Saturday, June 28, 2008

Always Surprises

Fostering new cats always comes with surprises. Take Camille who we have now (known to us as Hazelnut). First surprise: did you know that a cat in heat when spayed may still yowl right after being spayed? The little gal couldn't be spayed until her kittens were done nursing (something they were reluctant to give up). She came to our house to give her some freedom from her growing brood that was in need of weaning and some much-needed individual attention. I was warned she might go into heat before her spay appointment and sure enough. But I was sure upon return from the vet she'd be both quiet and in need of rest. Instead, she was full of energy, all over the house, and still yowling! I guess it takes some time to get the hormones out of the system. She did stop but for awhile I'd wondered if I'd mistook a noisy vocal personality for being in heat.

Second surprise. I just finished writing Mary Ann, the cat division director, that Camille probably wouldn't be good around other cats because she seemed so nervous around ours. Then, while at our cabin, I discover her on the top bunk snuggling with our male Tabby, Leaf.

Third surprise. We though Camille was a quiet shy girl. Last night I heard a cat racing all over the bedroom, then up the stairs and down the stairs. I was sure it was Petal but soon saw it was Camille. It is like a light switch turned on for her and she is finally at ease because she's been chasing some sort of pompom puffball of my daughter's all over the house, moving like lightning.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fostering Kittens?

Potential fosters and even some of our current fosters frequently ask, "How much work are kittens?".  That's a loaded question.  Kittens are adorable and they win your heart pretty quickly but they are a large commitment of time and energy.  

Kittens who aren't bottle feeding (that's a WHOLE other commitment of time and energy) often still need coaxing to eat as they switch from mom to canned and dry food.  Coaxing can include force-feeding  which is messy and must be done 3-5 times a day.  With no mom, more help is needed to fill the tummy.  

You need to check the litterbox a.m. and p.m., watching for diarrhea, and give lots of play and snuggling time, the fun part, as well as time out and about in the house with people moving around and typical hubbub EACH day.  It's our job to provide them with varied experiences and exposure to different household noises so they can join a forever home in good shape. 

As for diarrhea, it can come on quickly and be deadly in a kitten  who weighs 2 lbs. or less.  Dehydration which leads to organ failure can occur if not rectified today.  We've had kittens exposed to distemper or other infection in utero who may have neurological problems, calici virus causes painfully sore legs, mouth infection, not eating and temps.  A trip to the vet is in order and possibly antibiotics, pain meds, force feeding and sub q fluids.  

Time and miles:  Going away for a long weekend?  We'll need to find a foster parent to take them who is experienced with these young ones.  Then it's on to the vet to be tested, for first shots, to a spay/neuter appointment and to every adoption until they are placed.  

Most kittens catch on to the litterbox quickly, even without a mom, but some are slower and need more help and structure.  They'll need a safe and cozy room to nap and play in when you aren't around to supervise.  Because they will have been out and about in your home, you'll be able to tell the new owner about keeping the toilet lid down, what kind of a door dasher you have on your hands, that they scoot into the refrigerator or dryer very easily and love to tip over wastepaper baskets.  

Worst of all we can have complications - FIP is fatal, panleukopenia is almost all the time, unsettled tummies may call for a special diet and medications that delay adoption, ringworm happens and must be treated which will take several months.  Cases of less active behavior, eye infections, lack of appetite have to be noted and brought to the attention of the foster coordinator quickly.  Like all children, they seem to get sick when you are the busiest or on a weekend.  

Some of our cats and kittens have had unfortunate accidents before they come to us.  They will need extra time to recuperate.  

Love it?  Yes.  But I'd have to say fostering kittens is a fragile balance.  All of these situations have happened to our family in the last 2 yrs.  Bottle babies are especially fragile but the other problems can lead to the saddest times too.  When you go to the vet with a very ill kitten, knowing you will come home alone, is one of the worst things you will ever experience.  We have lots of joys and some very painful, sad times too.  

Kittens are cute.  Kittens are adorable.  Kittens are a LOT of work.  When you sign on as a kitten foster, you sign on to add them to your home as a member of your family, not to board them in your home until we can place them.   There's lots of  support and help available and way too many kittens who need our help.  It takes a special commitment to foster kittens.  

There are also many, many older kittens and adult cats who need a foster home too until we can find a forever home for them.  Try out an 'easier' task first and then move on to those adorable kittens if you think you're up to it!  Most often new fosters are given a cat from an existing foster home so we can tell you something about quirks and favorite toys and foods.  Then it's on to getting to know the new kid, giving them lots of loving and playtime and bringing to adoptions.  

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Why Foster?

For any of you wondering about fostering or those who never considered it, let me share a few of my experiences. I was always the person who seemed to encounter desperate homeless cats that we couldn’t take in because our own cats were intolerant of newcomers. The stray kitten alone in the woods, the attention-starved cat a friend wanted to discard after the arrival of a baby, the old tabby lingering at the apartment complex hoping for some hand-outs. When our ancient cats died, we declared we would not actively get a new cat; we would wait for the inevitable needy cat to find us and for once we could take it in. You know what happened of course. No desperate cats showed up at our door anymore, now that we were available.

