cats, dog rescue, foster dogs, fostering, hard to adopt, kittens, training

Seeing Them To Safety

What’s a girl to do when her puppy room is empty, the same foster dog has been here for months, her foster cats finally left (after more than a year with us!) and she’s itching to save animals?

Why take in a few foster kittens, of course!

Fostering kittens is a new venture. I know nothing about kittens this tiny. Lucky for me OPH has supplied me with everything I need, and their rescuer gave me lots of excellent advice. Ian is doing the bulk of the work—putting drops in their eyes, giving them their daily meds, feeding them, hanging out with them.

We have installed them in my office and they are the perfect antidote for whenever I get stuck in my writing, read bad news, or grow frustrated with social media. I can just turn around and whatever they are doing always puts a smile on my face—stretched out on the covered heating pad, pouncing on each other, becoming a threatening ball of hissing fuzz whenever Gracie stops by to growl at them.

Anna and Elsa (yes—the Frozen kittens) are just 4 weeks old and can fit into the palm of your hand. They were found alongside their dead littermates on a farm near Hershey, PA. Anna’s eyes were so crusted up they were literally stuck shut and Elsa was spitting angry and tricky to catch. Both were extremely filthy and starving. According to the farm owner, the mama cat was nowhere to be found (or she didn’t care to find her) and she had no interest in saving the remaining kittens. A quick thinking and resourceful teenager caught and rescued both kittens. They spent a week with their rescuers, gaining strength and getting medication for their eyes, and then we picked them up on Saturday.

They continue to gain weight daily. Ian carefully weighs and monitors their progress. They are quickly becoming fat little balls of fluff. I’m surprised by how much more attentive he is of these tiny, fragile beings than he ever is with the puppies we foster. I suggested maybe he will want to foster kittens when he has his own place some day. He said he can’t because he’d never be able to let them go and he’d end up with a house full of cats. Which makes this mama worry how things will go when Anna and Elsa get adopted and leave in about 8 weeks.

I was kind of surprised to learn that foster kittens are a bigger commitment than foster puppies. These little girls can’t leave until they are 12 weeks old and at least 3 pounds (and spayed). That’s much longer than the puppies we foster who go home at 8 weeks. Anna and Elsa will be with us through the holidays and into the new year.

For now, we are keeping them in an extra large dog crate lined with puppy pads and tricked out with climbing equipment (my whelping stool), a scratch poll, a small cake pan for a litter box, a heating pad wrapped in a blanket and a hand full of toys.

We feed them wet food with formula four times a day, and put drops in their eyes multiple times a day (Elsa’s eyes look clear and are getting brighter, but Anna’s are still cloudy and sometimes ooky), and are finishing a daily course of meds.

So far, Fanny is a little afraid of them and their hissy greetings. She sticks by my side while in the office or sleeps in the doorway, cautiously approaching them from time to time, only to retreat at the sound of them. Gracie trots in and snarls at them at every opportunity (but in true Gracie style, I’m pretty sure she’s all talk), and I shoo her out, scolding her for being the bully. Mia would most definitely pose a serious threat, so she hasn’t been introduced. They too closely resemble baby squirrels or bunnies, so we keep Mia in the kitchen and the kitties closed in my office and closed inside their crate (unless one of their fans is here to snuggle them—a group who are growing daily).

I hope to get Nancy over here soon to take pictures. Maybe they’ll even crash the 2021 Another Good Dog calendar (information about this project coming soon!).

In an effort to improve Mia’s adoption opportunities, we are working to improve her basic obedience training. She has a solid sit now and has learned that she must sit for everything- in/out of crate or door, before/after leash goes on, for attention, for meals, for treats. Sometimes it’s very hard for her and she quivers as she holds the sit, but every day it gets easier and now she’ll randomly stop what she’s doing to come over and sit in front of me because she needs a snuggle. This girl is such a sweetheart. It breaks my heart that her people haven’t found her yet.

She’s also mastered down, is improving on stay, and is learning ‘go to place’ and ‘go potty’. I wish I had agility equipment because I’m positive she would excel at it.

The other day it was time for dinner and I was distracted and talking to someone else as I carried her food to her crate. Instead of stopping and pointing in the crate like I usually do, I waved randomly toward the crate with the hand that held the food bowl. Uncertain what I wanted since this wasn’t the crate up command she was used to, Mia hopped up on top of the crate and turned and sat, waiting expectantly for her food. I hadn’t realized how programmed she was for me to point in the crate. The wave upward signaled to her mind that I wanted something different, so she went with the most logical move. This pup is paying attention.

