Well, I recently posted about some of my early kitten-rescue days and I’ve been asked to elaborate on that story. It was my first experience working with an organized rescue, and really helped set the stage for later opening my own rescue, so here you go:
Back in 1998, I accidentally got involved in cat rescue. I was living in a smallish apartment complex in High Point, NC; small enough that my landlord lived in the apartment across from me. She was an animal lover, and knew I was too, although at this point I didn’t have any pets apart from my birds.
One morning my landlord called and said, “Um, can you come over? I need your help!” I trooped over and found that she had rescued a litter of five tiny baby kittens. There was some construction being done in the back of the complex, and they’d been huddled in the shade under a bulldozer. She had to move them or they would have been crushed. After several hours of not seeing any sign of the momma cat, the landlady gave up and brought them home.
She wanted to know if I knew anything about cats, and could I help her raise them. I told her what little I knew (that she needed to buy KMR [kitten milk replacement] and wipe their butts to get them to defecate). She asked me to take them – I balked, having never raised kittens, and not being particularly fond of them in the first place. Well, if I couldn’t take the kittens, could I help her find a home for this older cat that she had rescued a few months earlier?
So I started calling around, looking for rescues who would take or help us place this cat and the kittens. I found a group called Feral Cat Management (now the Feral Cat Assistance Program). The weren’t a shelter, they explained, but if my landlord and I could keep the cats as their foster parents, they could provide vet care, spay/neuter, even litter and food, and of course help with placement.
With my costs covered, I had no problem being talked into fostering my landlord’s older kitten. The landlord definitely had her hands full with five infants needing to be bottle-fed and butt-wiped, so even though it wasn’t my problem, I couldn’t refuse. Enter Belle, AKA Jezebel, dually named for her beauty and for the tawdry way she would stick her bottom in your face to be petted. She was about 4 months old, another kitten from the feral colony who lived behind the apartment complex.
After about a month, Belle was old enough to be spayed and start going to adoption events. At this point, my landlord begged me to take the five younger kittens. They were eating solid food and using a litterbox, so it wasn’t as bad as it would have been a month ago. I think she used the excuse that she had her own human baby, who was learning to walk and starting to require more active supervision. For whatever reason, I agreed, and now I had six crazy furballs in my house.
FCAP was as good as their word, and covered all my costs except toys and a few supplies. They helped me get one kitten after another placed, and I found that I really enjoyed helping them. I enjoyed going to adoption events, I enjoyed meeting adopters, I enjoyed watching the kittens explore their new homes. One by one, the herd dwindled.
Now, to reiterate: I had never before, as an adult, owned a cat. I didn’t even particularly like cats. But I was a sucker. And that was clear to the good folks at FCAP. I didn’t have cats of my own, therefore, I had no personal kitties who would be at risk if I could be persuaded to foster the, um, difficult cats. As the original Gang of Six started to be adopted, FCAP asked, or rather begged, me to take one cat after another who, for various reasons, couldn’t be placed into a foster home where the foster parent had cats of their own:
There was Abbie, who had explosive diarrhea of unknown origin. It got worse due to the very known origin of eating an entire pound cake while I was away for Christmas vacation (a pound cake given to me by the FCAP petsitter, left sitting on the counter by said petsitter, while I was out of town).
There was Yoda, who taught me that tapeworm eggs look just like sesame seeds.
There was Ghost, who at eight weeks old was the most hateful, feral little monster ever. He bit and scratched whenever he was handled; I still bear the scars. After three months he was among the friendliest cat I’d ever seen.
There was Maggie, who had ringworm. For sixteen weeks I had to bathe the cat, the laundry room, all her supplies, and myself, in bleach and sulfur dip, twice a day. I STILL caught a spot of it on my arm.
There was Tang, who had a urinary tract infection that had to be treated with antibiotic tablets. I learned that cats can have a pill shoved 8″ down their esophagus and still hork it back up without swallowing it. I also learned that a 170 lb adult male human is not stronger than a 3 lb kitten when the kitten is holding onto the underside of the couch and does not want to be pulled out to take his pill.
In just 10 months, I had fostered a total of 11 cats for FCAP. I had not had less than three foster cats in that entire time. If only I had known what I was getting into when I agreed to take that ONE, first kitten.
We started to think about moving to Chapel Hill, so I had to tell them that I needed to wind down my foster role. My last foster was in the early fall of 1999, a young adult cat with FIV. When she got adopted, it was so weird to come home and think I didn’t have a single litter box to clean, a single food bowl to fill.
Less than six months later, I met my first guinea pig…