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Fostering kittens

By on July 25, 2020 in Uncategorized with 2 Comments
Wrenna Davidson with Charlie Brown and Snoopy. They came from the Peanuts Comic Litter, which also includes Linus, Rerun and Schroeder who are all currently undergoing ringworm treatment at the shelter, along with Woodstock and Sally, who are remaining in foster care for ringworm treatment.

When she realized she couldn’t keep adopting overlooked cats, she found a new passion in fostering

By Wrenna Davidson 

In June, as part of National Foster a Pet Month with the Petco Foundation and BOBS charity footwear from Skechers, I was honored by the Wenatchee Valley Humane Society as a Local Foster Hero. 

June also marked two years since beginning my fostering journey, in which time I’ve cared for approximately 75 felines. 

I am an animal lover, and am especially fond of cats. Growing up on a rural cattle ranch afforded me a lot of opportunities to enjoy the companionship of animals. I was handling cats while still in diapers, and had kittens in my baby carriage instead of dolls. 

Over the years, I’ve had hamsters, fish and parakeets. I’ve also had 20-plus years of caring for dogs (and raising kids!) before returning to my first four-legged love — cats. 

Charlie Brown needed to be fed by a syringe for the first few foster days.

After adopting five black cats from WVHS in about a year, I realized that I could not continue to help overlooked cats by adopting them. So what could I do? 

I’d heard about fostering, but knew I’d have to confront the emotional issues surrounding it, as everyone must do. 

The most common reason animal lovers cite for not wanting to foster is having to let their beloved fosters go. They will say that they could never do it; the loss would be too much for them to bear. 

I was no different in worrying about this and in wondering how I could say goodbye. It took some work to realize that it wasn’t about me. It was about the cats and what they needed, and I couldn’t help them if I was unwilling to experience some loss so that they could gain the forever homes they deserved. 

With fostering, the goal is goodbye. 

I’ve chosen to focus on the hellos instead, and am happiest when I’m bringing home new cats and kittens to foster. 

I joke that every time I drop off my fosters, I load new ones into my car. This is not far from the truth, as I foster cats full-time, year-round. 

Fostering has become a passion and a life purpose for me. I have a dedicated foster room, along with a guest room that is usually inhabited by an adult foster cat. 

I also have a rolling cart on the main floor of the house that holds an XL wire dog kennel, which works great for medical fosters. 

You don’t need a whole room dedicated to fostering. A playpen or kennel set up in the corner of a room will do. 

Fostering allows shelters to care for many animals beyond the capacity of their physical structures. Due to COVID-19, shelters nationwide appealed to fosters to care for animals as they had to close their doors. 

I work a lot with kittens who’ve found themselves separated from their mothers at around four weeks of age, and don’t know how to eat on their own. This is a challenging time for them, and it usually includes some feeding of formula via syringe while also introducing a slurry of wet food and formula mixed together. 

Weighing them daily and monitoring for dehydration is critical, as kittens often will have diarrhea during this transition. 

Another kind of fostering that I enjoy is socialization work. Kittens that have had no contact with people are called feral, which simply means unsocialized. 

There is a socialization window for taming kittens that is fast-closing around the age of 12 weeks, and the pressure is on to get the kittens friendly and ready for adoption while they are as young as possible. 

This type of fostering requires a comfort level with cats in general, but particularly someone who is unafraid and immune to the hissing, growling and scratch attacks the kittens employ when they are unsure and frightened. 

This work calls for patience but is extremely rewarding when you see a kitten go from a fur-standing-on-end, spitting ball of fright to a lovey-dovey marshmallow who is meowing for attention and petting. 

Medical fostering involves providing kennel rest for an animal recovering from bone fractures, amputation and various surgeries, along with caring for sick animals. It usually includes administering medication, dealing with a cone around the animal’s head, and possibly mobility exercises. 

I enjoy caring for cats who are healing from injuries, and am always impressed with their ability to rest and recuperate with grace and a good attitude. 

Occasionally, a happy outcome is not to be and medical fostering may transition to hospice care. This can be quite challenging emotionally, and it puts saying goodbye to healthy fosters being adopted rapidly into perspective. These experiences will grow your heart. 

Behavioral fostering for adult cats is one of my favorite things to do. For various reasons, a cat will come into the shelter and act out with aggression towards staff. Or, the cat may shrink inwards and shun interaction. 

Sometimes cats need time to grieve the loss of their homes and families, or to recover from a trauma. Fostering provides a transition time for them to do this. 

One of my favorite fosters was Peanut, who was a scary cat in the shelter. She was a very angry girl, and it took time to build trust with her. 

She swatted my hands so hard that they were bruised. After three months of working with her, she was ready to be adopted into a home that met her needs. 

It’s a lucky foster parent who gets to host a mama cat with kittens. Mama mostly does the work, and the foster parent provides support. 

It’s a special experience to see kittens grow from newborns to little cats ready for adoption and new adventures. Kittens are neutered or spayed when they weigh two pounds, which is typically between 8-10 weeks of age, before they are adopted out. 

I cannot write about fostering without addressing a major part of my current day-to-day reality, and that is dealing with ringworm. I am incredibly fortunate to work with a shelter that treats this dermal fungal infection, which is related to Athlete’s Foot, instead of euthanizing those afflicted with it. 

Ringworm is highly contagious to animals and people. Treating it requires weeks of tedious twice-weekly lime sulfur dips and oral medication while being kept in isolation. 

I am part of a group of volunteers that go into the shelter’s ringworm treatment unit twice a day to socialize these kittens so that they will be suitable for adoption. 

Due to volunteering in ringworm, more and more of my foster cases have come from there, usually because they’re too small or too sick for treatment. 

This adds another layer to fostering, as it requires protocols to contain ringworm to the foster room, and brings with it a lot of cleaning and laundry. I find that drinking wine aids in coping with this nightmare fungus, and a good sense of humor is a must. 

I am certain my standout foster case of 2020 will be the Peanuts Comic litter of seven kittens that Animal Control rescued in May. 

They were filthy, hungry and had a serious case of ringworm at only about four weeks of age. They were the biggest litter I’d ever taken in, and they all required syringe-feeding for the first few days. 

After three weeks, they moved to the shelter’s treatment unit, but it soon became clear that Woodstock required more urgent foster care. 

At this time, he is completely bald and I’ve opted to treat his ringworm, along with his sister Sally’s, at home. 

Woodstock has come back from the brink of death twice. Some kittens are fighters, and Woodstock is one of them. It makes all the difference. 

I tell them that if they’ll fight for life, I will fight for them. 

I couldn’t foster at the level I do without the constant support and enthusiasm of my husband, Patrick. He works hard so that we can provide all of the food and supplies for our fosters without relying on shelter donations. 

I post pictures and stories about my fosters on Facebook and Instagram @wrennasfosterkittens. 

And, I like to stay in touch with adopters and am thrilled when they share pictures and updates with me about their thriving companions. 

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There Are 2 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Joanlavender says:

    You are a god sent without people like you these feline wouldn’t have a chance. Thank you and most GOD bless you

  2. Darcie Frisch says:

    I just love my kitty Peanut she’s
    Such a good girl she talks to me & brings me gifts of mice & moles & is so proud of herself. Fostering a animal is the best way to go. I’ve adopted 2 dogs that have been the best dogs I’ve ever owned.

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