BeeBee’s House would like to thank everyone who supported us in 2018, in a myriad of ways! We made a video compilation of all the kittens we fostered with your help last year (it feels so weird to say that; Happy New Year!).
It’s been a very long year for BeeBee’s House. When we did our year-end round-up, we realized we’ve had non-stop fosters since April. We took a short break in September to go out of town for a planned absence, but even that was cut short on our return by three days with an emergency call. (Hey, emergencies are just that – emergencies!)
We did some counting and calculating, and discovered that since our first litter of fosters in October 2017, we’ve adopted out 30 kittens! We’ve had our share of losses, but we take a modicum of comfort in that overall our mortality rate is lower than the national average when it comes to fostering kittens. Some kittens fade even with their mother present. We do what we can, and sometimes even our best isn’t enough.
Our wins have far outweighed our losses, however. We have fostered a total of 35 kittens and have adopted out 30 of them. That’s a 14% mortality rate.
From Maggie’s Fund, another foster page on the web:
The veterinary literature reports intimidating mortality rates for orphaned kittens up to 12 weeks of age, ranging from 15% to 40%. Deaths are rarely exhaustively investigated, but may be attributed to birth defects, trauma, infections and nutritional problems. Non-infectious causes are more common in the first few weeks of life, while infectious causes are more common at 3 to 4 weeks of age when the maternally derived antibodies from colostrum start to wane.
The biggest determinants of natural kitten loss are low birth weight and poor growth rates. For dedicated caregivers, it can be heartbreaking and frustrating to lose kittens, but it is worth remembering that up to 60% of low-birth-weight kittens under natural conditions will fail to survive.
This makes me extra-proud of Steve, one of the Marvels in our last foster group of 2018. Steve was the smallest of the Marvels, weighing just 78g at a day old. We lost two of his siblings, Clint and Natasha, and neither of them were next in line for low birth weight. Steve grew up to be the second largest of the group, at one point being the biggest until his brother Phil beat him out by 20g. Steve was named (aptly!) after Captain Steve Rogers (Captain America), who began life as a scrawny little guy and became a big healthy guy after a dose of super-serum. Our Steve grew into a hero, too.
BeeBee’s House is on holiday hiatus through February. We desperately need a break, as we’ve had non-stop fosters since April 2018 — sometimes two litters at a time! Our largest litter by far was the Marvels, and we had them the longest amount of time (11 weeks due to the holiday in November). We are seriously overdue for a break, and are enjoying the time with each other and our household cats. We ended up adopting one of the 30 ourselves (which still counts as an adoption!), and she just turned six months old last week. She’s a nightmare and we love her. She gets along well with her new family, and absolutely loves her big sister. (They’re curled up together on the bed behind me as I type this.)
Thank you to all the supporters and donations and general help to everyone who has seen us through this year. We couldn’t do what we do without you, and are very grateful to you all.
Happy New Year!
Dina and Rob James
BeeBee’s House Kitten Rescue
We had just gotten home from our planned absence and weren’t due to go back on the call list for fosters for another three days (allowing time to recover from the trip/unpack/settle back in at home) when BeeBee’s House got an emergency call about a litter of six newborn kittens abandoned by their mother in a rural home. The homeowner did the best she could for them through the night, then called the shelter the next day for help. The shelter called me, and I picked them up at less than 24 hours old. There were three orange boys, a tuxedo girl, a calico girl, and a black tabby with white cheeks girl.
BeeBee’s House has a policy of not naming kittens until they’ve passed the crucial 48 hour mark, which all of them did. We named them all after Marvel characters. After 72 hours, the black tabby kitten we called Natasha started showing symptoms of Fading Kitten Syndrome. We did what we could for her until we could get her to the vet the moment they opened the following morning, and they did their best for the next eight hours, but she was unable to recover. She was three days old.
The rest of the litter continued developing normally, except four days later one of the orange boys stopped putting on weight despite having a good appetite. 24 hours later, I sat with little Clint as he began to fade just like his sister Natasha had done earlier that week. He was only seven days old; he hadn’t even opened his eyes.
We know Fading Kitten Syndrome is possible to beat when combated early, but despite our best efforts (even with the help of a veterinarian), it’s usually not enough. We did our very best to help Clint, and all we were able to do was keep him comfortable as he passed. We are aware of the fact that two losses of such young kittens out of a potential six is a fantastic outcome, but it doesn’t make it better. To lose Clint right after Natasha was a blow to our confidence in being able to foster neonates, but we had four others depending on us to care for them, which is exactly what we did.
Soon after Clint passed, the others began opening their eyes. First Peggy, then Wanda, then Steve, then Phil!
