In my first Kitten Chronicle blogpost, I wrote about my background with fostering and a little bit about each of the kittens I was fostering. It was my intention for each week’s blogpost to detail each kitten’s progress. However, a few weeks ago some rescue organization drama erupted. That’s why I haven’t written in a while. First there was the drama, and probably as a result of the stress, I got sick.
I think I need to start out by giving a little background. When I decided I wanted to foster, I contacted my vet’s office and asked them if they knew of any organizations that fostered feral kittens. The receptionist at my vet’s office gave me the number of a couple of organizations to call. I left messages with both organizations. A woman, who I shall call C, called me back. She explained to me that while her organization was focused on dog rescue, occasionally they got calls about pregnant ferals or feral litters. I told her that I was interested in fostering but that because I was disabled and on a limited income, I could not handle the expenses of fostering (i.e. supplies such as litter and food). I was willing to foster so long as food & litter were supplied. In addition, I did not want to be responsible for raising funds for fixing the animals or finding homes for them. I wasn’t interested in volunteering in any other way with the organization – I just wanted to foster. C appeared to hear me. She told me that she had a relationship with several local shelters so I wouldn’t be responsible for spay/neutering or finding homes for the kittens. As soon as they were tamed, we could give them to the shelter. She also explained to me that she was organizing a low-cost spay-neuter clinic and asked me if I would be willing to help out on that day, handling animals. I agreed to assist for a couple of hours at the clinic, so long as my physical limitations were taken into account. C even told me that if I found feral kittens listed on Craigslist, she’d be happy to help me with supplies if I decided to foster them.
A couple of weeks later, C called me to tell me that she had heard of a pregnant feral. She asked if I would be willing to foster the mother and her kittens. I agreed. She informed me that another volunteer, T, would be calling me with the details. T called me and after making sure I was willing to foster, told me to expect the kittens that weekend.
When the weekend rolled around, I called C to ask her about supplies. She told me she wouldn’t be handling them & that I needed to call T. When I called T, she said the only thing she could help me with was a spare litter box. At this point, I could have backed out. But I was eager to foster and I quickly decided that it was worth it to me to cover the cost of supplies for one litter. Later that weekend, T called me to tell me there was some confusion at the site. It was at an office building and apparently more than one rescue organization had called and they had multiple potential fosters. T didn’t know if I was going to get all the kittens, some of the kittens, or none. When we didn’t hear back from T, C called me to tell me about another mother and kittens. However, when she checked the trap, C found only the mother cat and despite looking around she didn’t find the kittens. To my surprise, C asked me to foster the mother cat. (When I’d worked in rescue in L.A. trapped ferals were fixed and returned to their colony.) C thought that Mama was an abandoned pet and was thus tame-able. When I went to pick up Mama from C, I asked her once again about supplies. And once again, C said she wouldn’t be able to help me out. Despite this, accepted the cat, who I named Lil Mama.
The next day T called me. She asked if I was still willing to accept kittens from the litter we’d talked about earlier. She was unsure how many cats I would get, because apparently they needed a foster only for a couple. I agreed. She called me later to tell me she was coming over with all 7 kittens. She then called me again to say that one of the women she met at the trapping site wanted to meet me to make sure I was up to the task of fostering feral kittens. I agreed to meet her. T and Jeanna came over, with a kennel full of 7 feral kittens which T said were about 4-5 weeks old – the perfect age to foster. Old enough to be weaned from their mother (though I explained that I was going to introduce the kittens to Lil Mama in hopes that she would take to them), but young enough that they should tame down fairly easily. I showed Jeanna the kitten room I’d set up and explained my history with fostering. She was ecstatic, calling me the “perfect foster” and telling me that she knew lots of people who were always looking for good fosters. We exchanged information. Meanwhile, T (who seemed very aloof and uninterested) told me that the kittens could be fixed at the low cost spay-neuter clinic C was organizing and that we would find homes for them after that. So I knew I had over a month with the kittens and Lil Mama, which while a long time, seemed like a reasonable amount of time to work with the kittens. If they were 4 weeks old, they couldn’t be fixed until they were 8 weeks old and a minimum of 2 pounds, so it could take that long for them to be ready anyway.
