Learning About Fostering Cats
Today it’s raining in my area, so I won’t be going outside and doing anything outside. My garden area was cleaned the other day in the sun and warmth, but today I’ll be inside. Time to turn to indoor activities.
Fun For All Ages
The internet wasn’t around when my daughter was small, and it was still in its infancy while she was a teen. But today you can find loads of things to do online. Some of them aren’t good, but others are educational and fun.
Because I homeschooled, I can think of many ways to make seemingly time-wasting activities educational. Today I want to introduce you to two very different cat rescue live streams and how to make them educational.
Kitten Academy is a great live stream for families. The chat is turned off so you don’t have to worry about things happening in the chat that you don’t want your children to see, read, or imagine., nor will they be bullied or stalked. They have a “no sads” policy, which means that they do not talk about sad things. The stream is a place to relax, learn, and enjoy raising kittens in a great way. You can find the Kitten Academy live stream here.
The “No Sads” Policy
The “no sads” policy means that you will not see or hear sad things on their stream. Even on their archived videos, which have an ad, you won’t see sad, heart-wrenching ads. We have enough of those sad realities in real life.
In the event that a kitten passes away, an explanation is given and they move on. Even on the Kitten Academy Facebook page, “Mewniversity,” the comments of condolences are allowed for only 24 hours, then turned off. Yes, it was sad, and sad things happen, but life moves on. We focus on the good things we do have and not the sadness life throws our way (a good lesson we should all apply).
Even though Headmaster “Mr. A” has admitted that he doesn’t know much about the Bible, it is a very biblical concept. In Philippians 4:8 it says to think on good things, not the bad, things that are true, lovely, of good report, honorable… In the prior chapter Paul writes to forget those things that are behind and press towards the mark… While Paul was talking about his biblical calling in life, Mr. A’s call is to care for these animals the best he can. He must put behind the past and press toward his mark, which is to raise the kittens the best way he can, training them and their moms to trust humans, accept love, be loving, be good housecats, etc.
These are Domestic Cats
The cats at Kitten Academy come from domestic situations through a humane society. This may be a home where the owners can’t manage a pregnant mom or, in one case, where the people didn’t know how to raise kittens, or even from hoarding situations. We aren’t told much about their background. In fact, often Mr. A doesn’t even know. What matters is caring for them, raising them properly, making sure they get any medical care they need, and finding them the right homes.
They Are Raised in a House
Kitten Academy is inside Mr. A’s and his wife, DJ’s home. While this home was purchased specifically with the Academy in mind, it is still their home. Mr. A is home all day caring for them. DJ is an ER doctor and is often away. In fact, at this writing, he doesn’t know when he will see her next as she is dealing with Coronavirus in their Connecticut area.
All the cats and kittens get whatever medical care they need, including their “graduation surgery” so they don’t produce any more kittens. Watchers of Kitten Academy donate funds so that there’s never a concern about paying the vet bills. It’s covered. You can donate directly or by becoming a “Patreon” which also gives you access to their private Discord chat. More information about that is below the YouTube video and on their website.
When you adopt a cat from Kitten Academy you know they received the best care possible. They have been trained to be good housecats. You can see their personalities and Mr. A will tell everyone what they are like. Do they get along well with other cats in his house? Are they lap cats? Do they like to sleep in bed with you? And more.
Mr. A has one cat right now who doesn’t like kittens. In fact, she rejected her own kitten. Adopting her means that you shouldn’t bring new kittens into your house. She doesn’t do anything to them. She just hisses and walks away. But it’s her thing. Good to know.
Some people fill out an application even before they see a kitten they want. Then when “the right” kitten comes along, you are pre-approved and the adoption goes through very quickly. When Tinker (the current Calico mom) came in, one of her kittens was approved within, I want to say, an hour. That kitten has already gone to its furever home, sooner than normal, but as soon as he was released after his neuter surgery.
Tiny Kittens is a rescue in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. Their focus is feral cats. The intent is TNR (trap, neuter and return), but Shelly Roche, the person who founded and heads Tiny Kittens, will tell you that they aren’t real good about the “R” part. Partly because it wouldn’t be right to return cats that need ongoing medical care. And many cats with medical issues find their way to their trapping stations – especially in winter and especially as they get to their TNR goal. Last I heard they were over 95% TNR’d at the Happy Forest Colony. That means they are “maintaining” the colony. New cats always find their way there, so it’s an ongoing effort.
