Monday, December 31, 2012

Silvia's first fosters

Here is the true story of Silvia's first foster kittens.
Sorry it's kinda a long story, there was so much I wanted to tell. But I don't think I made it too long, or boring. Frankly, Merlin and Twix had lots of little quirks and great points, and we had a lot of fun with them. Between that, and the fact that I didn't get to tell some true and hilarious stories about them, I feel like I almost didn't write enough. If you're interested in hearing about some of their pranks, just comment asking for a story. I'm full of 'em, and I promise not to bore you too much.
The point of this article is to show how wonderful it is when people foster. How much it does for the animal(s) and the foster(s).
There will be more foster stories to come. After all, we didn't stop at our first fostering.

We were driving back to our house in Tucson, Arizona. We had just come back to Arizona after a trip.
I have been asking for a pet for years now, and brought up the subject again. That's when my dad had the great idea of fostering. We all really wanted a cat. So maybe we could foster one.
I pointed out that in most cases I knew, you had to foster the animal until it got adopted. And since we travel a lot, that wasn't an option.
Not always, said my mom. She knew someone who fostered kittens for a Humane Society, and she only had to keep them until they were strong enough to go back to the shelter.
I got online and found the Humane Society of Arizona(HSSA). And yes, you could foster for them! It also said that foster homes could refuse to take on a foster at any time, and it would not reflect on their foster status.

Later that week, we printed out the foster form, filled it out, went to the Humane Society, and handed it in.
We later got an E-Mail saying that a foster care class was scheduled, and we had to take the class before fostering.
Since Mom and I were to be the "main caretakers", it was us two who were to take the class. When we went to the class they explained the basics of keeping puppies and kittens, like how to keep very young ones warm. They said that it was best for the animals, kittens especially, to come into fostering with their mother, so they could pick up on the normal attributes of their kind. However, sadly, most animals that ended up in foster homes were orphans that weren't able to survive in a shelter.
We were given a fostering manual during the class, and we were told two additional things before the class ended. One was that we would receive E-Mails notifying us of animals needing fosters. We had to reply by phone call if we wanted to take them in.
The other was that if we were overlooked and didn't get any fosters, tell them. The staff would put our names on a certain board, so that we would be some of the first to get fosters.

A little while later, we received several E-Mails about kittens in need of foster.
There was a 7 kitten litter that needed Sub-Q fluids and antibiotics. We decided that would be too much for a first time. Another was a single kitten that was very weak. Maybe we could take that one.
We replied to the E-Mail, and were told that, sadly, the kitten had died, having been too weak survive. However, they said, they did have a pair, brothers, that were underage and needed socialization. We jumped on it.
(Note: Most animals that we take in as fosters are the ones needing socialization. We've found that giving a ton of love and care to cats is what we do best.)

The next day, Mom and I went to pick up our future fosters. Dad had to go run errands, and would probably be home the same time as us. When we got to the Humane Society, we were told the whole sad story as we were led over to the building in which our future fosters were kept.
There is a thing around here called Brush and Bulky. Brush and Bulky is basically something where people leave their yard scraps and old furniture out by the curb, and a truck comes by and picks it up.
Just before a certain pile was about to be thrown in the truck, mewling was heard, and inside the pile of twigs and scraps they found two 6 week old kittens, presumably brothers. These were our foster kittens.
They did not have names yet, so we could name them ourselves. They needed to be kept in our home until they were of age(8 Weeks) and weight to go back to the shelter.
When they brought in the carrier, I gasped and melted before the incredible cuteness that is two kittens, looking at you with kitten blue eyes. 
They were huddled in the back, a little scared.
When our escort, Stephanie, stuck her hand in, they hissed.
After all they were through, could you blame them?
"They're a little hissy." she said cheerfully, drawing back her hand.
"Hissy is good." breathed Mom, half talking to the kittens, half talking to Stephanie.
Stephanie and I. Merlin and Twix were in the carrier.
"It means you're aware." 
Our eyes were glued to those kittens, and the most we could say was "Oh my gosh, they're so cute!".
A photographer for the shelter wanted some pictures of us holding the kittens. That picture ended up on HSSA Facebook page later.
We carefully carried our new fosters, who were huddled in the back of the carrier, to the car and drove home. While we drove, Mom and I discussed names. One was fluffy and an Orange Tabby. The other was Black, and had shorter hair. Both had grayish/blue eyes, but the Black One's were more stormy. Since the sky was the same color at the time, we considered naming him something like Storm. Mom wanted to name the tabby Arthur, and maybe the black one Merlin. We agreed to ask Dad his opinions before deciding. 
When we got home, we set up the tub with towels and a litter box, and food and water. We put their carrier in the tub, door open, and let them be.

Twix(right) and Merlin(left) eating together.
For most of the first day, all they did was hiss. The tabby swatted a little at Mom, but we were fairly certain that they would settle in. It soon became obvious that the twosome were very close, sleeping together and sharing food well(although the black one sometimes pushed his brother away).
That night, we took them out on the couch while we were watching TV, putting them carefully in our laps. After a few minutes they settled in, and we had a very enjoyable night sharing the kittens, who would occasionally change laps.

