THE FIRST DAY
The four kittens arrived at their new temporary home. Their pet foster parents took turns welcoming each of them by saying their names and hugging them. Then the pet foster parents quietly slipped out of the room and eased the door shut behind them.
The four kittens looked up and down and around their room. They whimpered a little, and then were drawn to a cat bed that had a familiar smell. The kittens realized it was a bed from their previous home and were comforted to have found something familiar in this new place. Nacho wrapped his paws around his siblings, and they snuggled into him. He could feel them quivering and tried to reassure them.
NACHO: What did mom say to look for? Water, food, and litter box. All check!
QUESO: I miss our last foster home.
SOPA: I can’t sleep.
TACO: It’s too quiet. There are no children.
NACHO: There’s also a people bed, a scratching post, and lots of cat blankets!
The other kittens peeked over the top of their bed. Their eyes scanned left and right. The walls were a calming ocean green color. Bright sunshine danced across the hardwood floor. But nothing cheered them. They hunkered back into their bed.
Nacho tried again to boost their spirits. He reported that there were fluffy pillows and a thick comforter on the people bed. Queso shrugged and Sopa turned her head away, but Taco sat up to check out the room for herself.
TACO: I dare you to climb the people bed!
QUESO: Let me sleep.
NACHO: There are lots of toys here. Who wants to play?
SOPA: I want mom.
The door to their room opened, and the pet foster parents entered with bowls. They placed the bowls under the foot of the bed. The kittens could see that two were full of water. Now they were scooping food into the other bowls. They stopped to smile at the kittens. They reached out their hands and gently patted each of the kittens on the head. The woman told them they were cute and took something out of her pocket. Then she snapped a picture.
None of the kittens moved until the pet foster parents had gone. Only then did they venture out of the bed to eat. After their tummies were full, they immediately returned to their bed.
The evening stretched into night. One by one the kittens yawned. Purrs arose from them as they fell asleep, holding and comforting one another.
The first rays of a new day filtered into the room and woke Nacho. He wanted to explore their new home, but he didn’t want to disturb the others. Instead he stayed perfectly still and tried to think of how he’d help them adjust once again to a new home.
Queso began to toss and turn, knocking the others out of bed. They glared at her and sleepily crawled back into bed. But by now everyone was awake.
QUESO: When are our new foster pet parents going to come see us?
SOPA: Maybe they’ve abandoned us?
TACO: Or maybe they’re just giving us quiet time?
NACHO: Exactly! I think our pet foster parents are being smart. Think of everything that’s happened in the past few days. Mom was brought back to her outside home. We went to that place where they made us sleepy and we woke up with thread on our bellies. Now we’re in a new place. Our pet foster parents are giving us time to recover from all the changes.
The girls turned their back to Nacho. They knew he was right, but they still felt unhappy and so they didn’t like his answer.
Nacho patted Taco on her head. Taco licked Nacho’s face. Even if they didn’t know what lied ahead, they were safe and warm and in a good place, and so she was ready to be happy again.
TACO: Don’t humans sleep at night? Maybe they’re not up yet?
QUESO: Tell us a story, Nacho.
NACHO: If I were to tell my pet foster parents one thing….
TACO: No! I want a story, not school!
NACHO: It’s not us who needs school. It’s our new pet foster parents. We need to talk about what we need to teach them. First is food and water. We’re already three months old, so we’re big enough to eat on our own. But we’re also still growing, so we need lots of food. Our pet foster parents should feed us two, three, four times a day. We should have as much food as we’ll eat until we’re about six months. And our water dishes should be emptied, washed, and refilled once or twice a day.
TACO: This is what we need to teach our pet foster parents about the litter box. It should be scooped a couple of times per day to keep it clean. Every few days, they should dump the litter, clean the box, and replace with new litter. And here’s the most important thing: because we’re kittens, our pet foster parents need to use non-clumping litter. If we eat clumping litter, it could clump inside us and make us sick.
SOPA: Ew! Why would I eat litter?
TACO: To find out what litter tastes like.
SOPA: You’re weird.
