Sunday, August 28, 2022

If You Can't Get a Hole in the Head, Get Five Four-Week-Old Foster Kittens

Syd and I are going to be playing around with idioms next week in her Creative Writing study, so it's relevant that I tell you that I needed five four-week-old kittens like I needed a hole in the head.

But to be fair, I did tell her that she needed to choose a regular volunteer commitment this year, and I did tell her that it should be something that she's passionate about. After all, those college application essays aren't going to be writing themselves!

She'd been making some noise about going back to volunteer at the little local food pantry we used to volunteer at weekly when she was a tot, so I thought that's what she'd be doing. Now that she's fully licensed she can even drive herself, so I could just sit my butt down in a quiet home for two hours a week while she built her leadership skills and logged service learning hours and created the foundation of a kick-ass college application essay about food insecurity.

But instead, somehow I found myself putting my name on a quite different volunteer application that she filled out, and then somehow I found myself going with her to pick up a litter of foster kittens. Another volunteer had already claimed the litter of four six-week-old kittens we'd originally planned to pick up, but the staffer said that another litter of five six-week-old kittens had just been dropped off that morning; would we perhaps like to take them, instead?

Five isn't that different from four, so fine.

As the staffer was examining them, though, she was all, "Hmmm... these don't look like they're six weeks old. I think they're more like five weeks."

Five weeks instead of six weeks means they'd spend just one more extra week in our care, so... okay, fine.

A few more minutes, and that became, "Actually, five weeks might be a stretch. I'm going to write them down as four weeks old."

And of course, by then I'd already been petting them, and seen that one is a tortoiseshell and one is a TORBIE!!!!!, so the news that we'd be coming home with one more kitten than planned and keeping them all at least two more weeks than planned sailed right over my head. An hour later, I was sitting on my playroom floor, holding both that tortoiseshell AND that torbie in my hands and giving them kisses on their little fuzzy foreheads!

Here are Socks, a tuxedo, and Athena, the torbie, the bravest of the litter and the first ones out of their travel crate:

The shelter gave them their first set of vaccinations before we took them home, so here are the other three tired babies sleeping off their shots in their travel crate:

And then Socks laid down for a nap, too:

Eventually, everyone was awake at the same time and whoa. It's been wild ever since!

Foster kittens are a LOT more work than it would be to spend two hours a week unloading produce at the food pantry. We've got to keep them isolated from the other household pets, and just sanitizing their area and keeping them cleaned up takes tons of time. They'll happily use the litterbox, but they'll also just as happily use the floor or their bedding--you will not BELIEVE what the kids' bathroom looked like this morning! I gagged, Syd literally almost fainted, and then five bad kitties had to get stuffed back into their travel crate while we spray cleaned and steam mopped and Lysoled the floor and walls. 

Seriously, the WALLS!!!! And then we had to come at each of the kittens with a warm washcloth, too. They were furious.

Thankfully, these guys are acting wolfishly healthy so far, wrestling and scampering and growling at each other over the bowl of wet cat food:

And they flock to Syd. Check them out sleeping and sprawling and fighting all over her lap:

A few years ago, a young friend's cat died, and in the condolence letter that I wrote to her, I told her that I believed that cats could sense when you were a person who had been loved by a cat, and she shouldn't be surprised if she found that cats were drawn to her even more now. Of course I didn't actually believe that; it was mostly just a pretty way to express to her that love is never wasted, and I wanted her to still feel like her Lavender's love was with her.

But looking at these five little foster kittens, happy and snug in a cuddle pile in Syd's arms--

--I swear I can almost feel the invisible spirit of Gracie standing there, telling five scared kittens, "Go over and climb on that kid right there. You're going to be so safe and happy with her."

And so they did. And I know that Syd actually has smiled since Gracie died--we've told jokes and had fun and things have, mostly, gone back to normal. She's definitely smiled and laughed, and she's definitely had her happy moments. But she hasn't yet been as happy as she'd been with Gracie, I don't think. I think she always misses her, and I think that remembering Gracie hurts her. I know it hurts me, and it hurts me to see my kid's grief, always just right there below the surface. 

So I'd like to imagine that the invisible spirit of Gracie really was there, that first time that those five foster kittens curled up in a cuddle pile in Syd's arms. I'd like to think that in some way Gracie, too, got to be there to see her beloved kid really, truly, genuinely happy again. 

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