Plaintive meows caught her attention as she headed inside her home for the night. Scurrying away from her porch were two tiny kittens. The woman had a dog crate handy inside and she retrieved it now to try to capture these scrawny black cats. They’re too small and too young to be outside. Were they even six weeks old yet. If a fox or some other predator didn’t kill them, they could easily be crushed under a car’s tires. The woman shivered. This cold snap was typical of Nebraska weather in fall. It was not the time for such little creatures to be homeless. The kittens took a few steps towards the crate, and the woman wondered if it smelled too much of dogs. She disappeared inside and returned with an open can of tuna. She placed the can inside the dog crate, then stepped back and waited. Slowly, one of the kittens approached. Its hair was unkempt, and its bones protruded. Finally, its hunger overcame its fear It stepped inside the crate. Soon the trembling kitten was devouring the tuna. The woman looked around. Its sibling had disappeared. Sighing, she closed the crate, and then pulled out her cell phone to call Animal Control.
Pet fostering starts with a need. Early this past November, a friend of a friend messaged me. She wanted to know if I had a trap that she could borrow. She said she was trying to trap a kitten. And then she proceeded to tell me about another kitten for which she needed to find a home. As is my habit in such situations, I sent her a list of animal rescues and wished her the best. Ninety-nine percent of the time, this is where my involvement ends. My husband and I don’t rescue. Both times we’ve tried foster care, we ended up adding a new pet to our household. We now have four pets, and that’s enough. But something about this kitten tugged at my heart. When a posting about the kitten appeared on the Joining Forces Saving Lives Facebook page, I followed its progress. When I learned that the kitten had been labeled ’feral’ by the shelter, and that this label was causing potential adopters to shy away from it, I knew my husband and I had to get involved.
The little black kitten hunkered in a cardboard box at the back of a cage at the local humane society. When a volunteer picked it up, the kitten uttered an almost inaudible squawk. The volunteer handed the kitten over to me. The kitten flattened itself against my chest and buried its head inside my jacket. When I gave the kitten to my husband, the kitten instantly clung to him too, and even protested when we said goodbye. On our second visit, the kitten had been identified as a girl and given the name Onyx. We asked if we could check the kitten’s weight, and discovered it was only 1.3 pounds and quite bony. Onyx’s spunk had no doubt helped her to survive the perils of outdoor life, but by our third visit we realized that outdoor life had taken its toll on this frail kitten; when weighed again, she was now down to 1.2 pounds. The shelter had kept Onyx safe and warm since she’d arrived, but now she needed more. For her to thrive, she needed a home. And so, with the help of Joining Forces Saving Lives, we became her foster parents.
Fostering is a roller coaster ride. The first day Andy and I brought Onyx home, we placed her in our spare room. Because her low weight was our biggest concern, our immediate goal was to get her to eat. I tried hand feeding Onyx three different kitten foods. Two of them she rejected; the third she not only ate from my hand, but she also from a dish. I felt elated. But my excitement was short-lived. When I later mixed milk replacement powder into her food, Onyx refused to sniff it. Andy had to syringe feed her. At least half of the watery mix dribbled down her chin and chest, but she must have enjoyed what she ate. The next morning, Onyx ate an entire helping from a dish. Again, I felt elated. A quick recovery seemed imminent. Except by noon, Onyx was again refusing to eat. And so, the roller coaster ride began. One day she had normal bodily movements. Another day, her litter box was a mess. One day she strutted about the guest room. Another day she retreated into a corner. And so, we were eager for the most miniscule indications that Onyx was going to live.
The wide-eyed kitten rolled onto her back. She stretched her front paws over her head and purred contentedly when we scratched her fat belly for the fifth time in one night. A camera flash illuminated the scene. We had taken yet another photo of her. She batted the camera strap with her paws. Elsewhere in the house, the three family cats were restless. They remained unsure whether to accept this creature that had disrupted their cozy lives. Onyx stretched her back legs until her paws touched the side of our napping toy poodle. One day at a time….
At the time of this article, Onyx will be nine to ten weeks old and has reached a healthy weight of two pounds. She likes to play with small plush toys and our toes. She also likes to run about the guest room and to take long naps in our laps. We’ve nicknamed our foster cutie “Bat Girl,” because her little black face and big black ears she looks like a bat. It’s fun watching her personality develop. Thank you, Capital Humane Society and Joining Forces Saving Lives for letting us foster her.