Thursday, March 28, 2013

Adventures in Kittening

Its started about a year ago, Connor asked for his own cat.  Eleanor was a newborn at the time and I had no interest in getting another animal for me to take care of.  I set up a set of rules; he had to show he could be responsible for the cat including feeding nightly and changing the litter box weekly.  He did it, for months.  Then I told him since we were in the middle of a remodel and didn't have anywhere for a littler box he would have to wait.  I was sorely tempted to get him a kitten for Christmas - a little mewing box under the tree, it would have been adorable.  But I was told that kitten season was in the spring.  We decided the best way to get a kitten was to foster an orphaned family and then keep whichever kitten we liked the most.

We went down to the shelter and signed up to be fosters.  I honestly thought they would deny us with 5 children in the home, but fortunately I was wrong.  I took a quick "orientation", which consisted of a shelter worker reading a pamphlet to me, and we were all set.  Just waiting for a phone call.

A few months later we got the call.  I had been terrified we would get kittens that needed bottle-feeding.  I just don't have time for that right now.  But this was a group of 4 siblings who were eating wet food.  We jumped in the car and headed to the North Central Shelter.  The kids were very excited to get 4 white fluffy balls of mews.

We received 3 girls and one boy, they were approximately 1 lb each and siamese mix.  They had the most beautiful blue eyes.  They were frightened and the kids were squealing with excitement.  It wasn't a good mix.  

We swung my Petsmart on the way home to get kitten supplies; formula, wet food, litter, toys, bed, bowl, . . . . $200 later we were set to love these animals.  

The kids loved having them in our home.  To be honest, I did too.  We kept them in the laundry room until they were deflead and litter trained.  But they occasionally came out to play with use at night.  They would attack one another and wrestle all over the floor.  They used those nifty claws to climb my pants leg and the side of the couch.  

Since there were 4 each child 'adopted' one for themselves.  Connor adopted the boy and named him Louis, Lainy Ann named her Mini, William named his Canine (female), and Alexander named his K5, the Cupcake, then Mike, then Lollipop.  The kids would greet them in the morning and play with them in the afternoon.  After bath time we usually let them out to run around a bit.  But we always talked about how the kittens were temporary and we would not keep all 4 kittens and we might keep one.  

At first we thought we would keep Louis because Connor loved him and he was friendly and outgoing.  But he started to have crusty eyes and I didn't want a sick cat.  Then we decided to keep Canine.  He was playful and frisky.  He was healthy.  It seemed like the natural choice.  

But then they all started having bloody stool.  I figured it was because of the diet change.  We restricted them to the living room only and I was spending 3 hours a day cleaning up after them since they weren't using the litter box.  I had decided I was never fostering again.  

Nine days after we brought the kittens home Lainy Ann discovered Mike/Cupcake laying lifelessly on the floor.  We rushed all 4 kittens to the vet at the shelter.  We were told they had panleukopenia (distemper) and were very sick.  I still hadn't grasped what was happening.  I asked if we could have them back when they were well.  The vet said they would never be well and they were going to put them to sleep.

I admit it, I lied to the kids.  I wasn't prepared to tell them the truth.  I told them that the kittens needed to stay at the doctor to get better and that they would call us.  I cried, I bleached (to protect Pita), and I cried some more.  I even bleached some more.  But later in the afternoon I told Connor the truth.  I told him that they were so sick that they would die and rather than make them suffer the vet would help them die sooner.  He sobbed and sobbed.  He wailed that life wasn't fair.  We talked about heaven.  We talked about all the people we knew in heaven.  He made a statue of Louis.  We guessed as to which one of our loved ones would like Louis the most.  It was hard.  I was really going into this blind.  All I could do was hope and pray I was telling him what he needed to hear to be comforted, but also have a realistic view of death.  In that moment I was grateful for all the death in our life because I knew not to lie to the kids or use euphemisms for death.  I told the truth.  I didn't make empty promises.  I held him while he cried.  William and Lainy Ann weren't as upset about it.  And I never did tell Alexander.  He never again asked, so I didn't bring it up.  Eleanor spent the next 2 days walking around the house saying "kitties lost".  She was missing them too in her own way.  

Its been a week since the kittens died.  And yes I would do it again.  We showed love to these little beings for 9 days.  Love they wouldn't have gotten at the shelter.  We weren't able to save them, but we were able to give them a chance they didn't have before.  The kids learned about about Kittening and caring for animals and baby animals versus grown up animals.  Lainy Ann has said, "wow, kittens are a lot of work".  Even Eleanor learned to treat the kittens kindly and carefully.

Connor was never happier than when he was holding Louis.  I know we will find our forever cat some day.  But until then we are still on the list for fostering.  

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