What Makes A Cat Feral?
Feral cats are cats that have been born in the wild and have had little or no human interaction. In most cases, they are afraid of humans. Shelly will say that they are afraid that they are going to be eaten by humans – we are predators. That may be their thinking. They know we are bigger than them and they may have had some negative human interaction. They feel they must lash out any and every way they know how: claws and teeth. It’s fight or be eaten.
They Live in Colonies
Feral cats life in colonies, they live communally. This is for protection and to share the duties. We saw at Tiny Kittens when three pregnant moms came in together two years ago a vivid picture of how this works. Understand that these three didn’t know each other before they came in. “Chloe” was the oldest. “Ramona” used Chloe as a “security blanket.” Whenever Shelly came in, Ramona hid behind Chloe. As an older cat who had been through many pregnancies before, Chloe was enjoying room service and a warm, soft bed. She accepted human care, even though she wasn’t cuddly. Ramona loved to bathe and play with the kittens, but didn’t like nursing. Chloe loved nursing and the kittens were all mostly raised on her milk. In an outdoor colony, Ramona may have become the hunter of food while Chloe stayed home and nursed the kittens.
It was funny to watch how the division of duties unfolded live. Ramona had her kittens first. Then Rula had hers. One was stillborn, if I remember right. Another died. She took it to Chloe. Chloe tried to revive it – which was amazing to watch (chest compressions and mouth to mouth – who taught them to do that??). Then she “talked” gently to Rula and Rula went back to her surviving baby. Chloe was very comforting and loving towards Rula. I cried and cried.
But this wasn’t the only “medical service” provided with this threesome. Chloe was an older mom and had a difficult delivery. She also had the largest litter. Ramona massaged her belly. She did everything you’d see a fully trained doula do with humans. It was amazing to watch!
Rula didn’t want anything to do with humans. She lashed out when Shelly tried to care for her and her surviving baby. Shelly made the decision to move her baby in with the other kittens and return Rula to her home in the forest (called “The Happy Forest”). During her spay surgery, the vet realized Rula was bleeding internally and her uterus had fallen apart. She didn’t know how she was even able to carry those kittens, let alone for any to survive. No wonder she seemed angry all the time. She was in pain and anemic. Rula now enjoys her Happy Forest home free of pregnancies, free of pain, sickness, and disease. We see her pictures posted on Facebook when a volunteer sees her at the feeding station.
So, back to Ramona and Chloe. After Chloe had her kittens, Ramona decided Chloe could nurse them all. Chloe wasn’t really happy with having 8 kittens to nurse. For a couple of days we saw Ramona taking her kittens to Chloe, Chloe returning them to Ramona’s “nest.” And then Ramona taking them back to Chloe. It was hilarious!! In the end, all the kittens were in with Chloe. Ramona came in for occasional nursing, but mostly to get comfort from Chloe, bathe the kittens and teach them to play. Then she was off into the main room to play and look out the window dreaming of her forest home (which she now enjoys).
Where Are Feral Cats Found?
You can find feral cats everywhere. Cities have feral colonies in neighborhoods. Farmers have feral colonies living in their barns. And there are feral colonies living in the wild.
Why Should We Care About Feral Cats?
I have a Google news feed on my phone that sometimes fills up with stories about feral cat problems. Reading about communities where the feral cats have become a problem and what the communities are doing is often very sad. Often the cats are trapped and euthanized en masse. I don’t know about you, but the thought of killing them just because they were born in the wild is very sad to me.
Enter TNR programs. As I said earlier, TNR stand for Trap, Neuter, and Return. This type of program doesn’t kill the feral cats, but doesn’t allow them to reproduce, either. In time, the colony diminishes in size. There is a place for feral cats in our communities as they keep down the rodent population. But too many and they get sick, fight each other, leave feces everywhere, etc. TNR efforts are a balancing act.
