to help. When kittens come to us already sick, they need special foster parents who can help them heal. You don’t need to be an expert to foster ill or nursing kittens – we’ll provide all the training and support you need.
Another thing people worry about is that they’ll get too attached, and will be unable to return their kittens for adoption. We have a solution for that, too – a new litter of kittens desperately in need of that space in your home! Having new little ones in your home helps with the dreaded “empty nest” feeling, and they’ll also teach you that celebrating your foster’s adoption days will become less difficult the longer you’re a foster parent. Saying goodbye might always be a little tough, but it will be outweighed by the knowledge that farewell to one kitten means having the opportunity to save the lives of another precious batch.
There are few things as rewarding as being a Kitten Krewe foster parent. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a herd of kittens batting around a ping pong ball (they look like a tiny, inept soccer team) – and you’ll be amazed just how many ways that they find to make you laugh. Then there’s the endless itty-bitty purrs, the snuggles, and the teeny meows to enjoy. But most important of all, you can be proud to be a savior to kittens in the hour of their greatest need.
Sara Dawdy, Feral Cat Intervention Coordinator … AKA the cat whisper