Monday, May 13, 2013

Foster Fur Mom: Losing Kittens

Guest Blogger: Susan Gottfried

After two years of fostering, it happened this morning.

I lost a kitten.

Now, I've lost kittens before. They have an uncanny habit of running under beds or tucking themselves into spaces that I never knew existed. My favorite might have been the cat who jumped up on the built-in shelves in my office and hid behind the TV that hasn't worked – or been noticed – for years.

That's the right way to lose a cat or a kitten.

This wasn't.

I walked into the foster room this morning with three bowls and an unopened can of wet food, expecting absolutely nothing, and ... wound up running out with a little black kitten held carefully in the Animal Friends cat bed he'd been laying in front of.

Big Bad Pete, his name was. Six weeks old when he came to me, he only weighed a pound. He was all black, with a little white star on his chest, and a tail that had clearly been truncated at some point. He came in a box with two others, a week older, obvious littermates.

"He's your challenge," Foster Coordinator Megan Schmitt said to me.

I like challenges.

But little Pete had the cards stacked against him. "Remember," the awesome medical staff on call this morning said, "cats have litters for a reason. Nature doesn't expect them all to make it."

And I knew. I'd done all I could for little Petey. I'd fed him and held him and petted him and put him in his pan and helped him dig and I'd even given him a bath when he'd been coated in his own droppings and was stinking up the joint.

Still, I tried to save him this morning. My daughter, still in her pajamas, jumped into the car and I handed her the cat bed and the kitten. We flew down 79. It wasn't enough.

My daughter cried. I tried not to.

Could I have done more? Of course. I could have set up my office as a foster room and brought him down here with me during the days so I could hold him. I could have been faster to notice he wasn't eating properly. I could have done this, that, or the other thing. We are human, and hindsight always tells us we could have.

But in the end, nature gives cats litters for a reason. Nature knows... not every one of them will survive, and in the end, I have to take solace in the fact that I did my best by Petey. It wasn't meant to be.

And if I've been fostering for two years and this is the first fragile kitten I've had slip away, I'm doing more than okay.

So I'll cry at some point soon. And I'll go up to that foster room and cuddle the remaining two kittens. And I'll try to do more by them, so that they are soon ready for their own forever home.

And I'll think about Big Bad Pete, who in the end was neither big nor bad. He was one little kitten out of hundreds who will come through Animal Friends' welcoming doors. One kitten who probably got an extra two weeks of life, thanks to me and the Animal Friends staff.  

Sometimes, that's all you can do.

Sometimes, even the best of us lose a kitten.


  1. So very sorry. I've fostered many orphaned and abandoned kittens over the years (living on a farm we wind up with them) and not all have made it. I've taken some of these losses quite hard. I'll never forget how much I tried to save 'Angel kitten' one of the sweetest little things, but pneumonia got him, says the vet. ((Hugs))

  2. So sad.. I have stopped taking in abandoned kittens here because there are just so many of them and the natives here just dump newborns on the side of the road if they find them on their property.

    I have done my best over the years and so have you..

    It's good to cry because these little bundles do touch your heart...xx

  3. I'm so sorry. We can do our best, but sometimes God and nature have other plans, and Human Saves the Day isn't one of them. It's okay to be sad. Just try not to feel guilty. You made this kitten's short life as pleasant as it could be.

  4. oh my heavens you have an incredible huge heart
    there is a special place in heaven for people like you

  5. Fostering is heartbreaking work, but at least little Pete went with a roof over his head and loving attention rather than miserable and scared. You made a positive difference in his life, and the world is a better place with people like you in it!

  6. You did your very best. I liked his name. He just couldn't make it. You must feel happy everyday knowing you're going to save a kitten or kittens. Kitties love luv: petting, snuggling, rubbing tummy. You're doing it for more than one. You're a nice lady.:) I'm glad to have met you. Tell the other kitties hello.

  7. Somebody told me not to try - if it's meant to be, it will be. But I always try, I always give my best and I always cry if end is inevitable. Cause, you know, this lost in two years tells us that our trying does makes the difference. To other saved lives. You are a great person. You and your familly.