This story was submitted by Joan Deraval, a Bobbi and the Strays foster mommy.
I have gone through many Facebook “phases.” There was the find my childhood friend phase, the high school reunion phase, the find an ex phase, and the obsessive game playing phase. I even played a game called Petville and would wake up early to feed and care for my virtual pets!!
This August Facebook lead me to Bobbi and the Strays and the fostering cats adventure and I now wake up early to care for my many fosters. It started when I saw a post on Facebook that Bobbi and the Strays had to evacuate their Freeport shelter before Hurricane Irene, and I “dove into” the world of animal foster. A s people were in rushing about, trying to prepare their homes for a possible major storm, the staff and volunteers at Bobbi and the Strays were working to take care of all the dogs and cats that had to be relocated.
The 3 adult cats (Naomi, Lulu and Joey) were chosen by me because they already lived together peacefully, and they seemed to like my partner and I when we entered their space at the shelter. On the way home – we had 3 howling cats in the back of the car: Naomi, a sweet tabby, and Joey and Lulu, regal black panther looking siblings.
Joey & Lulu
When we got home the adventure really began. Joey and Lulu had grown up in the shelter, and they were comfortable with us while at the shelter…. but as soon as we got them home we entered into a phase that lasted about 6 weeks… I call it “where in the world are Joey and Lulu?” The two of them hid for a while in the space in between the 2 parts of our trundle bed (the lower mattress).
Lulu stopped hiding after a few days, but retreated to the cat carrier I had left out for them. Joey found corners and spots in the room I never knew existed. He even found his way into the drop ceiling. Naomi however was relaxed and happy getting all the attention that would have been shared if the other 2 shelter “siblings” had been more social. Even with all the challenges, I felt they were beautiful, young cats that needed some extra help in finding their way to a forever home. After the storm I told Bobbi and the Strays that I wanted to foster the 3 cats until they got adopted.
In the weeks to follow, Joey and Lulu had slowly become more social. For a few minutes during feeding time, they were my best friends, allowing me to pet them. They slept out in the open and allowed me to get close to them. They now play with each other, and climb all over the gym equipment that is in their room. They also play with me using toys on a string! I don’t think they will ever be lap cats, but they are on their way to being “adoption ready”. Joey has become more social, but Lulu went though a reclusive phase that recently ended when I found out she loves playing with the laser light from a 99 cent store flashlight and a red feather boa toy.
Naomi is a sweet heart. She is so sweet and very affectionate. She loves to play and loves to be petted. When I met her I knew that she would be the perfect match for my neighbor who’s cat had died a few years ago. I invited my neighbor over, and she said Naomi even looked like her former cat “Angel”. After a number of visits, my neighbor announced she wanted to adopt Naomi, and she is now in her furever home!
I immediately started to think about the next cat I could foster! Hmm, maybe a Mamma cat and her kittens??? We had rescued and raised an orphaned kitten last year, so I was confident we could foster kittens. I was planning to let other people know I was open to additional fosters in the spring.
But then one Friday after a stressful week at work, I saw Bambi on the “Special Pleas” list on Facebook. Not only did she have the most beautiful face and the most soulful eyes, but she also looked just like the calico I had as a child. It wasn’t the best time to take on additional animal responsibilities. I was busy at work and I had other fosters I wanted to get adopted, but my heart said I had to do it, because I knew she and her kittens had little chance of surviving at Animal and Care Control, and it would only be a matter of time before she ended up sick and/or on the euthanasia list. I also knew because she was a “New Hope” animal, she needed to be “pulled” by a rescue organization in order for me to foster her.
I contacted Laura at Bobbi and the Strays. She took the info and said she would call and ask about the cat. She said she could help me with the “pull”. I was so anxious to hear back from her to hear how Bambi was doing and to hear when I could get her. The news was a bit of a surprise. Bambi had already had five kittens!! I hadn’t really planned to bring home 6 cats, and for a short while I had no idea how I was going to make this work, but I was more committed than ever to saving these cats. I told Laura I would get Bambi and her kittens the next morning.
That Sunday was the coldest day of the year. I prepared the carrier with soft blankets, and brought another blanket to put over the carrier. We got to the Manhattan Animal Care and Control building around 10am. I walked into an empty waiting room, signed in and was asked to wait. My partner waited in the car so it could be kept warm for the kittens. The wait was probably less then 30 minutes, but I was so anxious it felt like a lifetime.
They finally called me and they brought out Bambi and her kittens in a cardboard carrier. They put a towel in it for her. The thought of this poor scared cat with her kittens in this cardboard box made me want to cry. I rushed to get them in the warmth of the car, so we could bring them all to their vet appointment. I wanted to hold Bambi, but thought she needed to feel safe and she needed to be safely contained. I opened the box long enough to put a blanket in for her only to find that she really wanted to be stroked.
Bambi and her newborn kittens
When we got to the vet, the waiting room was nice and toasty. I checked on Bambi in her carrier and she was eager to have human contact. The startling thing was that this neglected and abandoned cat who just went through the stress of birthing 5 kittens in a cage somehow managed to still trust people. She allowed the vet and the 2 of us to pet her, and allowed us to handle her kittens. She trusted us. I think she knew she and her babies were safe.
The vet’s report was good, Mamma and kitties were healthy, but Mamma was clearly underweight. When you ran your hand down her side her ribs protruded and you could feel the sharpness of her ribcage. The vet said a nursing cat her size should be about 9 pounds – she was less then 6 pounds. So part of our job was to fatten her up!
We brought her home and she and the kittens quickly settled in to the room we felt would best meet her needs - our bathroom. The bathroom is warm and cozy, and small. The bathtub was turned into a cat nursery, with layers of towels and a top layer of wee-wee pads that could be changed when wet or dirty. Outside the tub was Bambi’s bed and food. There was barely room for us to move in the bathroom, but it was a sacrifice we are happy to make.
The first few weeks of fostering this feline family was a roller coaster. We were so happy that Bambi and her kittens came out of ACC healthy, forgetting that it takes time for colds to incubate. One week after her rescue, Bambi started to sneeze, and then developed the upper respiratory infection she probably caught at ACC. We nursed her through it, taking everyone out of the tub and running the shower to fill the room with steam. One night she was very congested so we checked on her throughout the night, making sure she was ok. One day she seemed totally disinterested with food, so I syringe fed her. Other days I added tuna liquid and clam juice to make her food “smelly” and sat on the floor playing with her food, putting it in her mouth with my fingers until she would eat. After about 4 days, she started eating better and breathing better, and she made a full recovery. The following weeks, one kitten got sick, then another. More trips to the vet, more medication, and with the kittens, days of bottle-feeding when they didn’t seem to be nursing. Yes, a lot of work.
Bambi and her kittens
But such a HUGE payoff! The kittens grew strong, like a family of furry clowns had taken over the bathtub, then the house. Tumbling, running, all five of them squeezing into a small box I gave them, sleeping one on top of another. Bambi has gained weight and is growing stronger.
Cali and Creamsicle
As of Saturday, all the kittens have found good homes! Bambi will be ready for adoption soon. Naomi has her forever home. Joey and Lulu welcome me every morning and walk me to their food bowls, and then play with the toy I throw them.
I have become committed to fostering because I believe that everyone must do their part to make the world a better place for animals, and because seeing them grow strong and happy is the biggest gift in the world!