Although I founded and directed a dog rescue in California, my studio apartment here in Washington, DC limits the amount of space I have for fostering. So Arlo and Lucia (my cats) and I have fostered kittens for Homeward Trails for the past 3 years. In April I realized that I had been without foster animals for the longest time since I began fostering 9 years ago and decided to foster a litter of 4, since it was the beginning of kitten season and I knew the kill shelters would be flooded. After about a month, I was sent an email with the following adorable little faces:
They had come from Wetzel, West Virginia and had been bottle-fed. Their scruffy appearance was due to a large amount of formula caked in their fur and between their toes- mixed with clumping action clay cat litter, which can be deadly for little ones if it clumps in their digestive tract. Kittens can be terribly messy eaters and an inexperienced foster can cause unintended harm. When we picked them up on 1 June, Jonathan immediately received a crash course in bathing kittens! (And a crash course in fostering kittens, too!)
Arlo and Lucia on the other hand, are pros at fostering kittens. Arlo loves baby kittens: he sleeps with them, plays with them, bathes them and is generally a great “mom.” Lucia shows them the ropes via correcting behavior that is not acceptable for kitten interaction with adult cats: they don’t like it when you bite them, dive bomb them, swat at them, try to eat at the same time, or any other “kitten-like” behavior! You can see her “tolerant face” in the photo below!
The kittens were identified as the “June Kittens,” each having the name of a birthstone, astrological sign, or flower associated with June. The first photo in this post and the two above are of “Rose,” the kitten Jonathan immediately identified as his favorite. After about a month of fostering, I noticed that “Rose” was actually a male kitten and so he became “Castor”- one of the twins in the Gemini constellation. His Petfinder description: Castor is about as much of an imp of a kitten as you could find! He’s active and adventurous and a real go-getter. His wide-eyed “Who, me??” look usually gets him out of trouble when he’s been exploring a bit too much! He’s the first of his three siblings to try anything new- including his latest habit of greeting you by rubbing her cute little face on your ankles. This little one plays his little heart out and then purrs just as fiercely when he’s ready to cuddle and tell you all about his adventures.
Homeward Trails only adopts kittens in pairs (which is a wonderful rule) and it quickly became apparent that Honeysuckle was Castor’s sidekick. “Honeysuckle is Rose’s second-in-command and willing partner in most escapades. If Rose is the first to try something new, Honeysuckle is the “engineer” who perfects it. She’s just as adventurous as Rose and she’s always up for some rough-and-tumble play. She’s a bit more coordinated, so when they practice their mid-air Jedi moves, she’s got a lot more style!”
Gemini was the runt and the smallest of the four, until he caught up over the last couple of weeks and has been holding his own with his sisters and brother. He’s a little less coordinated though, so he much prefers soaking up attention to playing! “Gemini has spent his life trying to catch up to his three bigger sisters, but he’s no wimp- this little one is a true gentleman and a real ladies man! His favorite thing to do is to curl up in your lap and to tell you with his purrs how truly happy he is to be there. He’s a real cuddler and will make a fantastic lap kitty!”
“Pearl is an ‘I think I can’ type of kitten- like the little engine that could! She’s always up for exploring new scents and smells and new areas of her foster home. At the end of a great exploratory journey, when she’s tuckered her little self out, she will crawl up in your lap and purr herself to sleep.” She has become quite the lovebug over the past two weeks and I’m happy to report that she and Gemini will be adopted together tomorrow night!
Photographically, animals can be difficult to capture . . . as evidenced by Facebook newsfeeds with pet photos that are out-of-focus, too dark, or otherwise. 9 years of photographing for rescues and shelters has taught me several tricks. First, I’ve noted when the lighting coming into my apartment via my one window is best- in the early morning. Second, I wait until after they have been fed, played for a bit, and are a little on the tired side so that they are more easily “posable.” And third, I am not above placing props next to them- even if they are not playing at the moment.
The above photos were taken for their Petfinder profiles and are are deliberately soft-focused so that they invoke the mushy feeling people get when they see kittens. The morning was rainy and quickly becoming dark, so unfortunately by the time I got to Pearl, her photos were darker than I’d like. But that shot where she is looking directly at the camera made up for it! I achieve the “kitten looking adorably into the camera” photos by making a strange noise (squawk, arcade game noises, whistles, etc.) at the exact moment I click the shutter.
Still, there are some times when you have to just grab your camera and shoot. The below pics were taken with my iPhone when Jonathan was trying to tire out everyone out in the evening. The second and third were taken with the flash on, hence the creepy eyes and blurry kittens. My favorite is the second, where Gemini’s toes are stretched out like fingers.