One regular visiting-day question is “where are the kittens?”
Visitors are always disappointed to learn that any kittens in RAPS care are usually to be found at the City Shelter, waiting for adoption – and some of them go rushing off to visit there.
In fact, to get kittens to that point, there’s a great deal more RAPS care by the invisible (to the public) team of fosterers. Any time a pregnant cat, or a mom and kittens arrives in our care, someone from the fostering team leaps into action. Many of them reserve a room in their home just as a kitten-nursery; if that space is taken, stand-alone cages are erected on the dining-room table, and all formal entertaining is postponed.
Fosterers are used to the anxiety of waiting for a litter to be born, of tube- and syringe-feeding when necessary, of dodging a protective mom in order to clean a cage. They handle young kittens as soon as possible, to familiarize them with people – the weaning stage between four and eight weeks is usually seen as the best time – and when the kittens are old enough, they are taken to the City Shelter for adoption – while mama is spayed, to prevent another litter, and moved to Shelter or Sanctuary, depending on her temperament.
The problem comes when we receive older kittens, who are past that optimal window for easy handling. Socializing them when they are four months old or more can take a great deal of patience to overcome the feral instincts instilled by a feral mama. We will sometimes receive these ones at the Sanctuary. At the age of 4 months to a year, they are not yet fully adult – we would probably say that a 1-year old kitten is developmentally equivalent to a 15-year old human. And though 15-year old humans can be delightful creatures, they are not as adult as they think they are! We don’t need any feline teen pregnancies, so all of them will be “speutered” (spayed/neutered) before they come to us.
You may hear the Sanctuary’s Hill House sometimes referred to as “The Teens”, from its early function. These days we have fewer teens, and they usually go to a room off the quiet senior-focused Moore House. At one stage it housed Sage and Silky, Cricket, Beetle and Frisky, it was a home for the young cow-cats, Mya and Kirstie, when they first came to us, for Perry, Perkins and Peony (all adopted) and now it’s the base for six youngsters.
Leo and Benny came to us from a hoarding situation. They are less than a year old, and were initially very nervous about being handled. Benny rapidly settled; Leo was less ready to be touched. They were sited in the Double Wide, and got a lot of attention, but large as our cages are, they really didn’t give this pair space to be as active as they would like. Kitty Comforters spent a lot of time and love on them, and it was obvious that it would just take a bit of time. The two of them are a younger echo of Lindor and Parker who came to us earlier this year – and with similar colouring and initial characteristics. Both Lindor and Benny are fuzzy and black, fairly outgoing and not afraid to engage; both Parker and Leo are slighter and blond, much more shy and in need of coaxing.
In the cage facing them was a little black panther: young Mason; very hissy and swatty in his first weeks with us, but with the Kitty Comforters working with him, he became very keen on human company – going in to feed or clean his cage meant entertainment time!
In the meantime, there was another group of teens in one of the Single-Wide’s big cages, tended only by the med staff until we were sure that they were all healthy. This trio had come to us from the Interior, offspring of a feral mama, and about 8 months old. They were named Pistachio, Caleb and Mozart – Pistachio with a little mustache marking; Caleb with more black markings, and Mozart more grey.
Now there’s been a general reshuffle and the two groups have been put together in the Moore House kitten room, where there’s more room for them to run and play, and for the Kitty Comforters to do the work of socializing them as much as possible. We hope that they will eventually go to the City Shelter for adoption, but it may be that their feral beginnings are too ingrained to overcome, and they will end up staying with us like the other youngsters. Sadly for visitors, the Moore House is off-limits – they may be seen out on the deck if they choose; they can be admired but not handled.
The Kitty Comforters, of course, are having a wonderful time – but they all know that how they play with these delightful fuzzballs will be vital in establishing patterns that will help Benny and Leo, Mason, Pistachio, Caleb & Mozart eventually to find new homes and grow to be confident cats.