TACO: Seriously, we might not even be trying to the litter. It could just stick to our paws, and when we lick our fur, we could accidentally swallow the litter.
QUESO: You forgot to say that our pet foster parents shouldn’t overfeed us. It’s not healthy for us. We’ll tire out faster and get more diseases from being overweight.
NACHO: Someone’s been listening to the pet channel….
QUESO: And you forgot to say that if we get sick, the litter should get changed more often, and our foster pet parents should ask the shelter about taking us to the vet.
NACHO: Now you’re just showing off!
QUESO: Can I talk about vet care?
TACO: No! We just got back from the vet.
QUESO: This is what our pet foster parents should know about vet care. We’re been tested for worms and intestinal parasites. Some kittens can get fleas (but we didn’t!) and will need to be treated for them. Because we’re kittens we’ve already gotten some immunizations to protect us against diseases. We’ll also need more in our first year.
TACO: Are you proud of the big words you used?
SOPA: She kept me awake one day practicing them!
QUESO: And on our last trip to the vet, we got fixed so that we can’t have babies.
TACO: Babies? We’re still babies ourselves!
NACHO: But cats can have babies as young as four months.
SOPA: You should also add that as kittens, we need to be watched carefully for signs of illness. If we don’t drink or eat or pee or poop in a day, we need to see the vet. If we vomit or have diarrhea, we need to see the vet. If our eyes are watery or our noses start to run, we should see the vet. If our tummy hurts or swells, or if we’re coughing or finding it hard to breathe, we should see the vet.
TACO: Whew! That’s a lot to remember.
QUESO: Shh! I hear footsteps!
This time after preparing breakfast for the four kittens, the pet foster parents sat on the floor next to the kittens. The four kittens exchanged glances. Nacho stretched and then hopped out of the bed. He was hungry and wasn’t going to let the presence of people stop him! Nacho ran to a bowl, and then looked over his shoulder at his siblings who were slowly following him. He knew they’d follow his example, and so he turned and sniffed the hands of the pet foster parents before digging into the food. The girls stared at the humans, and then darted to a second bowl of food.
Bellies full, the four kittens meowed to one another. Nacho returned straight to the pet foster parents. He butted his head against the man, then the lady, and purred. He loved people! Taco saw laces on the shoes of the man and began to poke at them. Then she saw a plastic ball that had been at their first home. She ran up to it and batted happily at it. She was even more excited when the man threw it for her to chase. The other two girls darted up to, then darted away from the humans, and then back again. They exchanged nose rubs with Nacho. After that, they scampered after Taco to play, but kept peeking back at their new foster pet parents. So much to see and to do!
The four kittens grew more and more delighted with everything they were figuring out. For instance, now that they’d stopped moping and started exploring, they’d discovered more than one of the comforts from their first foster home. The cat bed, the curved scratching post, and even all the toys except the catnip sticks had made the journey with them.
They’d also discovered a new scratching post, one with a nook where they could hide. Then there the tons of cat blankets, all of which smelled fresh, as if they were new or at had least been washed clean of the scent of other cats.
But better than all of these was the people bed!
it was huge! It towered above their heads! The bed had taken the kittens a few tries to climb it. They had to use the sheets hanging over the side to scramble to the top. Nacho and Taco had also found they could hoist themselves up by using the legs of their pet foster parents.
Once on the bed, the four kittens liked taking turns to strut along the headboard as if it were a balance beam Queso and Sopa enjoyed leaning over the footboard and surveying the play action. The footboard was also a great way for Nacho and Taco to launch themselves after toys.
The four kittens were even torn about whether to continue sleeping in their bed or to use the people bed. The decision was made when the man slept in it the third night. After lots of meowing and staring, the four kittens snuggled up next to the man for a very, very, very long nap.
SOPA: Is he dead?
QUESO: He can’t be. His chest is moving.
TACO: Don’t humans sleep for ALL night?
SOPA: They’re weird.
NACHO: But they’re also warm and soft. I like snuggling with them.
QUESO: I don’t like that they want us to meet new people.