Then we discovered fostering. Not only could we take in one homeless cat after another and find them forever homes, but there was so much more joy we didn’t anticipate. The excitement of a new cat arriving, discovering their personalities emerge from the moment they poke their noses out of the carrier. What would this little one be like? There’s Tamari the brown tabby who chose to remain in the open carrier for 7 hours before creeping out in the dead of night. Or Ian, the orange tabby, who bounded out and started pouncing on things immediately. Or Dewdrop the gray girl who crawled right into our laps. Isaiah, the flame point Siamese, casually walked out as if he’d lived here his whole life. Over the first week or so, it is such a delight to discover who these creatures are. But even more wonderful is filling their cup with attention that the majority were so deprived of. I have found that most start out seeming incredibly needy. They want to be petted constantly and follow us all over the house. Over time, I can see them start to calm. They are not so desperate and they begin to relax. They seem so happy to have food and love; two things that most of them were very short on.

There is the learning curve as well. Never feed them first thing in the morning or else soon enough they will do all they can to make sure morning begins very early. We learned how to create a makeshift lock on our breadbox for Becca, the tabby-and-white girl who could get into anything for bread.

Our half litter of kittens (who incidentally did show up one day in the middle of the woods without a mom), Henry, Hayden, and Marshmallow, were so rambunctious that we kept them in my office at night and when I opened the door in the morning, they’d tumble out as if they’d been stacked one on top of the other, listening for my footstep. Then would begin a day of chasing, pouncing, surprise attacks, and of course snuggling to sleep as a threesome bundle of fur.

Who do we have now? Camille. Only we call her Hazelnut. She’s a ‘rubber’. She interacts with you by rubbing on your hand and on any available piece of furniture. She moves slowly as if through water, sliding her body along a bookcase or your leg. She’s the gentlest one we’ve had so far. She is so happy to have someone want to notice HER instead of just her kittens. We’re still learning who she is but hope soon she’ll be in a loving forever home.

Feeding altered feral cats in Anoka. Help is needed!

There is a colony of spayed and neutered feral cats in Anoka who need regular feeding and watering.  Several years ago Animal Ark spayed, neutered and cats were returned to the site and volunteers are needed to continue to support these cats.  This has created a managed colony where there are no longer many, many kittens being born only to become feral and reproduce again and again.  It has lessened or eliminated fighting by the male cats because they are no longer fighting over the females.  

As you can see from the pictures, the cats are well fed and enjoying their lives.  Can  you help?  Volunteers are needed to feed and provide fresh water once a day, every day of the week.  Could you feed one day a week?  Perhaps you live near there or drive by on your way to and from work or on errands.  

Dry food is provided, you will need to bring a large thermos of fresh water with you to refill bowls. Diana would appreciate any help you can provide! Contact her at  Phone 763-767-7989.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Katie and Camille

These two 'mom's were spayed today also.  Camille will be 'at the cabin' for the weekend so she won't be able to attend the adoption.  Katie, who is sleek and black,  plans to come.  She loves to play with another cat - one of her kittens is her favorite.  She also likes to be around you, follows you around and sits near you in your chair or on the couch.  Camille had a burn on her back, over her shoulder blades, and lost a patch of hair.  It is starting to grow back now.  By our next adoption it should have filled in.  

Kittens, kittens!

Charlie, Corrine and Cory will also be at the adoption on Sat. and Sun., 6/21 and 6/22.  They are very social kids and love to run and play and visit for some attention. We have many wonderful 'older' cats - they're all under 2-4 yrs of age.  Since cats live, on average, from 14-18 yrs. you will have a great companion for many years to come.  One of the advantages of adoption an older kitten or 'adult' is that we know what their personality is like.  Want a lap cat?  Look at Holly.  Want a busy kid?  How about Nick.  Looking for a pair?  Mocha and Sophie.  If you are anyone you know would like to adopt a cat, please e mail to or call the 'want to adopt' line at 952-831-3825.  Pictures and bios posted at! 

It's a big day today

5 Pet Haven kittens and 2 moms are being spayed and neutered today.  They'll be able to come to the adoptions this weekend.  If you are interested in kittens, we have very nice ones with lots of personality.  Colors?  You name it, and we probably have it.  

Katie is the mom of the 4 black kittens mentioned in an older post.  She will be at the adoption with her two boys, Kirk and Kyle.  They are busy, busy boys.  They love to play and run and snooze.  

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Kittens love games.  Here's a favorite one - 

Katie and her kittens came to Pet Haven from a home with too many cats.  By the end of this month, June, the kittens will have been spayed and neutered and be ready to go to new homes.  Katie will be spayed the middle of the month.  Keep watching the website at to look for their names so you'll know when they are ready!  Kirk, Kiki, Kelly and Kyle.  

Katie and kittens

Katie is weaning her kittens.  They've been lots of work.  She's still willing to play with them and give them a kiss sometimes but finds being a mom a bit tiring!

Even the kittens take naps occasionally.  3 of them have been wearing a hair scrunchy to help tell them apart.  One of them took off his collar so it's been a guessing game to know who is who again! We think this is Kirk and Kiki.  

Monday, June 2, 2008

Pet Haven at Grand Old Day parade

We had 3 kitties join the contingency of Pet Haven volunteers, adopters, and dogs at Pet Haven's first appearance in the Grand Old Day parade.

Pet Haven cat foster Sandra looked especially cool in her Cat in a Hat outfit. And everyone wore peace sign necklaces to celebrate the 70s theme of the parade.

The strollers worked well for the cats. While we were waiting for our turn in the parade lineup, several people came over and petted Spanky (who is up for adoption) as he had his harness on and the top of the stroller was open. He didn't seem bothered by the dogs either. Kristin, who walked Silver in another stroller, kept Silver happy by reaching in and nuzzling him often.

It was a great day for all!

Watch a video for photos from the parade: