Today, we have an emotional goodbye.
Little Petunia came home with us on December 27th. I wasn’t planning on bringing in another foster in 2022. Dexter and Deedee went into the shelter for surgery and adoption in mid-November, and at the time, we told the foster office that we had about three more weeks that we could welcome more kittens. But mid-November is when kitten season finally starts to slow here, so there weren’t any good foster candidates that we could bring home before Laurence returned home from college over Christmas. Since Laurence’s bedroom doubles as the foster room when he’s not home, we said we’d be back to fostering in mid-January.
Honestly, it took me by surprise how forlorn I felt after only three weeks without any kittens to care for. Laurence hadn’t even arrived home yet, and I was pining. After he was home, my attention was obviously diverted for a bit, but even then, I missed having kittens around. It’s not just that they’re cute and fun. They’re that, yes, but fostering is far more than playing with animals. Many fosters start on medicine for worms, fleas, upper respiratory infections, diarrhea, etc. You have to watch to make sure they’re eating enough, they’re gaining weight, their poop is the right consistency and color, they have enough energy, and more. As the foster parent, you’re the one who can provide information to the shelter about these animals that adopters might need to know. No one knew, for instance, that Dexter and Deedee had mild cerebellar hypoplasia before we got them home. Not every kitten is going to be on the brink of death like some we’ve had, but every kitten is going to need monitoring. Additionally, as a foster parent, it’s your job to socialize the animals so that they make good candidates for homes, and to provide info about their personalities and needs for potential adopters.
Point being, these kittens are a big part of my life, and while fostering is a volunteer job, I find purpose and satisfaction in it. I know I’m doing good for these animals. And so after a full six weeks without fosters – even with Laurence home – I cracked. Little Petunia was a singleton who was supposed to be with us for two weeks while she gained weight. We could put her in Jason’s room since the foster room was occupied, as she was a singleton. (Why not my room? Mine has carpet. Otherwise, we would.)
We thought, from the description on the foster list, that Petunia was a relatively healthy kitten, but when we picked her up, it turned out she had diarrhea and a stubborn upper respiratory infection that took three rounds of different antibiotics to clear. In those early days, she was clingy and cuddly and sweet. She got so lonely if she had to stay in her room, so we often ended up bringing her to other parts of the house with us, curled up on chests or perched on shoulders, as we did other things. Our cats were very interested in her, even Jojo, who hates 99% of other cats. She wasn’t the foster that I got emotionally closest to, but she was the first one that made me think, wow, she’d fit right in with our household if we didn’t already have seven. (No, I didn’t consider adopting her for a second.)
Her cuddliness was a ruse, though. Turns out, she’s a devil-kitten. Kidding. Really, any kittens that aren’t feeling well are going to snuggle a lot, as close to your skin as possible, because they’re running fevers and feel cold. Never assume a sick kitten’s personality is their true personality! Once Petunia started feeling better, it turned out she was a fearless adrenaline fiend who loved to run, explore, and jump out at you to scare you (and herself). Now, this little girl was incredibly well-taught by her kitty-mother and siblings, because no matter how into her wrestling she got, she never used claws and never bit down even if she put her mouth on your fingers. She was an angel masquerading as a devil, the sort of daredevil who would thrive on midnight horror movies and the biggest rollercoasters if she were human. And when she tired of play, she’d curl right up against you to snuggle while she slept.
Cats are social creatures, and kittens need playmates. The first time I was told that two kittens are better than one, I thought someone was just trying to pressure me into getting more cats. They were right, though. Kittens shouldn’t be singletons. They need other kittens to wrestle, to teach, to learn from, to groom, to snuggle with. Without another kitten, Petunia had to do all that with us instead. She took three times as much attention and energy as other batches of kittens, who could keep each other warm and entertained. I don’t mind, but I do hope that she goes to a home either with another kitten, or at least with other animals to make friends with.
I know this post is long, so I’m going to end with a funny little story. We can always tell when a foster is ready to move on when they begin to escape. With Petunia’s unique circumstances, she stayed with us a lot of the time. In the evenings, she’d be in my room (all the other cats kicked out) for a pre-bedtime play-and-snuggle before I went to sleep. Earlier this week, I got up from where Jason and I were talking and scrolling Tiktok (yes, we’re old!), and didn’t see Petunia on my armchair, which is where she usually settles in after she’s done playing. I realized I hadn’t heard her playing for quite some time. We looked around, but she wasn’t anywhere in the room. It turned out, she’d slipped through the door about an hour earlier, and she’d spent the entire time that we thought she was in with us out in the wider house, exploring and interacting with our cats. The scamp! Thankfully, none of our cats reacted poorly. They’re pretty used to seeing her around, but you never know what will happen when they start interacting. That’s why it’s meant to be monitored! Oh, Petunia! Hopefully this little girl finds her forever home quickly!