The next few weeks, we established a routine.
The kittens we decided to name Merlin(the black one), and Twix(the tabby).
Every morning, Twix and Merlin got wet food, we played with them in the afternoon, they were free fed dry food all day, and then got a dinner of wet food. At night, we would take them onto our laps and watch a movie. The kittens would climb all over us with little claws, play fighting with each other. After the movie was over, we would play with them ourselves. Eventually, the kittens grew big enough to jump off the couch. We took shower curtain rods, wedged them between the walls in the hallway, draped a curtain over it, and stuck the curtain to the floor with slate. In the kitten's minds, this was another wall, and it prevented them from going out into the hallway(at least, it did until they figured it out).
We noticed two things about our little foster kittens. One was that Merlin was quite the jumper, pretty athletic, while Twix was kind of a pushover sometimes, and found it hard to jump high. Thus, Merlin was the first to manage to get out of the tub. Mom wanted to change his name to Houdini, since he was an escape artist, but Dad and I said it was too late to change their names.
The second thing we realized was that they clung to whoever was holding them like burrs. Cling they did, with those little but sharp claws that got through nearly every shirt. And it really hurt when they climbed up onto ours necks. We learned the hard way that many kittens do this. Luckily, Merlin and Twix stopped clinging quite so much when they began to trust us more. Until then, however, we had to hold them with their claws facing out.
Merlin and Twix were our Yin and Yang kittens. Merlin hardly ever groomed himself. Twix was fastidious. Merlin was more adventurous. Twix often wanted to nap.
They also complimented each other. Twix would be roused by Merlin sometimes. Twix would groom Merlin.

Finally, one day we brought our kittens to the shelter to get their shots, and received surprising news.
On the prowl.

Stephanie, weighing them, them told us that Twix and Merlin were "of weight".
This stunned us, for while we had been tracking their weight, we hadn't realized that at four pounds and eight weeks they were ready to go back.
Stephanie told us that we could keep them for another few days, if we wanted.

"Well, would we be lessening their chances of getting adopted? I mean, would they be up for adoption those few days?" asked Mom.
No. They were scheduled to be fixed in a few days, and then they would be up for adoption at the Furbaby Feista, an event HSSA was doing for three days, in which mixed breeds would be free, no adoption fee, and purebreds would be half-off.
In that case, said Mom, we would keep them. Better they were in our home for those few days instead of a cage.

Blue feather toy..oohh..
Their eyes began to lose that kitten blue, and turned green.
A few days later, a somewhat sad farewell was said, and Mom and I took our little kitties back to the shelter. They had really grown, and the shelter staff oohed and ahhed over their glossy pelts. We talked for a bit, and found out that they would most likely be at the main shelter for the Furbaby Feista, which was going on at different locations. Since Mom and I were volunteering at said Feista, we signed up to be at the shelter on Friday, the first day of the event.

After Merlin and Twix were gone, I found myself instinctively doing things I had to do while the kittens were in our home, like closing the bathroom door before inquisitive kittens followed me out.

When Friday came, we left around 3:00, being on the second shift.
We found out from Gina, the Volunteer Coordinator, what we were to do, which was hang out in the cat room and help people who wanted to know about the cats. If we didn't know something, direct them to someone who does.
I looked, but couldn't find our kittens.
We found someone we recognized, and asked about Merlin and Twix.
It turned out that a dry patch on Merlin's leg had to be inspected before they could be put on the adoption line. We had noticed the dry patch before, and figured it was from a scrape he may have gotten in the Brush and Bulky pile. The shelter's Veterinarians thought it might be something more serious, and had to check.
Finally, we were told with a big smile that the dry patch on Merlin's leg wasn't anything to worry about, and they were cleared and ready to go.
I soon found Merlin and Twix in their spot in the cat room, and felt like crying. Twix was eating and looking tired, while Merlin was occasionally showing off for the people that came over. It seemed that no one was interested in adopting both, and everyone seemed to lose interest with them after having a kitten cling to them and shiver(well, they were in a scary, loud place) for a while.
I wandered around a bit, telling people about Twix and Merlin's good points, checking out the ferrets(both of the ferrets got adopted by a man who had one, and wanted company for it), and checking on the dogs. Almost every dog's kennel card said "Adopted" or "I'm being considered for adoption". That was good. But no one seemed to want our kittens.
I came back to the cat room and got the best surprise ever.
Mom and one of the foster staff were talking to a girl, a little younger than me, and her mother. They have decided to adopt Merlin and Twix!
It was explained that when the mother and daughter came in looking for a pair of kittens, it was an instant match. The foster volunteer quickly said that it would be best if Merlin and Twix were adopted together, and that was that.
I sat outside the cat room with the adoptive family, telling them all about Merlin and Twix, and answering questions that they had, like Twix and Merlin's diet.
The daughter even has the same name as me. Her mother insisted that could not be a coincidence, and I agreed.
The girl could hardly sit still for all her excitement, and I was having trouble too. I'm still so glad that our little kittens got adopted.
"Well, it seems like you've done a great job fostering them." the mother said.
I think we did.

