Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Juniper Russo's Foster Cats

Should you volunteer "foster care" for shelter animals you're not prepared to "adopt"? Sounds like a nice way to help animals, but you might want to know a bit more about the animals likely to be foisted upon "foster homes" Juniper Russo's:

I can hear someone out there saying about those Manx-type kittens, "Attacked and abandoned by their mother"? Yes...that's not necessarily how a cat person would describe it, but that's how many humans do. For the first few weeks of life, before their eyes open and they start eating solid food, kittens can't clean themselves as cats normally do; they depend on their mother (or, in rare cases, their human godparents) to bathe their back ends and complete their digestive process. It's not as disgusting as it sounds, since what comes out of a healthy kitten is curds and whey from cat's milk. What comes out of a sick kitten is nastier, and if the mother cat has any choice in the matter she'll walk away and leave the kittens alone until they recover...once in a while they do. But if she's confined to a cage with them, she'll push them away, and her "attacks" may become rough.

At the Cat Sanctuary, the last time Grayzel had kittens, they developed feline enteritis. She abandoned them for about a week; it was obviously hard on her--she came back every day to check on them, and they tried to go to her, and she kept walking away from them--but she persisted. Adult cats who have this disease can usually be cured by antibiotics; giving even a microdose of antibiotics to kittens this stage is often just an expensive way to kill them. So they cried, and looked as if they were going to starve, and I wondered whether euthanasia would be more humane, but I just prayed for them and sponged them off from time to time. And they recovered. Grayzel took them back, fed them, and loved them, and their eyes opened, they started growing again, they started following me around. And then they became sick again. And by this time they were old enough that I could try to help them, and they trusted me...and they still died. So now Grayzel doesn't have kittens.

When the problem is genetic, as it is for some purebred Manx kittens...ick ick ick. I once wrote a Yahoo article about the "Top Ten Reasons to Spay or Neuter Your Manx Cat." Some Manx fanciers commented that I "obviously" didn't know anything about breeding this breed--which is true enough, I've known more than my fair share of Manx cats but I had nothing to do with bringing them into the world--and that there are no problems with breeding these mutant cats "if you know what you're doing."'s the cats who are actually doing it, and they have their own ideas...which are not always conducive to the happiest experience for would-be godparents of kittens. I feel vindicated, even as I condole with Juniper Russo.