Prior to fostering, I had never had an indoor cat. Growing up with farm animals, I had been around a fair number of cats, but barn cats. Barn cats are a different animal all together than the house cat in terms of care. Sure, we left some water and dry food out for them, but they mainly subsisted on their favorite meal: horse feed thieving mice (poor, super cute little furry things!). I often found remaining entrails strewn across the barn floor in the mornings. And a litter box is superfluous in a barn full of sawdust. I would occasionally find a dry, hard cat excrement in the barn and pitchfork scoop it right along with the horse dung, but I suspect the cats more often went outside to take care of business.
We also (quite irresponsibly) never spayed or neutered our barn cats. We thought we had gotten several males when we were establishing our crew, but alas, one female was in the mix. Snooze (she was really sleepy for the first few days we had her!) was a gorgeous, friendly white female who was excellent at hunting and at producing really cute kittens. These pregnancies, deliveries, and nursing periods were the makings of my adolescent euphoria but, reflecting back, I am ashamed that we so recklessly contributed to the cat overpopulation problem.
And now here I was, with two indoor cats, Shadow and Midnight, and I was quickly learning some things. First, just because cats prefer to bury their excrement doesn’t mean it all stays in the litter box. I had placed the litter box on the floor in a recess in our counter between the two sinks. In those early days, we were all trudging through the litter that followed the kittens out of the box every time we brushed our teeth or washed our hands. It was not uncommon for a piece of poop to end up on the floor as well. Sometimes cats have “stickers” (those pieces of poop reluctant to disconnect!) and kittens are far too busy to sit around waiting for those to come free before dashing off to explore! I tweaked our set up by placing a towel under the box extending to the front of it, hoping it would collect some of the stray litter. This definitely reduced the amount of litter that made it to the tiles, and also served as a visual reminder for us to give wide berth to the litter area. I didn’t want to confuse these two cuties by completely moving the litter box, but I told myself that I would set it up in the separate toilet room for the next feline fosters.
The foster director had told me that kittens are not to savvy about protecting their own lives. Much like young children, they like to explore their territory often to their detriment and any area they’re in needs to be “kitten proofed”. Toilet seats must be kept in the down position and blinds (and their strings) must be kept up. The room the kittens were in has three sets of blinds and Shadow and Midnight were climbing the ones I didn’t think they could reach within the day. Luckily, they were uninjured and I am a quick learner; the blinds and strings were quickly secured out of reach.
I was also learning that cats have definite food preferences. The shelter had given me a variety of wet food for them to try. When I put out certain brands, they would scarf them down like they hadn’t been fed for days. Other brands were still in the bowl, barely licked, hours later. I ended up making some extra store trips for Fancy Feast kitten, Shadow’s and Midnight’s favorite wet food.
Our early days with Shadow and Midnight were exhilarating and educational for me. I was so happy to be offering them a home and socialization and space to play during their isolation time (due to feline lice) instead of the alternative: a cage at the shelter.