Do you hear that sound?
No, it’s not the Horn of Gondor. No, it’s not your mother calling you to dinner. No, it’s not Santa.
BUSHELS OF THEM. CROPS OF THEM. PILES OF KITTENS!
The initial waves of kittens have been arriving. A friend of mine adopted a cat a couple of weeks ago and got a five-for-one special. My mother messaged me today to tell me there’s likely a feral litter shacking up beneath her house.
Although the Trap-Neuter-Release initiative has made tremendous impact, there is never a shortage of kittens, nor will there ever be a shortage. Female cats can begin producing kittens when they’re just kittens themselves. Overwhelmingly, an intact male and female pair along with their offspring can produce as many as 420,000 kittens in just seven years.
I can bark all day about the importance of spaying and neutering cats. You should do it, everyone should do it. Period.
Aside from all that, the new arrivals at Tabby’s Place are lovely and tiny and terribly, tremendously cute. A call went out to volunteers to foster kittens in pairs, as the current batch is in need of close care and socializing during these formative weeks. Being the impulsive sort, I waved my hand like a grade school student eager to answer the question to get a shiny gold star. OOO, KITTENS! Yes, please!
Amethyst and Ametrine were prepped for me, and I got a brief snapshot of what was soon to come. Lovely staffer Danielle made a lighthearted mention of messiness. Eh, kittens are messy. No biggie. These two are four to five weeks old. Can’t be that bad, no? I’ve fed bottle babies before, little wrigglers the size of hamsters who are just starting to open their eyes to the world. At that age, they’re messy — they’re unsteady on their feet, walk through their food, need help from mama and volunteers to urinate. Four and five week old kittens are past this.
Another staffer had A & A crated for me to take home and held them up for Danielle, to ensure I had the correct pair. Danielle gasped aloud at their messy little bodies. They’d been washed that morning! Now their little toes were full of mushed food and Lord-knows-what-else, their faces caked in dry, once-delicious slop.
Being an optimistic doofus, I gleefully drove them home while they peeped and mewed at me. Gosh, they’re so tiny! I thought to myself. They weigh just-under and just-over one pound. That’s a handful, and a small handful at that.
At home, I got their crate set up with a large towel, litter pan, fresh food, water, toys, and a cozy. For certain, they will drink the water, eat the food, keep their poop in the litter pan, and sleep on the cozy! It is known!
Stupid humans and their stupid assumptions.
It took less than 12 hours for the mess to begin, and about 24 hours for tidying up to become necessary. At 48 hours, the end was nigh. It was time for baths and a clean crate! Instead of sleeping on the cozy, they slept beside the litter pan. Instead of standing next to the water bowl, they’d stick a foot in it. Both have diarrhea (as many new kittens do), and they managed to drip ‘n track it EVERYWHERE. Gross, yes, but this is the truth, folks.
Even though they’re significantly bigger* than kittens small enough for bottle feeding, kittens at this age still need tremendous help. They’re cute – devastatingly cute – and I can see in their eyes a need for me to care for them, mixed with an innocent trust. No humans have hurt them, and God willing, no humans ever will.
One by one, each kitten got a bath, a dose, and a dab. I had to do a little spa-like presoak in warm water to loosen up the dried poop and wet food they’d so carefully smushed between each toe. Neither kitten nose was without a hardened little patch of food. After a careful washing, each kitten got a gentle towel rub and went into the travel crate to dry… and stay out of trouble. The dose is a twice-daily oral medication to treat the loose stool; the dab is a comforting ointment for their sore little bums.
A clean crate is a lovely sight to behold. I know they’ll destroy it again with another day or two. It’s okay – I’ve accepted this, because I accepted the responsibility of caring for them. This is what it means right now: kittens are cute. Many people want them. They’re fun and sweet and adorable… and they need lots and lots and lots of care, comfort, and cleaning. Once they reach the age of adoptability, they’ve significantly grown out of their unintentional gross habits and they’re ready for forever families.
Until then, we’ll keep washing the poopie out of their toes.
*My cat Rue is 17 pounds. He is 17 kittens big.