The kittens are four weeks and two days old today. For awhile I was worried they wouldn't make it this far. From the first day they arrived, they were all sneezing. It wasn't bad, at first, but over the days it did get progressively worse. By April 3rd, my birthday, they had runny eyes and one of them blew a bubble of fluid out of his nose. Alarmed? Yes! I've never had such young kittens before and ones that were sick had me terribly worried. I usually get kittens when they're healthy, already litter trained and eating solid food. Here they are, looking frail and helpless and I need to do something.
I knew their immune systems were not fully developed. Their mother was still with them, feeding them precious cells to help them grow stronger and be able to fight off their disease. I spoke with the Vet and she suggested de-worming Mom and babies to help give them one less thing for their bodies to have to struggle with. Mom, being feral, was not going to be easy to medicate, if, at all. I mixed Strongid in with her food and since her appetite is ravenous these days, she did eat it all up. By the next day the kittens were looking better. I don't know if it was from her milk or just coincidence. The day after that, I was able to have a friend help me medicate the kittens. I'm sorry, but I was just too scared I'd hurt them. They were not even three weeks old at the time and I feared getting the liquid de-wormer into their lungs.
Another day or two passed and sure enough, the sneezes came less often and their eyes and noses began to dry up. I still hear an occasional sneeze, but over all they're doing much better.
I've named the kittens—their first names, at least. We all know they'll be re-named once they're adopted. For now, the big boy is named, Jelly-Belly. He's always rolling around with his belly up in the air and seems to like belly rubs. His brother, the runt, is Elmo (named by Jennifer) and their sister, I had trouble naming because I've had the least interaction with her. Yesterday I was taking her photo and she looked up and she seemed to have a huge smile on her face. Her name came to me in an instant—Happy. No, the names don't go together, but odds are they kittens won't be adopted together, anyway; which brings me to my next thoughts.
Here we are at four plus weeks. Little Elmo, seems to be smarter and more curious than his siblings and has already figured out how to use the litter pan. He not only skipped using the kitten-size pan I made for them out of a cardboard cat food tray, lined with plastic; he went to the grown up pan and did his business right in front of me. Good boy!
Ears have popped out, eyes are sharpening their ability to focus and still bright blue. Their tails are pointy and conical, not long and ropey yet. I see they're getting teeth and their legs are strong enough to allow them to leave their large dog crate home and explore the rest of their room. Toys are beginning to interest them, but there's some confusion as to how playtime works.
Jelly-Belly greets me when I enter the room. He'll leave his mother and run over to me, not sure what to do next. He may be a long-haired adult, as his coat is thick and plush and his little rear end is sweetly pouffy. Yes, I like those fluffy butts!
I'm looking forward to them getting older since I'll be able to interact with them more and really begin socializing them. This is where I'm worried I'll mess up. I want to have brave, friendly kittens and with my work schedule what it is, my time with them is limited. I feel guilty about this. I can't relive these days or have a do-over. I need to get it right so they'll have the best option for a good home that I can give them. Fearful kittens are not easy to adopt out. These guys need to shine and I have to get them ready.
I watched the kittens as they piled on top of their Mom. She laid on her side letting them do whatever they wanted to her. She was relaxed, but kept a careful eye on me. One false move and I'd get an angry hiss from her. I stay far enough away to watch them from at a distance. I wish I could save this moment with them forever or, at least, that it would last for longer then these precious seconds.
The kittens are oblivious to their fate. I wish I was, too. I couldn't help but watch them joyfully playing and think that in a few weeks Mom will be taken away, spayed, then sent some place where she will be released back outdoors. Her colony has been disbanded due to stupid politics at the condo grounds where they made their home. I don't know if we'll find a barn-cat placement for her or what will become of her. She's only shown me aggression. I know I can't turn her around and I'm sick to think of her being separated from her offspring and turned back to the world without the comfort of a warm bed or good food. My only hope is that she'll be placed in a new colony where she'll be fed. If I could release her to my yard, I would, but I have no way to transition her properly and I can't just open a door and let her go. She'd be disoriented and possibly just run off and never know to come back to be fed or find shelter.
Then I think about the kittens. They bump and jump on each other and snuggle and nap together. They only know each other, their Mother and a few humans— that makes up the entire population of their world. In four more weeks they'll be sterilized and sent to the main ANC building for adoption where soon after they arrive, someone will point at one of them, then take them away, leaving the remaining siblings to search and fret over their lost brother until it's their turn to go.
Having them here for such a long time is going to make saying goodbye especially difficult knowing what I know. It underscores how fleeting our time together really is and, yes, I think about my Mother now, too. She's been gone for a year and a half. I took so much of our time together for granted. I always thought we'd have more. How stupid of me to think that all these times are permanent, when they are far from it.
Some people might read this and wonder why I foster kittens if it causes me so much sadness, but know, too, that those kittens would surely die if it wasn't for people like me, who were willing to care for them and let them go when the time comes. We make a place in our heart for each foster and find, in time, our heart does not grow cold from letting go, it grows larger, expanding for each and every kitten we have the pleasure of knowing. The tears will dry as the days pass and in time, the cycle will begin again. The joy of new kittens arriving, the wish of a safe and happy life that comes with tender care, and the hope that somehow all of this will end up making a difference for them and for us.