Soon after, they began toddling around.
Then they learned to use the litter box and eat solid foods.
They grew and grew and played and played! (And napped — Steve loved his naps.)
They ended up staying with us through the Thanksgiving holiday in late November, and went up for adoption at 10 weeks old in the second week of December. We usually return them at 8 weeks old, but as the shelter was closed for the holiday and Wanda hadn’t quite made weight despite her age, they all stayed with us a bit longer. Not that we were complaining! We loved having the Marvels and we’re so happy four out of six grew up healthy and happy.
Congratulations on your forever homes, graduates! Steve, Phil, Wanda, and Peggy!
The Air Crew had just flown out of BeeBee’s House and they were supposed to be the last fosters for us as we had long-planned and unalterable out-of-town business to attend to. Emergencies are just that, though. We were getting ready to close down the kitten rooms when a call came in about a litter of nine found abandoned in a field. Now, nine is a very large litter (the average litter is 3-5 depending on a lot of things, though up to 10 is possible), so it was thought that someone likely dumped two litters of newborns at the same time. (THERE IS A SPECIAL PLACE IN HELL FOR THOSE WHO DUMP BABY ANIMALS TO DIE! There are options! People like me will care for them!)
Four of the kittens had already died of exposure, but five were still alive. I rushed to the shelter to at least weigh and assess them, and found they were complete newborns — eyes still closed, umbilical cords still attached, still covered in effluvium. Clearly whomever had collected and dumped them (because their mom would NEVER have them out in the open like that, exposed and cold in a field) did so just after they were born. Plans or no plans, we had to take them as long as we were able. I packed them up and brought them home. Another foster who takes care of neonates was out of town but due to return before my own planned leave, so we did what we’re here to do and cared for them for the ten days we had left before we had to go.
We named them after wildflowers since they were found in a field; three girls, two boys – Rowan, Fern, Petal, Nettle, and Bramble.
Everyone did well for the first three days. I went in to give them their usual evening feeding and found little Petal burning up with fever. We did what we could, but she passed away at 2AM of Fading Kitten Syndrome — a fast and highly lethal set of conditions that are unpreventable, unpredictable, and very hard to beat. It comes on suddenly without warning and is heartbreaking to help a kitten fight through. We did our very best (even the vet comforted me the following morning, assuring me I did everything possible) but lost her. She was the first kitten I’d ever lost to FKS. We were devastated.
Despite our loss, there were others depending on us to care for them, and they continued to eat well and grow. They began to open their eyes right on time.
As they grew, the time to send them off to another foster home to finish growing up drew near, and we tried desperately to alter plans so that we could continue to care for them. Things didn’t work out that way, so we passed them over to another wonderful foster who takes in bottle-babies. They were only two weeks old and would need a bottle for another three at least. I wrote the new foster a letter detailing their personalities, likes, and dislikes, and sent them on their way with their favorite blankie, some KMR kitten formula, and other supplies.
We missed them terribly and thought of them often, and kept an eye on the shelter when they were due to return for adoption. They knew I was waiting to give them hugs before they went to their forever homes, and I got a call when they were brought in. They were so big and grew up so beautifully!
Special thanks to Patsy who fostered them during our absence! You did wonderfully, and we can’t thank you enough!
All were adopted very soon after being returned to the shelter. We were barely home 24 hours from our planned absence with another three days left on the “out of town” roster when another emergency call came in….
While the Gemstone Gang was finishing out their growing in the Big Kids Room, we got a call about a couple of kittens who needed some extra care. BeeBee’s House specializes in special needs kittens, and the Isolation Room was open, so we took in a couple of 5-6 week old boys who were having some gastrointestinal problems. They had a sister as well who was staying at the vet’s office, in much worse condition than they were. (Sadly, she passed away before she could foster here at BeeBee’s House.)
Wilbur and Orville may have been born in the same area, but it’s doubtful they were true siblings. Brothers from another mother, perhaps, but there was nothing remotely similar about them. Wilbur was big and fluffy while Orville was scrawny and tabby. (And oh, so sassy! I loved that little guy!)
They stayed with us for about three weeks, with multiple rounds of medications and trips to the vet and fecal flotation tests. Just as they’d improve, they’d get hit with another bout of diarrhea. On and on this went. Still, it didn’t get their spirits (or their appetites!) down. They kept steadily improving and gaining weight despite the parasite trying to make them miserable.
Soon they were rid of their infection and ready for adoption! They went in for tests at the veterinary hospital and were immediately adopted. And none too soon, either, because just as they left BeeBee’s House, another call came in….
