My family fostered five kittens for the Humane Society of Chittenden County over the past two months. I had fun documenting the foster kittens’ growth and wanted to share some photos.
We had switched to homeschooling our four children back in November and this was the first big project we took on that never would have happened if the kids were still in traditional school. (Well, maybe spending two hours a day reading the Harry Potter series to my big kids should be on the list too!)
In the process of convincing the family to adopt a kitten, our 12 year old daughter, Abby, learned about kitten rescue and fostering. We adopted Nimbus in late December and he immediately brought some much needed levity to our quarantined home.
After Nimbus arrived, Abby immediately began a campaign to foster kittens in our home. We asked all the questions. She had the answers. When she was unsure, she went to Kitty Lady’s website and YouTube Channel, learned and reported back. We decided to support her request and applied to be a kitten foster family. She dove in hard, ordering the required materials and continuing to expand her knowledge of young kitten care. She learned about feeding schedules, common medical problems and weaning kittens.
Foster Kittens Arrive!
Fast forward to the morning of April 8. We were notified of some kittens that had arrived at the shelter overnight. Within hours, we were welcoming five kittens to our pre-pandemic guest room which was my husband’s home office at the time.
Our foster kittens were only about 4 weeks old and not even a pound each when they came to us, so they needed feeding every 3 hours. We set Abby up with an alarm and let her adjust her sleep schedule to care for the kittens. Listening to her stories of being up at 3 am and 6 am reminded me of my own days with little babies. She took a morning nap when they did and still got out to play every afternoon.
Caring for Pediatric Foster Kittens was a Rich Learning Experience
When they are so young and small, kittens need to be weighed before and after each feeding. That real life data collection was unlike any experience I was ever able to offer my students during my 19 years as a science teacher. Some kittens gained faster than others. Every once in a while, she’d realize that one must’ve gotten squeezed out at the food bowl in that round.
Of course all the studying in the world never quite prepares one for the experience in real life. The folks at HSCC were super helpful when one kitten had a sprained paw and another developed an eye infection. I often found Abby in her room researching what next steps to take to support the growth and development of the kittens. We embraced the flexibility of home school letting her keep “new mom” sleeping habits and following the curiosity that only comes from a real live problem. We discussed electrolytes, dehydration, blood sugar and more — topics that can feel dry in a classroom at any age. I’d read about “Problem Based Learning” and even tried to implement it in my high school biology classroom. But, it took my daughter bringing five kittens to my basement for two months for me to see how it really works.
And, when Problem Based Learning works, it WORKS! She was truly integrating science, math reading and even social studies (how do shelters make tough choices and how do they fund themselves?) every single day to address a problem that ignited her passion. There were certainly moments when I worried that she wasn’t keeping up with her math app or spelling, but then we’d have a lively and juicy conversation while playing with the kittens and I’d know all was well in her world.
Good-bye is the Goal of Fostering
On June 8, the kittens were about 3 months old and all over 3 pounds. The time had come to bring them back to HSCC to be neutered, microchipped and vaccinated in preparation for finding their forever homes.
There were a few tears of joy. I recalled the bittersweet feeling of sending a favorite class on their way in June. We were all proud to return well-socialized and healthy kittens to the shelter.
But… We Decided to Adopt One!
Kale, a sweet and spunky tuxedo cat, will be joining our family after his neutering. Look for a post coming soon about him!
Looking to the Future
We are hoping to foster again. Supporting kittens as they grew from less than a pound to more than three was not easy yet it was highly rewarding. Our whole family loved having kittens to play with whenever we had a moment of sadness or frustration. I’m sure they will be good companions to their forever families.
Our kitten fostering experience also sold me on the value of project based learning. We’ve got a few more projects marinating, so stay tuned for updates. 🙂