My kids used to beg for the bedtime story about Sinbad. They knew the real story, of course: our sleek, archetypal black cat had simply appeared, like magic. Kitten magic.
In the second year of our family adventure in kitten-fostering, a threesome of black littermates—Joe, Jack and Jake—joined the kitten circus in our playroom in early summer. Not long after, the kids were playing with our black lab-shepherd mix in the fenced backyard. One of them spotted a black kitten prancing along the outside of the fence: “Mom! Mom! The kittens are out!”
Envisioning an open window or some other catastrophe, I ordered the kids to grab the dog while I snatched up the kittens. Fortunately, only one had gotten out. I scooped him up and headed for the house.
“How did you get out?” I demanded in my best kitten-scolding voice. “Who are you, anyway?” (Our threesome had subtle differences, but, let’s face it — they were three black kittens.)
“I think you’re Jack,” I announced, darting through the sliding glass door into the playroom and shoving it closed behind me before another one could escape.
“No, there’s Jack.”
I frowned. “You must be Jake . . .
“No, that’s Jake . . .”
“Wait a darn minute.”
I counted. Three black kittens in the room. Not one open window. One black kitten in arms. One NEW black kitten . . . who, now that you mention it, had looked a little startled when I swooped him up!
On the phone to the Humane Society: “You’re never going to guess what I found in my backyard . . .”
But the story the kids loved to hear was pure invention: A tabby mom-cat giving birth under a porch a mile or so from our house. The lone black kitten in the litter—offended to find himself the only one not adopted by eight weeks—chose a sunny morning in June to leave home and seek his fortune. After narrow escapes from thundering trucks, chasing dogs, and low-flying hawks, the kitten heard a familiar sound: children’s voices. He was hungry and his paws were sore. Children had often fed him and his mom-cat back home. Maybe these ones had a little bowl of kitty crunchies that wasn’t doing anything . . . ?
* * * * *
Fact is, stray kitten season has rolled around again. Trucks, dogs, coyotes, and hawks are all real hazards to unwanted kittens, but so are starvation, abuse, and neglect. Thanks in part to the tireless and amazing efforts of Whatcom County’s own We Snip nonprofit spay-and-neuter organization, there are many fewer unwanted kittens around Bellingham and environs than there used to be. (Read more about them here: http://wesnip.org/about-us/)
Still, when you consider that a single mom-cat can give birth to twenty-four kittens in a year, and that kittens can get pregnant when they are as few as four months old themselves . . . it doesn’t take long before there is a kitty surfeit.
As a once and future fosterer, I urge everyone to spay and neuter their pets, whether cats or dogs. And consider fostering. It’s an amazing opportunity to make the world a little better, for a little someone. In our three summers, we hosted more than fifty cats and kittens. Every one found a home. And it was hard, but we only kept one for ourselves. Sinbad, the “volunteer” foster kitten: the one who found us.