And It Costs Money
While some areas use students from a vet school to do the TNR surgeries, there’s still a cost for the building, the overseeing vet and all the surgical supplies. In my community, the cost of $25 is charged for every cat you bring in for TNR (the last time I checked). Every community is different. Donations are always welcome. You may donate to Tiny Kittens as well as your local shelter. As I’ve stated, they are breaking ground with their research, the sheer number of cats they’ve TNR’d, etc. While they may not be local to you, they are training rescuers globally. And that is worth a donation. Donate to Tiny Kittens on their YouTube channel (just click the $ sign in the chat) or through their website.
And It Takes Volunteers
Volunteers are needed to trap feral cats, take them to the shelter where they will be neutered, and then pick them up so they can be released back to where they were found. Unless they are adoptable, you want them to be released back to where they were found because it’s familiar territory. They have family there, they have figured out where they have sheltered areas to live, and they know where to get food.
Learning About Ferals
Tiny Kittens has made it their mission to educate people about feral cats. They aren’t mean animals that should be just killed and removed from society. They are just different from domestic cats and should be treated differently. Shelly was asked to come to the States to speak about feral cats. It was sponsored by Weyerva and Snowcats. Watch Saving Cats and Creating Compassion. For this video, have the tissues ready. This isn’t a compilation of sad stories, they are mostly compassionate, heart-warming stories. It is a condensed version of Shelly’s story as she (and the Tiny Kittens community) became the world’s leading expert on feral cats.
Ferals Have Different Health Issues
Feral Cats have different health issues – and because many don’t get in for medical care by the time they are trapped and get care, it is usually advanced. And because they interbreed, colonies have issues you might not see in other areas. One colony Shelly works with has dental issues. Those with dental issues tend to have kidney disease. It was through her efforts that vets realized the two are connected. But what comes first? Are their dental issues the cause of kidney disease, or does kidney disease that isn’t even detected on our teats yet the precursor of dental disease? We don’t know, but we now know they are interconnected because Tiny Kittens was able to track the connection.
Another colony has a genetic defect of kinked tails. Not a life-threatening health issues, but pretty normal in that colony.
Another colony has a blood issue. Many kittens die in that colony – at least they did until it was determined that they have this blood issue. Now the kittens born from that colony are all typed at birth. If they test for it, they are immediately taken to the vet. I can’t remember the details now. It reminded me of the Rh-negative factor in humans. But different in that these kittens aren’t miscarried but can’t have mom’s milk after birth. I believe they get a blood transfusion and then they are ok. It’s an extra step Shelly must take with all the kittens born from that colony.
Right now Tiny Kittens doesn’t have any kittens. They have one pregnant cat who is not on the free stream right now (there is a VIP stream that costs a monthly fee. She is currently on that). She was trapped last week. They actually trapped her last fall but she was lactating and needed to be returned in order to continue nursing the kittens she already had. When they trapped her last week, they had hoped they caught her before she was impregnated for the spring, but she already is pregnant. Once she gets closer to delivery, they will set her up in the nursery and have live cams on her.
The cats on the Tiny Kittens stream right now are all medical needs cats. Thor came in with infected eye sockets (no visible eyes), a respiratory issue and ringworm. Actually his eyes were there but they were behind the sockets. The vet did not know if he was born that way or if an infection did that. But he’s been medically treated and is ready for adoption. Originally he was in a smaller room with another cat, Nylia, who also came in with an eye infection. She lost one eye to an infection. She took over the role of being his seeing-eye cat. She taught him how to use the stairs and she taught him how to play. So those two will be adopted out together.
Also in this room is Harriet. She came in with eye issues and they thought she would forever be mostly blind, seeing only light and dark. But through the efforts of Shelly and her team and dedicated treatment, she has eyesight back in both of her eyes. Her daughter, Holiday, is also in the room. They are what’s called Tabby tuxies. They are Tabby striped kitties with white chests. Also in the room is Mirage. She is a tabby cat. And then there are two tuxy kitties, Ivan and Ilya. they are black and white. Ilya was born missing one vertebra and has trouble walking. Until the coronavirus stay-at-home order was put in place, Ilya was getting physical therapy in a swimming pool several nights a week and was doing really well. Now that he can’t have that therapy, he’s not doing as well as he was. But we know from the few therapy sessions he had that he did get, that physical therapy in the future will help him. Gwen, a volunteer Vet Tech, is doing floor exercises with him every day in the interim. I believe that’s all the kitties in this room right now.
