Kitten love and loss
After moving into our first home a few weeks ago, Gideon and I were serious about fostering kitties for Good Shepherd Humane Society. We are a cat-loving household — the more, the better! That’s why we were so excited when three orphaned kittens were left at Good Shepherd two weeks ago. It was our chance to take care of those sweet babies, to ensure that they could survive without a mama cat to rely on.
So I brought all three kittens home on a Tuesday night and we started bottle-feeding them ‘round the clock. There were two sandy-colored kittens and one grey kitten. We named the sandy-colored kittens Squeaky and Jaws and the grey kitten LG.
Squeaky was the loudest — he would even meow when we fed him! Jaws got his name because he loved to bite. He was the first kitten to try wet food, and he was all about it. As for LG, his name stands for “Little Ghoulash,” after our feisty grey cat Ghoulie. We did not expect LG to embody Ghoulie’s personality, too, but it seems that we made our own bed with that one.
For the first week, everything went great. The kittens drank their formula and learned how to use the bathroom. They were super quiet when I first brought them home, but it didn’t take them long to start talking to us and playing with each other.
Because he could do much of his work from home, Gideon got up at night to feed the kittens and stayed with them during the day. He’d send me pictures and videos of them doing the cute things kittens do. The first few days, I was so scared we’d lose one of them. Sometimes I’d check their breathing just to be sure they were napping and not dead.
Kittens are fragile — anybody who has raised kittens will tell you that. We knew the statistics going in but kept moving forward, one day at a time, doing everything we could to meet their needs. Once we got past the first week, I started to feel more confident that they would all make it. Gideon began feeding them mushed-up wet food and formula and it seemed to be working. They were eating and drinking!
We let the kittens roam free so they could seek out the gross mush if they were hungry. They mostly chose to follow us around the house. On Friday night, Gideon noticed that Squeaky wasn’t eating as readily as his siblings. We hoped he was just developmentally behind the other two.
When Gideon woke me up on Saturday, I could tell he was upset before he even spoke. He said something was wrong with one of the kittens. He started to cry.
“Which one?” I asked.
We rushed Squeaky to the vet, driving nearly an hour for urgent care. Sadly, Squeaky wasn’t strong enough to make it. I drove home while Gideon cradled Squeaky’s lifeless body, covered in his favorite soft towel — the one I wrapped around him after his first bath. We were told that there was nothing we could have done, that Squeaky was always going to die. That’s just how it goes for some kittens, the vet said.
When we got home, Gideon found a burial site and I wrapped Squeaky in a clean towel. He had peed on the way to the vet. He deserved to be buried in a clean towel. We said goodbye in our back yard. Gideon kissed Squeaky’s head before we placed him in his grave and said he loved him.
We knew fostering kittens would be heartbreaking when the time came to give them back to the shelter. But we certainly didn’t expect to experience this kind of heartbreak. It happened so fast, and we were so helpless.
The best we can do is focus on taking care of the two kittens we have left, Squeaky’s best friends. Fostering kittens is a scary thing to do, but that doesn’t make us any less grateful for the opportunity.
Please remember to adopt, don’t shop. If you’d like to foster or adopt an animal, give Good Shepherd Humane Society a call at 479-253-9188.