The Diary of a Kitten Foster Mom
Yesterday, I went into a panic because one of my bottle babies was pooping. Yep, I know kittens poop, and, in fact, if the children’s book is correct, everyone poops, so it should not have been a panic inducing moment for me. Unless, you are a foster mom to itty bitty kittens, then poop becomes EVERYTHING. Get two kitten foster parents together in one room, and I promise you within a few minutes they will talk about poop. To make matters worse, we use food items, yes, you read that correctly, food, to describe consistency, color, regularity and shape. In case you wanted to know, great poop looks like tootsie rolls. Oh, you didn’t want to know . . . oops.
In this particular incident, the pooping kitten was Sammy (or Mighty Mighty Samsonite). I have had this little black puffball since she was only a couple days old, and I am a bit overprotective. I took in both Sammy and her little brown tabby sister so tiny they were the length of my palm and not much wider than two fingers put together. Unfortunately the little tabby didn’t make it to two weeks old, nor did 2 other siblings from this litter with another foster family. It is a sad reality that a few days old can sometimes be just too young to face the world without a mom. But we foster parents try our hardest regardless. We feed every two hours day and night. We clean them, medicate them, cuddle them, keep them warm and kiss their itty bitty noses on a super regular basis. And we do all of this knowing that maybe some won’t make it despite our best efforts and the tears that follow. Endearingly, right from the beginning, they will purr and knead their miniscule little toes against your hand and their ears will twitch with each furious suckle from the first to the last time you give them a bottle. At about three weeks they will start acting like real kittens and play and move on very wibbly wobbly legs. By four weeks they start tentatively eating on their own and very distinct personalities emerge as they explore more and further. By five weeks, you have kitten tornados, running, climbing, leaping, pouncing and generally creating the most adorable chaos imaginable before settling down on your lap for a peaceful nap. We mourn through our losses because we KNOW each life in our hands is precious and that many will grow up to be the family cat cuddled up next to you right now. Kitten season 2013, I have fostered 5 litters of varying ages all needing to be bottle fed for a least a portion of their stay with me. Many shelters across the US, refuse to help kittens and puppies without mothers too young to eat on their own. Traditional shelters believe they are too needy, too time consuming and too much effort. They are typically euthanized immediately upon arrival. The exact opposite occurs at the Petaluma Animal Shelter. As quick as possible, these guys are shuffled out of the shelter and into a foster parents home where they will be warm, feed and loved until they are old enough to be spayed and therefore adopted. While, I may be sleep deprived, I absolutely positively don’t even want to imagine this world without Yogi Bear, Mighty Mouse, Thomas, Emily, Peaches, Stella, Luna, Casper, Sadie, Playdoh, Pepper, Hiro, Millie, and Sammy, the current dramatic pooping culprit.
Sammy had, like most kittens on bottle formula, diarrhea issues off and on. Good then bad, back and forth and sometimes all around, literally, I’m afraid. But then one day she doesn’t poop at all directly after a week of pretty bad diarrhea, and I am hopeful that this spelled the end to messy poops after all the pro-biotics, deworming medications and additional fluids; I had been administrating to improve or counteract the effects. Instead, the little rascal switched gears on me and became constipated! The actual panic inducing moment was simply her straining to get the poop out, but I couldn’t have guessed in a 1000 years that one itsy bitsy baby could change her ailment so dramatically in one day. I called our fearless Cat Care Coordinator, Kathy, in a panic asking for advice as I packed up Sammy to race down to the shelter, only to have to call her back sheepishly a few minutes later and let her know the scoop. Graciously, as usual, she assured me I was doing a good job with Sammy and talked with me about complications I should look out for and techniques to help sooth a constipated kitten. I will spare you the details on the technique I am currently using to help with this problem, as that may actually break the fuzzy barrier I have been straddling of over sharing on an inappropriate topic already. So here, I guess, is the moral of a panic inducing pooping kitten story: expect the unexpected and be prepared to love your foster babies so much that you will obsessively monitor the state of their poop.
Shannon Frieberg, Volunteer Foster Mom