Just as the Broadway Boys were getting ready to be adopted, BeeBee’s House got a call about a special circumstance. Normally we take in kittens who are orphans or abandoned, but the shelter was over capacity with rescues. A cat had been brought in the previous night and ended up giving birth right there in her crate in the medical bay of the shelter. There was no room at the inn, so to speak, and the floor of the medical bay in a converted dog crate was no place for a new mom to raise her kittens.
As the Broadway Boys were in the Big Kids Room and the Isolation Room (my master bath) was currently unoccupied, I agreed to take Mama Cat and her five kittens until they were weaned and ready for adoption.
She was the BEST mom! She was wary and upset at first, and only allowed me (not Mr. James) to feed her and change the litter box, and let me inspect and weigh her kittens. There were three boys and two girls. After a night of safety and comfort, Mama Cat allowed Mr. James to visit and give her food. (I think she was upset because men captured her and put her in a cage and moved her all around and she’d had enough of males for a bit. Sometimes a girl just needs some girl time, you know?)
Everyone was clean and looked healthy. We took a trip to the vet to make sure the lump in Mama Cat’s belly wasn’t another kitten (stress like she was under being captured can bring on a condition called “delayed labor;” we wanted to make sure she was through giving birth). It turned out to be normal digestive things (food and poop!) and all was well. The kittens were good weights (except one on the smallish side, but otherwise fine) and Mama was okay. We returned to BeeBee’s House to settle in.
And settle in she did! She was a fantastic mom and a wonderful cat. We named her “Bijou,” (French for “jewel”) and her kittens were named after gemstones. The boys were a brown tick tabby (just like his mom, only more black on top) and two identical black twin boys (even their weights were within a gram of each other!). The girls were a light brown mackerel tabby and a poached egg tabby (the smallest).
So we had Mama Bijou, Mica, Jet, Flint, Amber, and Beryl.
Normally kittens stay in the Isolation Room until they learn to use a litter box more-or-less reliably; around 4 weeks. Then they go into the Big Kids Room for another 4-5 weeks until they’re old enough/weigh enough to be adopted out. With this lot, it was a little different. Since they had their mom, we didn’t have to bottle feed them or stimulate them to go to the bathroom. Bijou handled all that. All we had to do was keep her fed, clean her room and litter box, and love on her and her kittens. (She got all the love and attention and treats a cat could want!) Five kittens is a large litter, plus Mom, so they quickly outgrew the master bath.
Even though it was more than a week early, something had to be done. The Broadway Boys had been adopted out and the Big Kids Room was clean, so we set up a playpen in there and put down a barrier over the carpet to protect against any messes that kittens learning to use the litter box tend to make. We taped up a cardboard threshold that Mama could step over but little kittens couldn’t (in theory), so she could get some adult lounging time on the windowsill while they played in their playpen.
That lasted all of ten seconds. Kittens figured out how to get over that threshold within hours to follow Mom around, so we gave up and just let them have the run of the room. Carpets clean, so whatever. Mom had other places she could get away from them when she wanted adult time. So no more playpen. Just playing.
They loved this. They grew up fast. Mama weaned them at around five weeks (right on schedule) and they began eating food out of her bowl, just like Mom!
Some were not as enthusiastic about weaning as others.
But they soon got the hang of it.
Still, sometimes they’d go back to the familiar, for comfort’s sake (and because Amber was a Princess and had to be top of the pile every time!).
Soon after weaning, Mama Bijou went to the shelter to be adopted while the kittens stayed with us to finish growing and socializing.
Mama Bijou was soon snapped up (because she was such an awesome cat) and taken to her forever home while the Gemstones continued to grow and learn. Everyone made weight on time (they should be 2 lbs at 8 weeks old or so) except little Beryl. She was always small for her age, and I made sure she always got a full meal despite her brothers and sister always trying to push her away from the breast. She wasn’t ready to be adopted with the others, and needed a few more weeks with us before that could happen.
Now, I’m going to make a confession here. Mr. James and I took one look at little poached egg tabby Beryl and knew she was ours from minute one. We tried to convince ourselves otherwise, but as the weeks went on, it was beyond clear that she belonged in our home as a permanent resident. We tried our best to resist, but some things are just meant to be, and we never stood a chance. I put in an application for her before they were even ready for adoption. I mean…come on….
So Beryl became a permanent addition to the James Household. It was just a given from minute one that this was her house and she wasn’t going anywhere.
As for the others, well…they were snapped up too. Jet and Flint were adopted together, as were Mica and Amber. Everyone now has a forever home, including their mom. Grow big and stay happy, little Gemstones! We love you!