Monday, June 13, 2016

Why I foster

Top 10 reasons to foster kittens

1. The opportunity to max out the photo/video storage on your phone
2. Spread joy on social media with pics and updates
3. Enjoy purring at 3 am as you feed kitties with a tiny bottle
4. The mystery of whether what is on your shirt sleeve is kitten food, poop, or peanut butter.
5. The thrill of watching a struggling kitty turn around and thrive.
6. All your old friends want to come over.
7. The day kittens "graduate" out of your care!
8. Watching wobbly kittens groom themselves for the first time.
9. Watching kittens discover their tail (and those of littermates!)
10. The personalities, preferences and surprises of each one.

I've been a vet tech for about twenty years now. Sometimes I worked 80-hour weeks and some weeks I didn't work in the field at all. Yet veterinary medicine is a modern science based on analysis of concrete evidence and it trusts answers that are repeatable through experiment. Even within mainstream veterinary culture, however, there is a saying "cats read the text book and then do the opposite" to intonate the unpredictability of felines.

When I started fostering kittens last summer I thought it would be a fun way to keep veterinary medicine in my life and I thought I'd seen plenty of kittens in my years. The frequency with which veterinary hospitals see kittens pales in comparison to what the shelter and rescue world sees. These people see kittens in HERDS-- hundreds, thousands in a season, and for a number of shelter employees that is ALL they do: manage kittens.  My foster kittens have given me knowledge I didn't know I was lacking. These are unpredictable, fragile, magical little spirits. I can tell you that a tiny kitten's stomach volume is 4 ml to each 100 gram of body weight, so don't expect your tot to suck down that whole bottle. I can tell you that a 4-week-old kitten should weigh one pound, I can tell you about coccidiosis, herpesvirus, joint laxity in neonates and ear mites. But I can't tell you which one will eat more if you heat the nipple, who likes a cuddle under your chin before a meal, why some won't play with the crinkle toys or eat the expensive crunchy food.

Fostering tiny kittens is consent to shed some tears as well as thrill at a dramatic turnaround. Leave what you know at the door. Save a life, provide love and nurturance. It's desperately needed.