Shelter Virus hits lots of cats, by Silvia Phenora

The Humane Society of Southern Arizona(HSSA) was hit with a cat virus know as Calicivirus recently. It causes Upper Respitory Infection, and can be very hard to spot. Many cats who are infected act perfectly normal. There is no specific treatment, and it spreads extremely easily. Some of the virus can be killed by bleach solution, but that is about as far as treatment can go. It survives for a long time.

Some of the cats at HSSA were euthanized, and all others with the virus were put in quarantine.
For about a month, no cats were allowed to go to foster homes, and HSSA could not accept cats from the outside, such as those being surrendered.

Now, certain cats are being allowed to be put into foster homes, but many cats are still in quarantine.

Yesterday, my parents and I went to see the quarantined cats. Volunteers are allowed to pet the cats, keep them company, take them out of their kennels, etc. in an attempt to lift the cats' spirits. Most of the cats, despite having Calicivirus, are active.

When we arrived inside the building where the cats are being kept, we were shown to a table where Latex gloves and disposable gowns were, as well as towels and a bleach solution in a spray bottle. We were instructed the following: Put on a disposable gown and gloves before handling any cats. In between cats, throw away your gloves in the trash bin provided, and wipe down your gown using the bleach solution and the towels. Should your gown become torn, either by being caught on a cats claws or something else, change it as you do you gloves.

You may sit down with a cat if you have a towel in your lap.

They had a sign hanging nearby with numbers on it. The numbers showed which cat kennels had cats that needed extra attention. None of the cats were known to bite, but some swat.
Some of the cats in quarantine, in their carriers and kennels.

The cats inside were either in typical cat kennels, or dog carriers, and many meowed at us as we walked by, and stuck their paws out of their cages, at each other and at us. Aw.

I picked out the cat in kennel 1, while Mom and Dad went for the cats whose numbers were on the sign. The cat whom I handled later on turned out to have one eye. The weird thing is, I didn't even realize I was handling a one-eyed cat until Mom said "Oh! That cat has only one eye."

 It took a few cats, but we eventually realized that we were not picking up the cats we thought we were("Is this cat 48, or is that number referring to the cat above it, not below?") After we realized how the system actually worked, we got it right, and lots of cats got handled. Thanks to the fact that other people there were handling the cats too, all the quarantined cats got attention, which we were told never happened before. Every single cat. (Give or take a kitten or two. It's hard to tell, with so many cats there.)

One of the cats I handled. A big cat, plush, and quite the lover. Didn't want me to leave,  and frankly, I didn't want to leave her.
Such a good kitty. Wanted rubs, rubs, rubs. Oh, and did I mention rubs? Purr..purr..purr..purr.

Mom, handling a kitten.
The three of us, ready to pick up cats.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Saving the Guinea Worm: What is the "right" thing?

Some of you may have heard of it. The Guinea Worm. Likely, you haven't heard BOTH sides of the argument. Caring Environmentalists VS those who make a point when saying they think the Guinea Worm should not live.
The Guinea Worm is a long, well, worm. An endangered species. And we have no idea what it would do to the environment if we killed it off.
On the other hand, the Guinea Worm is also a parasite. Humans drink contaminated water with Guinea Worm larvae in it, and the Guinea Worm finds its host. (That is what most think. The truth is explained later in this article.) Extracting the Guinea Worm is a painful, and rather gross procedure that can take several weeks. Because of this, many people who have an influence over the populace say that we should exterminate the Guinea Worm.
But there is more you should hear before choosing who's side you're on. The Guinea Worm is also blamed for being the main cause of "Guinea Worm Disease", which is what being inhabited by the Guinea Worm is called. In reality, the Guinea Worm is not targeting humans to survive. Rather, in the water that is contaminated by the Guinea Worm, "water fleas" eat the larvae, and pass it to humans when people drink them.
Guinea Worm disease is also thought to cause a host of other factors, but some scientists think that the Guinea Worm is not responsible for those, and many other factors about people's environment are more likely culprits.
The Guinea Worm can be easily avoided, by cleaning water thoroughly, but that may be hard for people living near the Guinea Worm to do so.
The Guinea Worm is a living thing, just like us, and can't help it if its way of surviving is by taking a host. Please consider carefully whether or not you truly want the Guinea Worm to become extinct. Who knows how much damage we are doing? And if you decide to join the causes helping the Guinea Worm, act quickly. There are likely only about a hundred worms left by now. Donate to causes helping the Guinea Worm, spread awareness, help out.

More information on the Guinea Worm and the Guinea Worm Disease can be found at the following links:

I strongly encourage you to find out all that you can about the Guinea Worm and other endangered species, so you can really decide who you're with.