SOPA: Me either. I hate change.
TACO: I just want to stay with our pet foster parents forever.
QUESO: Tell us a story, Nacho.
NACHO: If I were to tell my pet foster parents one thing….
TACO: Fine! More facts! This is what we need to teach our pet foster parents about play. Handling and playing with us at least once a day will help us release our energy and build a bond with them. We’d welcome playing a few times day for at least ten minutes. If those playtimes are consistent, we’ll come to look forward to them. I like when they toss mice and balls for us to chase. My favorite is what they call danglers because they fly around me and above me, so they’re hard to catch. But when I do catch them, it’s fun to snag them out of the air or tackle them to the floor.
QUESO: How about what they call an air purifier?
SOPA: I don’t think that’s a toy. I think it’s to keep our room from getting too stinky
NACHO: Someone’s been listening to people talk.
TACO: I like what they call a laptop.
SOPA: Me too. I could watch it all day!
QUESO: You forgot to say that playing with us will cut down on our urge to bite and scratch and other naughty stuff. They shouldn’t let us play with their fingers or to chew on their toes. If they do, we’ll never outgrow those bad habits.
NACHO: This is what our pet foster parents need to know about socializing. The more positive experiences we have the better. This way we’ll grow into well-adjusted adults. They should expose us to all kinds of different noises and parts of the house. They should groom us every week and get us familiar with a crate so that we won’t hate them taking us places. They should introduce us to new people, new pets, and to those small humans. And it helps to reward us with lots of treats so that we’ll our new experiences
TACO: Mom didn’t have any that because she lived outside, and so that’s why she’s afraid of people. But she wanted us to have a better life, which is why she gave birth to us in the window well of a house. She said socializing was the most important thing we could learn. We need to keep meeting new people, even if we don’t always like it.
SOPA: But why does everything important have to be so hard?
QUESO: It just is. Besides, maybe all the visitors we meet will be as nice as our pet foster parents.
TACO: Duh! Our foster pet parents invited them, didn’t they?
Later that day, the expected visitors came, and the kittens were ready for them. The mom and her son followed the foster pet parents into their room. At first, they sat on the floor with the kittens and just let the kittens come up to them. Then the visitors began to pick the kittens up one by one. Who could resist their cute faces?
Soon the kittens warmed up to the visitors, which meant it was playtime! Nacho and Taco tumbled about a blanket that had been laid on the floor to provide extra warmth. The girls batted toys back and forth to one another. The visitors laughed at their antics, and the pet foster parents took pictures.
Then the boy grabbed one of the toys. The two shyer kittens stared at him, not sure what to expect. He moved the ball to the right and then to the left. The girls sat up and their heads moved as the ball moved. The boy moved the ball to the right and left again. Nacho and Taco stopped to watch. The boy eyed them, and then proceeded to move the ball up and down. Now all the kittens were watching the ball.
Suddenly he threw the ball. The kittens dashed after it. The ball bounced and rolled here and there. The kittens tumbled over one another trying to catch it. But Nacho was bigger and faster, and he got to it first. He batted it to Taco, who batted it to Queso, who batted it to Sopa. Then the boy picked up the ball again, the kittens watched, and the boy threw it again.
After many rounds of this, the mom told her son it was time for them to go home. The kittens watched them go, and then clambered onto the people bed to rest. The pet foster parents laid with them and looked through all the pictures they’d taken. Then they left, returning shortly to change water, food, and litter, and to straighten up the bedding.
When the foster pet parents left, the kittens yawned and stretched. One by one they jumped off the bed, hungry after their day of adventure. As soon as they’d eaten, they returned to the bed and watched the waning daylight through the window.
QUESO: I heard our pet foster parents say that they were going to show our photos to their friends, and that maybe that would help find us our forever homes.
SOPA: We’re going to have a good future.
NACHO: Once upon a time, there were four kittens who each needed a home. They lived with one foster family, and then a second. Both families cared for them, and so those kittens grew up safe. They had everything they could want. Food, water, shelter, plenty of toys, and tons of adventures, and so they grew up feeling loved….