Our third set of foster kittens were the Dynamic Duo, a pair of cuteness-overload kittens who came to us at a very young age (5 weeks) because their mother had stopped caring for them.
Cats are usually wonderful mothers, but occasionally, a very young, distressed mother who is inexperienced and not ready for kittens will reject her litter. Ideally kittens will stay with their mothers for 12 weeks, and it’s a bad idea to separate them from their moms before 8 weeks of age, as this can lead to psychological and health problems.
Rambler and Nimbus were happy little guys, surprisingly well-adjusted despite the early loss of their mother. However, they suffered from a common health problem among kittens who part from their mothers too early: digestive issues leading to chronic diarrhea. So although it was rewarding to have such loving, affectionate, playful little guys around, there was also a lot of clean-up required.
We were able to control the problem by adding a small amount of pumpkin puree to the boys’ food at each meal. Pumpkin can be used safely to treat both diarrhea and constipation in kittens and adult cats (it works for dogs as well). Just be sure to use pure pumpkin–not the pie filling, which contains spices that are toxic to pets (I get asked about the pumpkin treatment so often that I’ve written an article about it that you can read here if you’d like more information).
Despite their digestive issues, the boys grew and thrived. Nimbus had an eye infection that we had to treat with drops, but otherwise, the boys were relatively healthy. They were also fearless, leaping off the tallest pieces of furniture they could find and seeking adventure wherever they went.
Nimbus and Rambler were the first foster kittens we’d brought home since we adopted our resident cats, Smokey and Freya. The latter were still relatively young (the equivalent of human teens) and we didn’t know how trustworthy they would be around the kittens.
When the residents first met the Dynamic Duo, they thought we’d brought home some wonderful new toys and proceeded to chase them around, tackling them periodically. However, after a few squeaky protests, the feline teens realized that they were dealing with living beings and started behaving more like nurturing older siblings or parents.
Smokey decided that the kittens would enjoy playing the role of predator, so he started taking turns in the predator role, play-chasing the kittens for a bit and then letting them chase him for awhile. Sometimes he’d even puff up, pretending to be scared.
Smokey’s realization that he should share the pretend-predator role is quite interesting, as it suggests that he’s capable of thinking about what another being would enjoy and indicates an intelligence beyond what people typically ascribe to cats.
Freya started acting like a little mother with the boys, grooming them and carrying them around by their scruffs, making the trilling mother call. Her assumption of the mother role was great for us because the kittens were still suffering episodes of diarrhea and they were not old enough to groom themselves thoroughly. Whenever a kitten had an episode of diarrhea, we’d just hand the messy kitten over to her and say “here Freya, can you take care of this for us?” and she would.
Once we had their digestive issues under control, we took photos and created written profiles for the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA) website where potential adopters can view cats and kittens that are available for adoption. The response was instant. Given how cute these kittens were, there was a risk that potential adopters would form a stampede.
The first couple who came to view the boys made the decision to adopt them on the spot, even though we were up front about their chronic digestive issues. Although these issues were controlled 99% of the time by the pumpkin dietary supplement, the boys still had tummy troubles occasionally (they had the worst digestive issues I’d ever seen, but that’s not surprising, given that none of the other kittens we fostered had left their mothers at 5 weeks of age).
We had the opportunity to visit the boys as adults in their new home, where they are happy and thriving. Rambler is a cheerful, lazy, stocky guy who lies down to drink water and likes to look up women’s skirts. Nimbus is a high-energy slim little guy who plays catch (he runs to the top of a cat tree and stands on his hind legs to catch a toy thrown by his owner).
The boys continue to have the occasional digestive issue. Although problems are now infrequent, they’ll probably have to be on the pumpkin remedy for life. They receive exceptional care from their owners, one of whom used to have dogs, so she was accustomed to doing far more daily care work than a typical cat owner. The boys get regular baths and their teeth are brushed daily.
As adults, the kittens had developed their full point markings. Siamese cats are born white (only their noses are dark) and their markings come in slowly as they mature. The process is temperature-sensitive, which means that in warm temperatures, the markings will be lighter, whereas cooler temperatures trigger the development of darker points. As adults, the Dynamic Duo fell somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, with moderately dark points.
For more foster kitten profiles, see the main Foster Kitten Photo Diary page. Visit the main Cats page for information about cat psychology, behavior, communication, training, feeding, and pregnant cat and kitten care.