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I have let too much time go by since I posted an update – you can follow the #KittenCaboodle via a Facebook photo album I created.
When we last reported in, we had trapped a litter of five kittens in our backyard. We applied and were accepted into the Pittsburgh C.A.T. program as a foster home. And it has been quite an adventure. Kitty mama is still on the loose, but coming around to eat regularly so we’ll get her.
The kittens were born approximately April 4, 2019 so they are (we guess) about 10 weeks old. We aren’t sure. They are absolutely adorable on all counts. We call them the #KittenCaboodle and they’ve certainly livened up the bathroom. LOL.
The kittens weigh a little more than 2 lbs each now. You can see the weight gain if you scroll through the photos – at first, they fit in the palm of my hand and now they require two hands. Still so very little though. They’ve had their first veterinary check up and passed with flying colors. They received their first round of vaccines and were tested for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) tests. They are all negative – whew. We were super stoked that their first vet check was 100% good. We got this!
Assessing how they’ve grown in the bathroom has been amazing, too. We put a three foot cat tree with four levels. At first, they clambered up the legs like little pole climbers. After a week or so, their upper body strength improved and they were able to pull themselves from one level to another. And dive down. They are starting to jump from the floor to the first level, but not every time. When they want to get away from us (ha) they go to the back corner of the tree and slide down the sisal legs like little fireman, then cower in the corner until we reach around and pick them up anyway.
Other signs of their muscle development – being able to leap into the tub and get back out on their own withOUT having to climb the shower curtain, being able to climb up to the window using either the cat carrier or the box for cat litter as a stepping stone. Three of them will now jump from the cat tree onto the sink, especially when we are trying to use the sink for things like preparing their supper. Or just washing our hands. I’m sure it won’t be along until the other two make that leap as well.
Everyone is litter trained. We had a brief rocky start where they were using the tub so we put a second litter box in the tub and a week later, moved it to its actual place – they transitioned no problem. We are using cedar litter because it has no chemicals. It doesn’t clump so take a bit longer to clean and they love to help. I’m composting the litter with our grass clippings along some grungy parts of the yard.
They eat constantly. We started with dry Purina kitten chow, but I recently switched them to our household preference of Avoderm kitten food. They also get cans of Fancy Feast, currently going through nearly 3 cans a day collectively. Plus, we are using treats sparingly to get them to pay attention to us. It is pretty cute when they eat on two or three plates side by side, occasionally just switching places at random.
Sun Volt is always the first to eat and the line-up afterwards varies depending on who is closest. There is no one who is left out or forced to eat last. We tested this when we were dealing with a small virus by putting the cats in front of the food to make sure they were eating normally.
There’s also no clear alliances when it comes to playing or sleeping. The zoom back and forth in the bathroom; sounds like they tearing up the room. They wrestle a lot so we put a few soft floor covers down. And they all spend a little time on their own playing with some little item or another. Sleeping time is always a mixture. Sometimes they sleep in what I call the caboodle pose – all five piled together in the top-tier of the cat tree. They do this when they are frightened or anxious. Otherwise, they spread out from the caboodle to a box we lined with blankets and a pillow a friend made for us that is covered in other blankets. So they have a choice for how much snuggling they want.
Sun Volt is the only one so far who is sleeping on his own in other parts of the room, mainly on a dog bed cover I put on the floor. I’ve caught Muriel sitting on it with her eyes closed, but Sun Volt just hurls himself down and starts snoring.
We also sometimes find them lined up along the window sill in the sunshine. They certainly explore the entire bathroom, but have defined clear areas for playing, eating, pooping, and zooming. They’ve put two and two together that when of us sits on the toilet with a kitten, that kitten is going to be poked, prodded, stuck, trimmed or otherwise treated with health tools so they don’t tend to hang there very much.
We did have a scare this past weekend. On Friday evening, I noticed Artemis was not quite herself – a bit lethargic and uninterested in food. We watched her for a bit and then Laura decided to contact the Pittsburgh CAT medical folks. They had us separate Artemis so she spent the night in our bedroom in the cat carrier. I fell asleep, but Laura stayed up for several hours putting cool compresses between her legs — she had a temp over 104 which is definitely feverish.
We took her to the clinic at 7 AM Saturday where she received a shot and some meds with instructions to check her temp every 10 hours or so and use the Facebook thread to share information. She had a virus of some sort so we were instructed to be vigilant about handwashing and we had to change our clothes if we held her close to us. Her temp went up and down Saturday into Sunday, but she was eating and drinking if a bit quiet. Then Sunday her fever broke and she had steady normal temperatures for a solid 48 hours and was able to reunited with her caboodle. She was ecstatic. So were they.
That was exhausting, but quick action and some badass cat mom stuff by Laura meant no one else got the virus so that was fortunate. I can see how something this simple could kill a young kitten who is homeless because they wouldn’t keep up with food and water while they feel so bad. She would not have been eating if it wasn’t for the medication and Laura using cool compresses. And then ravaging it through the other kittens with poor immune systems.
But now the band is back together and we have survived a round of deworming plus learning how to use anal thermometers on wriggling 2 lb cats AND weighing them regularly on a kitchen scale. Lots of new math.
How is everyone else doing? The semi-feral girls are doing fine but looking perturbed when the kittens are particularly noisy. Our house pets are fine, but were REALLY annoyed when they were locked out of our bedroom because of Artemis’ confinement. They have forgiven us. We think.
Next up we have to get a portable kitty play crate to bring everyone down to the living room and let them get some exposure to our house pets as well as more exercise. We committed to keep them through August to allow them to ‘catch up’ for being in the wild for a bit of time. They really need socialization times. We hope to invite people over to do that with us. They need to be handled. There’s no aggression, but some basic shyness and wariness they have to overcome.
This not for the faint of heart. We are going through upwards of four cases of wet food per week plus a bag of adult cat food and a bag of kitten food. We had to buy a scale, blankets, litter, thermometer, toys, bedding, lots of white vinegar for cleaning, etc. They need more toys. We are doing a lot of laundry, especially because of the sickness, and washing of dishes. Our recycling has tripled.
We need to buy more of those cute Ikea children’s plates that are perfect for wet pet food. They ripped open a paint bubble on the bathroom wall so now we have to keep applying duct tape to keep it covered. It is a lot sometimes, but they didn’t ask to be homeless cats.
And they bring a lot to us. When I am with them, I am very much in the moment because I literally have to keep my eyes on all five of them. When I sit with the feral girls, I can be more meditative and reflective because they simply need me to be near them. I’m moving around a lot more and definitely sitting on the floor quite a bit. Lots of pros.
Lots of love.
If you enjoyed this post, please consider support our #CatFoodDrivePgh to help caretakers of feral cat colonies who need donations of cat food.
We will be posting a weekly feature promoting a Pittsburgh C.A.T. up for adoption, known as Cat Lady Corner (working title). Check it out.
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