On Monday of last week, I picked up kittens from the shelter. I always ask for the shelter to give me whomever needs me most. For the first time, I kind of wish I hadn’t said that. Persephone and her kittens are still in the shelter, and I could have had them back. That said, the kittens I took home really did need me.
This is Ginger (the second one I’ve had – the first was a Siamese who gave birth to ten kittens, all of whom survived). She’s terrified of people. The first day she was at my house, Ginger learned to open the cabinets in the bathroom so she could hide. I tried letting her have the safe place to hide for the first few days, but she wasn’t learning to trust us, so I had to remove the cabinet doors. She then climbed into the drawers from the backside. I couldn’t open them to get her out since her spine was too high to clear the counter top. We managed to get her out, then removed the drawers, too. I then tried giving her chicken flavored baby food. No dice. When I broke out the tuna, though, she decided that maybe, just maybe, I’m not so bad.
These are Ginger’s kittens. Five of these kittens are female and orange. The other is the tortie, Grace. Grace is a polydactyl, with seven toes on each of her from paws and five on each of her back ones. The usual count is five on the front and four on the back. Michael and I named the kittens after virtues: Patience, Charity, Hope, