My Experience Rescuing and Fostering Feral Kittens (I Failed)

Being a cat person has always been one of my most prominent personality traits, so when I discovered a family of kittens living in my backyard in June of 2019, its no surprise that I felt the insatiable desire to take action

I already had two of my own female tuxedo cats and my grandma’s cat was also living in my house, so there were already plenty of cats in my household to satisfy my cat lady needs. But one night I noticed a tiny black and white kitten wandering around by my back door, and at the very least I wanted to feed it. Once I gave the kitten a plate of cat food, it was only a blink of an eye before one kitten became SIX. I was scared for them having to survive outside because we had been experiencing some hardcore thunderstorms that week. 

It didn’t take long before the kittens’ mom made an appearance and it became clear that these cats were not going anywhere. Days went by and they kept coming back for food and became more comfortable approaching my house. The mama cat would even sit outside and stare into my house at my cats.

I knew that something had to be done, because I couldn’t let all seven cats grow up and live in my backyard, and I didn’t have the money to be buying cat food for the now TEN cats instead of three. If the cats weren’t caught and fixed, they would continue to multiply and result in more homeless cats, so I knew as a cat lover I had to take on the responsibility of catching them and taking them to the shelter.

My mom and I managed to use wet food and a cat carrier to capture 2 kittens- the smallest one, who was the one I saw first in my backyard, and another tuxedo. I set up my bathroom as a little cat station with food, water, toys, and blankets (because I couldn’t just release feral cats into my home with my three domesticated cats.) We let them out of the carrier and they went crazy running around in panic before calming down and trying to hide. We later caught two more, a tuxedo and a grey one, and they both did the same panic routine. 

Eventually they all calmed down and piled in a corner. Those 4 were the only ones I managed to catch because the mom and other babies stopped coming to our house. I now had 4 feral kittens in my bathroom and I knew this was going to be a journey.

One of the first things I had to do was catch the kittens from my bathroom to take them to the vet. They were feral and did not have any shots, so we didn’t know if they were healthy which was a huge concern since we had other cats in the house. My mom’s friend is a regular kitten fosterer so we recruited her to help us on my first foster journey. At this point the kittens were still terrified and one of them was so scared it refused to eat. It was a struggle to get them into the cat carriers and to the vet because they were still terrified of humans, so when we got to the vet, it didn’t go so well.

The kittens were extremely scared and therefore did not make good patients at the vet. They did not want to be touched by the doctors and getting their necessary shots was impossible while they were in such a feral state. The doctor took them in another room to try and administer shots, but came back saying the cats would not cooperate and even told me that they were way too feral and that they didn’t think they had a chance of being domesticated. The vet said if I left them at the shelter, they would be put down because they were too feral.

This broke my heart as a cat lover. I cried in the vet’s office over the thought of them being put down. I hadn’t planned on fostering them, I was just going to take them to the shelter to be adopted. But now that I knew they would be killed at the shelter, I knew I had to become a foster. I refused to give up on the kittens and signed paperwork to become an official foster parent at the shelter before we even left that day. I made it my mission to domesticate the kittens and I was determined to make them adoptable and prove the vet wrong.

Since I was a new foster mom, I gave two of the kittens to an experienced foster mom and kept the two calmest ones as my foster kittens. I set up cages in my bathroom because it was the only place in my house where my domesticated cats couldn’t go, and I cared for them every day for months. I gave them all of my attention to get them comfortable with humans.

It was frustrating at first because the kittens didn’t want to socialize with people. But with constant attention, handling, and care from me, they eventually started playing with toys with me and letting me hold them wrapped in a blanket, and then letting my family members hold them. One day, I finally heard one of them start purring for the first time ever as I held it. It was such a rewarding moment because I knew that they were content.

FInally they had become calm enough and used to people enough to get their shots, and after that, it was time to get them fixed. At this point we learned that both of the kittens I was fostering were boys. I decided to name the bigger one Bindi and the little one (the first kitten I saw in my backyard that day in June) Beans. 

Now here is the part of the story where I failed. The point of a foster parent is to continue fostering kittens to be put up for adoption and not get too attached to the kittens… which is where I failed. I became attached to both kittens and loved them so much, but since I already had 3 cats in my house my parents only wanted to keep one (because apparently 5 cats is “too much.”) We decided to keep Beans because he was more shy and needed more work being domesticated, whereas Bindi was fully socialized and no longer feral. It was bittersweet because I accomplished my goal- I saved these cats lives- but now I had to part with one.

The plan was to take them to get fixed and only leave with Beans so Bindi could go to the shelter and get adopted. However, after sobbing in the diner after dropping them off over having to leave Bindi, my mom broke and decided we could take both of them, officially making me a foster failure.

When we picked them up from getting fixed and filled out the adoption forms, we ran into the vet who said they would be put down because they were too feral and had no chance of being domesticated. I told him that I had domesticated them and they were sweet and social kittens now, and it felt so good to prove him wrong to his face.

Flash forward to now, January, there are 5 cats living in the house. Bindi and Beans fit in perfectly amongst the other cats. They love to wrestle each other, play, and cuddle with people. They are more friendly than my female cats. I often think about how far they’ve come and how proud I am of them, but it is also something that I am proud of myself for. I believed in something and made the effort to make it happen. I saved their lives and made them lifelong friends in the process. Even if it was technically a foster fail, it was a major success story in my book.

And the best part… they both have thumbs!