Update—On August 13, Missy along with her kittens, Uno, Mowgli, Tarzan, Aladdin and Annie, returned to the ASPCA. Leslie, our wonderful foster, completed her tour of duty as a foster mom and higher education was calling. Leslie relocated to Atlanta, GA, to pursue her PsyD in Clinical Psychology at Argosy University. She can’t wait for next summer when she will foster another family of felines.
Missy and her clan are now awaiting medical clearance and spay/neuter surgery before they become available for adoption at our Adoption Center. Mom and kittens’ hearts ache for their foster mom and her caring ways, but they will soon find their forever homes. Like the kitties, the ASPCA also misses Leslie and wishes her the best with her academic endeavors!
July 27, 2009—The kittens' eyes have now opened. It took about four days when all was said and done—with just the inside corners opening first and gradually spreading outward—but now I am greeted by five little heads and five little pairs of eyes looking up at me. They recognize sounds now, too, and will orient their heads toward the source of disruption. Personalities are beginning to emerge, and it's clear which kittens are more independent. All, however, are sweet and content to curl up in my hands.
Uno looks like a little bear with his round face and puffy, soft fur, and my guess is that he will be a joyous handful when he grows up. Aladdin is a little slower to stray from the nest than the others. His eyes were the last to open, and he can usually be found on his back playing with paws up in the air. Tarzan and Mowgli look nearly identical. Mowgli is the wanderer—often straying from Missy and his siblings to strike out on his own—and he has a bit of white on his nose. Tarzan is emerging as the quiet, confident type. He doesn't move around much, but he still seems like he would be the leader of the gang. And finally there is the only girl in the bunch: Annie Warbucks. Annie is the smallest kitten and the chattiest. She often walks around and mews as if commenting on everything, and she has eyes that will melt your heart.
In the two weeks since the kittens have arrived, I've had many visitors come to meet them. Missy has greeted all with open enthusiasm, wanting as much attention for herself as she can soak up. While other mothers might be protective of their kittens, Missy has allowed me to hold them from day one. She is inherently trusting. And now, when my friends and family pick up the kittens, Missy just makes sure to keep them all within sight, sometimes wandering over to offer a gentle lick.
July 16, 2009—Childbirth wasn't easy for Missy. She had been in my house nearly six weeks when she finally went into labor. All I could do was hope for luck and healthy kittens, and keep my fingers crossed. Unfortunately, only one of Missy's three kittens survived—a tiny little Tabby who I promptly named Uno. Right away Missy set to work being a mother, and when Uno began to nurse, I knew we were out of the critical stage. Many things can go wrong in the lives of kittens, but at least Uno had a chance.
Two days later, I brought Missy and Uno in for a check-up with Dr. Jennifer Lander, Director of Medicine at the ASPCA Adoption Center. She said Missy was in good health and that Uno seemed okay—for now. As I was leaving, Dr. Lander asked if we could try giving Missy another little kitten—one who'd been born premature and whose mother had no milk. Most mother cats hiss when you introduce a new kitten into the litter—even if they eventually settle down—but Missy didn't make a sound. When the little orange kitten was added to her litter, she set to work licking him and rubbing her head against him. It was as almost as if he had always been there. I named the orange kitten Oliver Twist and went home with Missy and two kittens.
But I didn't have two kittens for long. The next day, I got a call from Cindy Tomm, who said that someone had dropped motherless kittens at the ASPCA—they were about the same age as the two I already had. The kittens were in the ICU, being bottle-fed every two hours and in desperate need of a mom. As Missy was slowly introduced to each one, we all held our breath, but she never hissed or rejected any of them. She simply licked the kittens and rolled over so they could nurse. The staff applauded, and shortly thereafter, I left the ASPCA with six kittens and Missy in tow.
The saga didn't end there, though. Oliver Twist didn't survive the weekend. He was too premature and underdeveloped—in the end, he had had trouble swallowing, but Missy continued to nurse the others.
After only a few days, I could tell they were all growing. The adopted kittens were growing at the same rate as little Uno, so I knew that Missy was treating the new kittens as if they were her own. All the kittens nursed together and slept together, and Missy very rarely left their sides. Now the kittens no longer look like little, wet, squirmy blobs with legs, but are, instead, small balls of fluff. Missy keeps them clean and loves them. I, in turn, get to watch the way her instincts tell her exactly what to do at just the right moment. It really is amazing!
June 2009—Over the past five summers, I've fostered sixty-one cats and kittens from the ASPCA, and loved each of them as though they were my own. I've medicated and held sick ones, laughed at the antics of the healthy and dangled more "cat-dancers" than I care to count. I would foster year-round if I could, but I'm a student and my school schedule would interfere with raising kittens. So I look forward to the summertime when I can enjoy the beach, pool, sun and cats!
Sometimes my fosters stay for a few days, weeks or months. Missy will be one cat who stays for awhile. She is pregnant and will live with me until she gives birth and weans her kittens. Missy is a gorgeous Tabby, who's mostly black and gray with a smattering of orange that makes her look exotic. Her hair is long and soft, creating a softness around her long-whiskered face. Her tail poofs out in a way that says, "Yes, I know I'm beautiful." The only thing that matches her beauty is her sweetness. She sits in our laps, purrs in a low, soft rumble, and rubs her face against my own or presses her head into my hand. She lays on her back or draped across my back, perfectly content and trusting.
I loved Missy instantly and can't wait to love her kittens, too.
Leslie has been a volunteer at the ASPCA since she was 16 years old. This fall, she will begin working towards her doctorate in psychology (PsyD) at Argosy University. She plans to use animals in her future work as a clinical psychologist. Leslie has published a novel titled "Unwell," which is loosely based on her life experiences.