My husband and I foster kittens several times a year. We’ve been doing this for 15 years now through a local animal shelter. Usually we get groups of two to six kittens who are too young to be adopted. Sometimes they have moms and we go through a weaning process with them (and drying out for momma kitty). More often they are without a mother. Once we even had a pregnant mom give birth at our house (to SEVEN! kittens).
Our latest group of four had a few days of bottle feeding before they got the hang of eating a watery gruel of canned kitten food and KMR (Kitten Milk Replacement). A few weeks later, they are now eating canned food and starting on kibble. About half the kittens we foster either come to us with a respiratory or gastrointestinal illness or develop one shortly thereafter. So far so good on that front with the current batch.
I love helping kittens grow. Many are feral, and hiss and make themselves puffy before they learn that we aren’t there to hurt them. Others just aren’t too sure about humans yet. There’s nothing like the day when a kitten crawls in my lap and starts to purr.
Really young kittens are super messy. They tromp through their water dishes and food dishes. Then they tromp through the litter box with wet kitten feet. Then they tromp back through the water dish and leave behind specks of clay litter. Little paw prints mark the floor. And the smell. Kittens poop A LOT! At least most naturally use the litter box though. I’m not sure I could handle house training a puppy. 🙂 I try to focus on how cute they are when they purr, sleep, and play with such joyful abandon when I’m really tired of cleaning up AGAIN.
Most people are shocked that we can give up the kittens when they’re grown up enough to find their forever homes. I think those people have never had six hyper kittens running around their house at 2 in the morning. 🙂 It’s never easy to say goodbye. Sometimes I cry. I did more in the early years. And we’ve had two “foster failures”–kittens who ended up adopted by us. Not too many considering the hundreds who’ve come through our doors.
In the end, we keep fostering because every kitten we take in is a kitten who doesn’t end up euthanized. And a lot end up euthanized. Millions of cats every year in the U.S. Spay and neuter, folks!