Fostering can be a great way to get a kitten fix and save lives without committing to lifetime care and costs
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
We had houseguests last week!
To prepare, I carefully put away anything breakable, covered the sofa with a heavy area rug and made sure the guest bathroom was well-stocked. Then I went to pick them up from their current Airbnb.
You may have thought the Three Little Kittens were strictly a nursery rhyme, but my husband and I had their real-life counterparts in our home for nearly a week. Now that we are, sadly, down to one senior dog and are home for a while after our travels in February and March, we decided the time was finally right to do something I’d been interested in for several years: foster kittens.
Many shelters and rescue groups have made amazing strides in placing a majority of the animals that come through their doors, including seniors and special-needs pets. But kittens remain among the most vulnerable shelter animals. Everyone loves them and they are dangerously cute, but during kitten season -- which can be nearly year-round in warm-weather spots such as California and Florida -- it’s easy for shelters to become overwhelmed by the number of kittens brought in. Foster homes are an essential support system for keeping them alive, healthy and socialized until they can be spayed or neutered and placed in homes.
“Kittens, especially neonates who aren’t able to eat on their own, are most at risk of being euthanized,” says Nancy Peterson, a longtime fosterer and board member of National Kitten Coalition, which provides lifesaving resources for young cats (kittencoalition.org). “An animal shelter, no matter how wonderful, isn’t a safe place for kittens because their immune systems aren’t fully developed. It’s also difficult for staff and volunteers -- busy caring for other homeless, neglected, abused or sick animals -- to fulfill the socialization needs of kittens.
“I love providing a temporary home for kittens who are too young, sick or unsocialized to be adopted,” Peterson said. “Fostering kittens doesn’t take a lot of space; if kittens are weaned, it doesn’t take a lot of time, either. However, I enjoy spending lots of time with my fosters and always have many visitors who want to meet the kittens.”
The organization we fostered for -- Saving Pets One at a Time, or SPOT -- provided everything we needed to get started with our three weaned kittens: food, litter, a litter box, a small cat tree, toys -- the works! Everything fit in our guest bathroom, which, along with the hall, served as kitten quarters. We blocked off the living room with a pet gate and kept the doors closed to the bedrooms -- at least at first. It was the perfect amount of space for kitten antics without giving them free run of the house, which might have provided opportunities for getting into trouble.
The kittens quickly learned to scramble over the pet gate and, when we let them in the TV room, launch themselves onto the sofa. Thanks to the heavy rug, we didn’t have to worry that they’d damage the upholstery with their sharp little claws.
Naturally, we wanted to introduce our guests to our fun neighbors, so one night we had a kittens, wine and pizza party. (The kittens were underage, so no wine or pizza for them!) It was a great opportunity for them to meet some new people and practice their already stellar social skills.
Quicker than we expected, we were notified that a mom and her two kids would be coming by to choose two of our three kittens. They drove off with Fayetteville and Hinton (all the kittens were named for towns in West Virginia). The remaining boy, Seebert, spent one lonely night missing his pals ... then went home the next day with a mother and son. Total time with us: five days.
We’ve already been asked if we’ll take another litter, and the answer is yes.
I hope they give us good Yelp reviews.
Lots of ways
to exercise dogs
Q: What kind of exercise do dogs need?
A: While many dogs these days are companions who live in our homes with us, they are still wired to be hunters and scavengers, and their bodies are made to move. You can see it in their everyday actions: the way their eyes focus on a scampering squirrel; the way their ears perk up at the sound of a treat bag opening; their instant chase response to a thrown tennis ball.
That instinct to move, sniff and seek can be met by many different types of exercise, depending on the breed. Greyhounds, pointers, Dalmatians and Jack Russell terriers like to run; retrievers live to play fetch; Australian shepherds, Siberian huskies, Weimaraners and Rhodesian ridgebacks make great hiking buddies; Portuguese water dogs, Irish water spaniels, Boykin spaniels and standard poodles love to swim; flat-faced dogs enjoy walks.
And it’s good for them! Exercise, movement and play help dogs stay healthy and happy, shed pounds, fulfill their instincts and burn off excess energy that, left unsated, can lead to behavior problems. No matter how cushy their spot on the sofa, dogs need activity.
You can give it to them in lots of ways. The best exercise for any dog is something that engages both brain and body. That can be playing fetch, going hiking or running, taking up kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding, or competing in one of the many dog sports. These sports test canine skills in sniffing, agility, jumping into water (dock diving), tricks, herding, freestyle (dancing with your dog), and other options for teamwork and fun.
You can dedicate your life to training and competing with your dog, or you can stay with something simple such as walking or hiking. So grab a leash and go play with your dog! -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Monkeypox and pets:
What to know
-- Monkeypox. Was that on your bingo card for 2022? It wasn’t on ours. The disease has been in the news a lot recently, and you may be wondering if your pets are at risk. According to Worms and Germs blogger Scott Weese, DVM, of Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph in Canada, typical domestic pets don’t appear to be susceptible to the disease. One exotic pet known to be susceptible is the African hedgehog. Other animals that may potentially be susceptible are rabbits and possibly ferrets. It’s unknown whether humans can infect animals. The virus is transmitted by droplets and direct contact, but it’s not highly transmissible. As with any infectious disease, if you have or think you might have monkeypox, reduce direct contact with pets by keeping your distance, wearing a mask and not letting them sleep in the bedroom. “The risks are low for most pet species, but since we don’t know too much, it’s best to take some precautions,” Dr. Weese writes in his blog. Read more here: wormsandgermsblog.com/2022/05/articles/animals/dogs/human-human-monkeypox-and-risks-to-domestic-animals.
-- What do you call a group of parrots? A pandemonium, of course! They are sometimes also referred to as a company of parrots.
-- Animals are recognized for many different reasons in June. American Humane and the ASPCA promote cat adoptions this month, while the Petco Foundation sponsors the National Foster a Pet Month. It’s also National Pet Preparedness Month -- a reminder to prepare for hurricanes and other natural disasters -- and National Microchip Month. June 20 to 24 is Take Your Pet to Work Week. And don’t forget World Pet Memorial Day, June 14; Veterinary Appreciation Day, June 18; National Pets in Film Day, June 19; National Dachshund Day, June 21 (the longest day of the year); and Cat World Domination Day, June 24. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts. Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker is founder of the Fear Free organization, co-founder of VetScoop.com and author of many best-selling pet care books. Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning journalist and author who has been writing about animals since 1985. Mikkel Becker is a behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/Kim.CampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.