Last week I turned in my perfect kittens, my beautiful gray and white darlings, to go up for adoption. When we got those kittens, they didn't want anything to do with people, but they immediately saw the point of living in a house. They had been trapped from a feral cat colony in the city by an intrepid former military man who is that rarest of creatures, a crazy cat man who devotes much of his retirement to kitten rescue. Since these kittens grew very, very slowly (I think they are going to be small cats as adults), we had them for two months, which is really too long because it leads to excessive attachment. Lola and I cried over returning them, and everyone except the Sober Husband wanted to keep one of them (a tricolored tabby called variously "Adventuroso", "Clarice Bean", and "Clementine", the latter two names coming from children's fiction of the spunky little girl genre). By the time they went up for adoption, they were beautiful, sweet kittens who would be a joy in any home.
Then we were asked, as a special favor, to take some difficult kittens. Iris was pushing hard for me to take very small kittens, bottlefeeding kittens, due to their excessive cuteness (of course, bottlefeeding kittens is a ton of work, work which would fall exclusively on poor old Mommy). Instead, we were suckered into taking the hardcases. These kittens are old enough and large enough to be adopted out, but they aren't tame enough.
When Iris and I took a day long class on fostering feral kittens, our instructor was firm. Over and over again she stressed, "When you have these kittens, you need to mark a date on your calendar and keep it. If they aren't tame by then, you have to release them. You can't let that go by." Someone broke that rule, and now these kittens are broken. They are now too soft, from living too long indoors with people, to be returned to their feral colony (where they wouldn't be remembered after months of captivity), but they can't pass the behavioral test to be adopted out as pets.
We're supposed to try to work our magic on them for a week and then return them, at which point supposedly the local SPCA may take them on as a project. It's been no fun whatsoever, just stress and depressing work. First they acted catatonic. They didn't eat for a day and a half after I brought them home and set them up in our upstairs bathroom. They just cowered in a corner, shivering from fear, and staring. After a couple of days of catatonia (if we picked them up, they remained in that catatonic state), they managed to make a break for it due to a child forgetting to close the bathroom door. Thus they were able to spend a day loose in the house. We found them in the traditional hiding place of the feral kitten (and where Ray Charles, RIP, used to hide during Lola's rowdier playdates), in the guts of our dishwasher. Iris's lithe little arm was used to pull them out, which, as always, led to Iris complaining of strained muscles in the neck and shoulder.
After this adventure, they became livelier and took to biting me and the children when we tried to hold them. Iris and I tried a trick from our feral cat seminar, wrapping them up firmly like burritos in towels and holding them down, and in that position, one of them managed to bite my upper arm. On the bright side, they were playing with each other and eating, and they do use a litterbox. Sometimes you can pick them up and they will submit to being held for a while, but after a bit, they thrash violently until they can escape. Yesterday Lola had a friend over, and they were careless, resulting in two kitten escapes. I can't imagine it does anything for these kittens' socialization to have me poke them out from behind the washer and dryer with a broom or have the entire family attempt to dredge them out from under a couch.
Last night Iris and I slept in the big bedroom together with the feral kittens. At times they would climb up and cross the bed, which seemed like progress, tiny progress.
It's been a lousy week. I felt slightly ill for half the week, not sick enough to be able to stay in bed and not do anything, but too lousy to enjoy myself, and these damn kittens have been nothing but stress and work. Given how unrewarding these kittens are to be around, the children aren't particularly interested in helping with them, and I've had to threaten to quit kitten rescue altogether to get any assistance out of Iris and Lola. At the same time, Iris is overly aware of these cats' precarious position, and she keeps haranguing me with difficult and depressing questions. "What will happen to them? No one will want to adopt them, will they? What about the black one? What's going to happen to him? Are they going to be put to sleep? They hate me. Why do they hate me?" There's nothing like holding a struggling, biting feral kitten and being peppered with worrying questions by a concerned ten year-old to make a person with a severe headache and nausea feel comfortable and relaxed.
"Next time I'll give you really cute little ones," promised the head of my rescue.
Tell Iris that people actually do adopt kittens with behavioral issues, and I am one of those people. I have had mouthy, biting kittens, and curtain climbers, partially feral and everything you can imagine. I love them all because I'm a cat person :-)
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