What About Human Interaction?
I do have to say a little bit about the care they are receiving right now. This particular rescue is very hands-on with quite a few volunteers. And they will do anything and everything medically they can – even flying a cat to another country to a specialist to be assessed and/or treated. But Covid-19 changed some things. Due to the stay-at-home order in Langley, their volunteers cannot come in and cuddle with the kitties like they were doing before. Normally they have volunteers many hours every day. Right now, Shelly comes over to this building once or twice a day, the vet tech, Gwen, comes over a couple of times a day to give eye meds to Harriet and do physical therapy with Ilya. And there has been an evening volunteer to feed them. I just wanted to say that the level of human interaction you see today is not normal.
Tiny Kittens Chat
Tiny Kittens does have an open chat on their YouTube Channel. There are chat rules and moderators to enforce those rules. If I were a parent of children at home, I would turn off the chat and not allow it to be on. I’m not saying that the chatters are bad. The moderators do delete unacceptable chat things as fast as they can, but they cannot delete the name of the chatter. And some of those have become things I don’t want children to see. This is been a recent development and probably has to do with too many people being home and doing things they shouldn’t be doing, but I just wanted to give that forewarning right now. I know that Shelly has done everything over the years to make her site kid-friendly. Schools around the world use it for educational purposes. But some things are not in her control and that is one of them.
So, if you need some kitten therapy, head over to these two very different live streams and their webpages. They both give you an opportunity to learn many aspects of cats. If you just need to relax and watch some kitties, head over to Kitten Academy. As I said, they have a “no sads” policy. Every morning Mr. A does a close-up. Those can also be viewed on their Kitten Academy YouTube channel. If you want to learn about ferals, head over to the Tiny Kittens YouTube Channel and Tiny Kittens webpage.
As I said, I homeschooled. There are many educational opportunities in watching the live or archived videos. Such as:
- What does it mean to “foster” cats?
- Do you think it’s hard to give away cats and kittens that you’ve fostered?
- How are kittens born?
- Why does mom eat the placenta?
- Why can’t Ilya walk properly?
- Can blind cats live in a house ok?
- How do you handle a feral cat?
- What is ringworm? Is it contagious? How do you treat it?
- Why do they weigh the newborn kittens every day?
- What is cleft palate? What can be done about it? Can they still eat? (See Aura’s story: Aura the Cleft Palate Kitten)
- Are there feral cats in our area? What’s being done? How can I help?
- What is TNR?
- Why do we return cats to the wild?
- Why are cats different colors – even in the same litter?
- Why are some cats long-haired and some short?
- Are Calico cats all girls? Why?
- Fourth grade is the year kids learn about classification. You remember – Genus, species, family… Learning about that ties in with their schooling.
- What about the Bible? Cats have paws. What does the Bible say about animals with paws?
- What’s a “no-kill” shelter?
- How can I help in my community?
- Make some blankets – even out of old sheets and blankets – to donate to shelters. Old sheets can become quilts. Many people knit or crochet blankets to donate. These go home with the cats when they are adopted. It helps them transition to their new homes easier.
- Little kids can color cat coloring pages. Ask them to color the cat their favorite cat colors. Older kids can actually try to draw or sketch a cat/kitten.
- Kids can also write stories. Select an age-appropriate cat video, then ask them to write a story. You choose the focus: a story about what they watched, how they feel about fostering kittens, maybe a story about one of the “disabled” cats. There are so many to choose from. A story about a feral cat who is now in a home. A story about cats in your neighborhood. A story about your cat. Or even an imaginary cat (for the budding fiction writer – and little kids are GREAT at creating fictional stories).
- and more…
This was supposed to be a short post. Right. I’ve been at this all day. Really, I’ve put in 9 hours on this. But I hope you appreciate the post and will find some things you can watch and do while the kids are home. Our state just started a full month of a stay at home order. What that means for kids and school I don’t know. But as a former homeschool mom, there are many, many educational opportunities out there in everyday life. School can be fun and interesting as well as educational. And while we are limited in where we can go, the Internet has opened up many, many doors of things we can do right from home.
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