For the next week, Jeanna was an invaluable resource to me. She stopped by to help me handle the kittens and offered to help me in any way I needed. When I realized that Lil Mama had worms, Jeanna got the right formula to safely de-worm both Lil Mama and the kittens and helped me to give it to the animals (it’s not easy to pill a domesticated cat, let alone 8 ferals). Jeanna donated supplies of toys and a cat tree. She was invaluable to me. T texted me a couple of times to check on the status of the kittens, but otherwise remained aloof. C called once to check in. At the end of the call, she mentioned to me that she was at wit’s end with finding a location for the spay/neuter clinic. I mentioned that my gym, the Kroc Center, was very involved with the community and might be willing to allow her to use their space for the clinic. C told me I should call the Kroc Center to organize the clinic and then hung up on me before I could respond. This surprised me because I’d told C several times that I didn’t have the bandwidth to help organize the event, especially not now that I had 8 cats to tame. I called her back and ended up leaving her a message, letting her know that I would not be able to organize a location for the event. She didn’t call me back.
In that first week with the kittens, I realized very quickly that the process of taming them down was not going to be as easy as it had been for me in the past. This was mainly because the kittens were 7 weeks old when I got them, but also the fact that it was such a big litter, and that they had bonded to semi-feral Lil Mama, didn’t help either. I was feeling a little overwhelmed with the work. I was thankful that at least it would only be for a month as as soon as the kittens were fixed & adoptable, they’d go to a shelter. Then I got a call from C. She said she’d just talked to T and wanted to clear up a “terrible misunderstanding”. She told me that I could not bring the kittens to her spay/neuter clinic to get fixed because they were not “high risk”. (Meaning that they were still too young to reproduce and that I was unlikely to adopt them out unfixed.) She said the only cat she was willing to fix was Lil Mama because Lil Mama was the only one she was willing to take responsibility for. She said that she hated working with cats because she “always lost money” on them (a strange thing for someone in rescue work to say). She told me that as soon as they were ready we could give them to the Humane society who would fix them and find homes for them. This was when I realized that basically everything C had told me was a lie. Not only had she not helped with supply costs for Mama or the kittens, she also did not have a relationship with a shelter. I’ve been involved with rescue work enough to know that the Humane Society is overwhelmed with kittens during kitten season and that they very rarely had spots open for kittens as a result. I also knew that although they were technically a no-kill shelter, if the kittens were surrendered to them as ferals, they would be euthanized. So now I was looking into indefinitely housing 8 cats and raising the money to get them fixed and then finding them homes. The problem was that because a couple of different rescue organizations had been called about the litter, nobody was willing to take responsibility for the kittens.
Luckily, Jeanna stepped up to help me out. She and Delyne (from Purrs 4 Life) agreed to help me by donating food & litter. My next door neighbors started coming by every day to help me handle the kittens (and when I got sick, they actually took over litter box duties AND cleaned the kitten room for me). They also offered to donate baby food (Gerber’s Chicken in Chicken Gravy and Turkey in Turkey Gravy is essential to socializing the kittens but is expensive at $1/jar.) In addition, Jeanna was able to get the money for the spay/neutering advanced to us (with the idea that each adoptive cat guardian would pay a rehoming fee that would cover the spay/neuter cost). Jeanna even offered to haul the cats to the Humane society for their procedures (a HUGE help as with my disability this was one of the things I was dreading the most). This leaves the costs for the first month of fostering the kittens & Lil Mama, when I cleaned out my savings account to pay for supplies. Some of my friends on twitter (who have been following my #kittenchronicle posts) offered to donate funds to help me out, so I am putting a donate button on this and future #kittenchronicle posts. I am not a non-profit so donations are not tax deductible, however I can promise that every penny donated will either go to reimburse kitten-related expenses or will go towards treats and toys for the kittens. Thank you so much to all of you for your messages of support through this ordeal. I promise to write more fun kitten chronicle posts later!