For the past several weeks, I’ve been nursing a couple of litters of kittens back to health, with varying degrees of success. The shelter released them to foster because they were scheduled to be euthanized, but had the potential to get healthy if they got the kind of one-on-one attention that a crowded, busy shelter just can’t provide.
A couple of them needed to be syringe-fed because they wouldn’t eat. One had me up all night twice keeping him warm and waking to an alarm every hour or two to give him water from a dropper. They went through a round of one antibiotic, then some went through a round of a stronger one, and some of them also had to put up with ointment being put in their eyes twice a day. It was important to watch to make sure they were each eating well, drinking enough, and having the right kind and volume of poop and pee every day.
Two of them recovered beautifully. Two of them seemed fine except for a goopy eye, which even so was improving. One still had a rattle in his chest, but was otherwise a happy, active, normal kitty. One had been a walking mucus factory until this past weekend, but now had big wide eyes, normal breathing, and a nice round kitten belly. The last was still having a hard time, but it was clear to me that she was less goopy than she had been – both eyes were open, if a little red-rimmed, she’d stopped sneezing, and she was right in there with the others when it was time to eat or play.
So I wasn’t worried when I sent them off with our adoption co-ordinator to the shelter for their next round of immunizations. Time for a wake-up call.
The last two I described were put to sleep immediately. The others have been given a week’s reprieve – isolated in a cage at the shelter to see if they clear up, put to sleep if they haven’t. B., the adoption coordinator, argued with them about putting them back into their foster home, or releasing them to the rescue organization so they wouldn’t be the shelter’s responsibility, to no avail.
The whole family was devastated. Even hubby, who essentially merely tolerates the cats for my sake, was in tears. I keep turning the waterworks on again when I think about it. Last night, every time I didn’t have one of the little boys snuggling into my neck, nursing on my jaw and making happy feet on my neck, I fell apart again.
I got used to letting the cats go when it was time for them to be adopted out. That became a happy occasion, because I knew they’d be going to a permanent, loving home (with a lot fewer cats competing for attention!) Each time I’d go in to the center to clean and see one of my fosters had found a home, it felt wonderful. This is completely different. Their fate will not be affected by how pretty they are, or how cuddly they are, or how goofy they look when they’re playing, or how much they love to be with their people. They can’t charm their way out of this.
We can’t do anything except hope that they all look healthy by the end of the week (which is, essentially, doing nothing, but feels like doing something). It’s raised some serious questions in the house, though. We won’t be fostering any more cats that aren’t free of the shelter system – falling in love with a cat who might be deemed unsatisfactory and destroyed later is too damaging to all of us. The question is, will we continue to foster, and if so, will we insist on being selective about what cats we’ll take? There’s a lot to think about.