Our new Foster Kitten

Kittens need people to foster them until they are old enough to be spayed or neutered (an important step in the Pound’s mission to reduce the number of unwanted animals in our city). And last month my wife answered the call.

They were three siblings who would gallop to the bedroom door the moment we opened it and one of them soon learned to climb over the gate we placed there to keep Red out. Red is one of our two rescue dogs and she is obsessed with small animals. She lunges after them on walks so it didn’t seem worth the risk to introduce Red to these small kittens for the few weeks we would have them.

Our other dog, Bailey, a small Chihuahua mix, has his own issues but not with kittens. When fireworks go off –which is still happening seven weeks after July 4th–Bailey trembles as if Napoleon’s cannons are firing at us.

One sweet image I have is of Bailey sitting outside the kitten’s room and all three are gazing up at him through the slats in the gate. It reminded me of the movie where the islanders are all looking up at King Kong. Even Bailey, the smallest dog we have ever had, made the kittens look like Lilliputians.

These three kittens were so comfortably connected with one another that we wondered how they would do when they were separated, as was almost bound to happen at “Lucky Paws” where kittens go to get adopted. All three did indeed go their different ways, but their new “forever families” (the phrase used by Lucky Paws) all seemed to really want them.

Then, within a week of seeing those three off on their new lives, my wife saw a single kitten, Elsa, on the website. She had been by herself ever since she was found wet and freezing in a storm drain–spending weeks in a cage by herself being treated for hypothermia. The foster site entry also said that she wasn’t eating. With the thought that we could help Elsa start eating and give her some human company, my wife picked her up and brought her home.

For her first 24 hours with us, she didn’t eat or drink. She just hid in the darkest corner she could find. Then, a day later, after we caught her, put her on the bed, and gave her lots of attention, she actually started purring. After she had purred for a while she approached the bowl that held some canned kitten food and some leftover salmon from our recent supper and she demolished it all. We were so relieved!

But the saga continues. Now she eats three times a day, but only when we catch her and lift her from her hiding place under the bed. She still purrs loudly, eats with gusto, and has even played a bit with a few cat toys. But not once in the week she has been with us has she ever come out from her hiding place on her own. So we eventually reach in and catch her, since she always happily purrs when we put her on the bed and offer her food.

My wife wonders if Elsa would have been better off with a foster family that didn’t have a whining wolf at the door, so that she could be part of whatever was going on and gradually become accustomed to living with the kind of family we hope will adopt her in a few weeks. But that is not our situation. I tell myself–about this and other challenging situations—all we can do is offer what we can. For Elsa we are surely a step up from freezing in a storm drain, or living completely alone in a cage at the Pound.

Elsa seems remarkably able to remain alone. And, seeing her alone, I think she must be lonely. But could it be that some beings are comfortable being alone? Could the importance for me of being involved with activities in the world make me unable to appreciate a comfortable solitude in others? But I am happy to report that Elsa finally came out from her hiding place one her own and was lured into a battle with a stuffed mouse on a string. Since I continue to feel that lack of interaction with our fellow beings must be lonely, I feel relieved that Elsa finally tiptoed out of her dark corner without being grabbed. Whether or not it’s actually true for everyone, the image I carry with me is that we all feel better when we take a voluntary step toward one another.

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