It was a reminder that she has a remarkable, eager mind and I need to do more to engage it. At the cabin with me for a few days, she also proved to be an excellent hiking companion, setting a forward, happy pace. Once home, though, she loved nothing more than having me to herself and snuggled against my side as I read and journaled.

She will be a wonderful companion for some lucky person—is that person you? If it is, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I really hope Mia can go home for the holidays.

Thanks for reading!

Cara

For information on me, my writing, and books, visit CaraWrites.com where you can also find more information on my new book, One Hundred Dogs and Counting: One  Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues, (Pegasus Books, July 2020). The book even has its own 100 Dogs Facebook page.

If you’d like regular updates of all my foster dogs past and present, plus occasional dog care/training tips from OPH training, be sure to join the Facebook group, Another Good Dog.

And if you’d like to know where all these dogs come from and how you can help solve the crisis of too many unwanted dogs in our shelters, visit WhoWillLetTheDogsOut.org where you can follow the blog that shares stories or find the link to our brand new podcast!

Our family fosters through the all-breed rescue, Operation Paws for Homes, a network of foster homes in Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and south-central PA.

If you can’t get enough foster dog stories, check out my book: Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs. It’s available anywhere books are sold in hardback, paperback, and audiobook.

I love to hear from readers and dog-hearted people! Email me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

Many of the pictures on my blog are taken by photographer Nancy Slattery. If you’d like to connect with Nancy to take gorgeous pictures of your pup (or your family), contact: nancyslat@gmail.com.

13 thoughts on “Seeing Them To Safety”

  1. Loved reading about your foster kittens, especially since my daughter is a foster-fail! She had one kitten show up on her doorstep a few years ago, the vet thinks she as about 4 weeks old. Sophie is a typical cat. Then my daughter decided to foster and took in a momma cat and 3 kittens. One kitten was already spoken for and we found a home for the momma, but she couldn’t give up the other two kittens. Bella and Gracie are a complete joy and are now over a year old. Ian is doing a great job. Thanks to both of you for all you do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. that is exactly Ian’s fear! he thinks he would keep them all. Our set up is perfect – he’s doing the work and loving them, but I control the decision so he doesn’t have to make it! And Nick’s allergies mean no ‘real’ cats at this house for now. I do have a barn cat, though, but she’s not a cuddler.

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  2. Welcome to kitten rescue! Sounds like Ian is really enjoying it. My three foster kittens are off being spayed and neutered today and going to their forever homes Sunday. Ready for the next group! This crew makes 13 cats/kittens since March, including one very pregnant (and very sick) momma who gave birth to 5 kittens, which was an amazing journey. Can’t wait to see who is next.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! you are amazing. This is going really well so far, but Ian is doing all the work. He just found out he’ll be studying from home for spring semester, so we may do another litter or two. It’s such a long-term commitment seeing them through to 12 weeks and spay/neuter! They really are cute, though, and I imagine they’ll just get cuter.

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  3. Shelton, my beautiful Redbone Coonhound foster, is about at the same point as Mia. He is close to being ready to go to his forever home, but not quite. He sits to go in/out, in the car/out, and for his food which he also gets in his crate. I still can only trust him in the kitchen because he is not 100% housebroken yet (a male former hunting hound). Plus I don’t fully trust him with my cat. Like Mia, he needs a job. Whether it be agility work or tracking, I’m quite sure he will excel at either or both. I am very attached to him, but he keeps me busier than I generally am with my fosters. Like you, I am hoping he will find his perfect person (or family) before Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Let’s hope they both find their forever people soon. He’s come a long way. I remember you telling me about him months and months ago. Fostering these kinds of dogs is a labor of love and simply takes time and consistency.

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  4. Fostering kittens is something I’ve done, too, although the last one, my late cat Michael, to the surprise of no one, never returned and stayed with me for almost the next 21 years. One thing about kittens is that you don’t have to train them to use a litter box. When I consulted a veterinarian friend to ask how I teach them that, she said, “They just know; you don’t really have to do anything” except put them in the box when you see them sniffing and pawing around (outside of the box). Even if you don’t do that, if they see that one of their littermates has used the box, they know that’s what they’re supposed to do as well. Anyway, you don’t really need to put down puppy pads.

    Anyway, congrats on your new foster kits! Kittens are so much fun. I hope yours get to be adopted together. It makes adapting to a new home so much less stressful when they have each other and can grow up together.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I’m learning lots about kittens. They do seem bonded – when I take one out and not the other, the one left behind cries. Make sense because there is just the two of them and they are too young to be away from mom.

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