Every foster has a story of how they started down the path of opening their homes to countless multitudes of kittens. For some, it begins with tragedy; a mama cat being hit by a vehicle leaving an orphaned litter. For others, it is a way to support the community through animal welfare. Some, of, course, have commitment issues and can’t decide what is right for them. Then there are those who want to have all of the kittens, even if just a few weeks at a time.
Regardless of how the journey begins, staying the course can be trying. The difficulty arises as one of your foster kittens looks at you with shining eyes, ears forward, and focus placed squarely on you as if to thank you for saving them from the worst the world has to bring, a reality that only a few have experienced first-hand while many others thankfully will not. Every now and again that gaze breaks through your time toughened façade and melts your heart. You know you shouldn’t, but the thought flashes across your brain: “Maybe I will keep this one.”
Perhaps the most common question received by fosters is, “How can you not want to keep them all?” When you're dealing with two-day-olds that look more like misshapen rodents than kittens, the answer is easy. As the cuteness improves, so do personalities and developmental quirks. Much like human children, kittens will learn and grow differently. Climbing to the top of a tower or chair like they're the king of the mountain is adorable until you become the tower. Diving into a bowl of soft food is charming until you have to clean the disaster that follows. Crawling all over you is cute until they decide the hole you inadvertently made with your legs is a litter box. They will, of course, gaze at you lovingly as they do this, leaving you in disbelief at what is actually happening.
As a foster, we can pass these messy, misbehaving kittens off to someone else after a while, much like grandparents after a visit with their grandchildren. Those are the easy ones to pass on to friends and family – they are too messy, too clingy, too needy, too loud, too whatever.
Surrounding yourself in adorable balls of purrs and cuddles can and does lead to the temptation to keep one. All fosters have dealt with this at some point or another. If not them directly, then their children or spouse might find a connection and ask the inevitable, “Can we keep her?” It's not the end of the world if you do, but doing so keeps the love and cuddles from someone who is looking for a fuzzy companion of their own.
Hipburn, Jebbye's almost "foster fail."
While we have caved to temptation once, a “foster fail” in the industry vernacular, there was another kitten that almost stayed with us a bit longer than a visit. Hipburn first came to us as a bottle baby, just a few days old, with his sister Clover. In the couple of weeks that we fostered them, they had opened their eyes and were moving on to soft food before transitioning into a larger group to socialize with another foster.
A few weeks later, Clover had reached the weight needed to be fixed and was adopted into her forever home. Hipburn’s tiny stature meant he would have to wait for the next spay/neuter transport, which placed him back in our home. However unlikely, he seemed to remember the place and us, like he never really left. There were no feelings of togetherness during his first stay, but on his second, he was a favorite. He looked like a little tap dancer with white paws on the end of his slender black legs. He loved attention, not in the clingy sense, but just enough. The kids adored him, and the only reason that he didn't stay with us is that his new home was already waiting.
Hipburn and his sister as infants.
It may be a blessing or a curse for a foster, but every kitten has a home waiting for them. Yes, it is tempting to want to keep them all, but in the end, what we do helps other people find their furrever family members.