It’s hard to believe it’s already been a week since we started fostering little Ilona. Technically speaking it’s a few days more than a week, but for the sake of simplicity…
For the first couple of days she hid under the bed, hissing if we dared to approach her, and huddling up in a tight little ball. The first night we pandered to her behaviour – she’d only just arrived so of course she would be scared. We didn’t want to push too hard too soon. We put her food and water bowls under the bed with her and bothered her as little as possible.
We did have to catch her at one point to clean the gunk from her eyes (we used cotton pads dipped in cooled boiled water). We were amazed the difference that made to her appearance. She went from a blinky little thing with barely open eyes, to having wide eyes of an almost indescribable colour. I think we decided they are a mix of grey, brown and yellow, with a little hint of blue still around the centre. Of course the second we let go of her she was back under the bed.
We were slightly concerned that her tendency to hide under the bed might prevent her from using the litter tray, so we did catch her on another occasion that first day in order to show her where the tray was. For a kitten that had been found, and was presumably stray, she took to the litter tray very easily. We only had one accident and that was in the carry case she’d arrived in that we’d left in the corner of the room. I honestly think that was most likely just because we were too near the litter tray for her liking, and she really needed to go. Ever since she’s been absolutely perfect. Easiest toilet training ever!
After the first night we decided there was no need for her bowls to be under the bed – if she wanted to eat she would have to come out. To begin with we moved the bowls so they were only just out from under the bed. Luckily the plan worked as she was willing to come out to eat. We gradually moved the bowls further and further out. Food can motivate a hungry kitten in a lot of ways, and it wasn’t long before she was happy to come out from under the bed completely. At least for eating.
On the second day S and I were talking about the kitten (what else would we talk about?!) and the fact that she wasn’t acting very kitten-y. A kitten of her age should be racing around playing with things, with frequent naps in between. She was napping plenty, but not playing at all. We’d provided her with plenty of toys – a mouse, several different balls – but if we tried to get her to play with them she would inevitably run away. We decided to pull out the big guns.
Anyone with cats know what the best way to make them play is?
That’s right. Laser pointer. We figured the little red dot might be just the thing to bring out her playful side. And it worked, to an extent. Her chasing was much slower than we would have liked, but it was a start. An unexpected side-effect of the game was Lola seeing the laser under the door, and managing to dart into the room as S was leaving. Luckily I was able to guide her back out with the laser pointer. She barely seemed to notice Ilona, despite almost tripping over her. Ilona of course retreated back under the bed.
After some consideration we came to the conclusion that her lack of energy, as well as the gunky eyes and nose, and the occasional sneezing, was most likely the result of an upper respiratory infection or similar. S got on the case calling the shelter, then their vet, and within a few short hours we had some antibiotics for her. We had to weigh her before getting the prescription of course, to ensure the correct dosage. As of Friday the 11th Ilona weighed 1220g (approximately. It’s hard to get an accurate weight for a kitten who doesn’t want to be weighed!)
Giving the antibiotics was a lot easier than expected. We’d had some difficulty feeding her the worming paste she’d been taking the previous couple of days, and were slightly apprehensive about giving tablets. We decided to try our luck and just stick them in her food, not expecting it to work. Well it did. I have never seen a cat just pick the tablet up from the food and eat it. It’s not like she could’ve mistaken them for food – the tablets are a bright purple-y pink. But she ate them, and I’m not going to complain about it!
Even within a couple of days the difference was noticeable. Her eyes are less gunky, as is her nose. She seems like a completely different kitten! She even started letting us give her cuddles without having to chase her first! The hissing has become less and less common. Her appetite has increased exponentially. She’s playing more. A lot more. She seems insane at times when she is playing. More than once she has rolled off of the edge of the bed in her excitement. Luckily she’s not hurt herself though. You’d think after the first time doing it she would have learnt to be more careful! (Incidentally, do you have any idea how difficult it is to photograph a kitten when she’s constantly on the go? Even when she’s sitting still she’s moving!)
The one thing that is still concerning us slightly is her attitude to water. As in, she won’t drink it. We’ve seen her stick her nose in a couple of times, and every time she’s sneezed and walked off in disgust. There was one occasion that she lapped it twice, but that was hardly drinking… It’s not too worrying – she gets moisture from her food, and she also has a drink of cat milk once or twice a day (not normal milk – cats are lactose intolerant and should not be given the kind of dairy that you or I might eat). Plus she’s peeing plenty, so she must be getting liquid from somewhere.
We’re eager to introduce her to our other cats, but at the vet’s recommendation she’s going to remain in isolation for at least a while longer. There have been a few times when the cats have glimpsed each other. Most of them have been fairly uneventful, but there was one occasion where Ilona did that kitten-y thing of arching her back and hopping sideways, which of course made Lola hiss at her… Ilona has taken to mewing if we’re not in the room and she wants food or attention (usually food…) and the other two can obviously hear her. Often we’ll go to the hallway to find one or other of them laying by the bedroom door with their noses pressed to the crack underneath trying to peer through and see what the racket is about.
Ilona will be finishing her antibiotics in a few days, at which point we’re hoping to take her to a vet to get checked over so we can get the go-ahead to introduce her to the other cats. I think she needs more feline socialisation so hopefully it will be sooner rather than later. Other than that our current goals are to continue acclimatising her to human contact, make sure she continues eating (and hopefully drinking more) and growing. Incidentally, we weighed her again yesterday (a week after the first weigh-in) and she’s put on 200g. Which is a pretty significant increase.
What do I think of fostering so far? Well, it’s fun. It’s rewarding. There’s no doubt that I love it – I have a cute little bundle of fluff who loves to play and to cuddle. The only problem I can see so far is that I’m already dreading having to let her go when she gets adopted.
But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Have you ever fostered an animal? Would you like to?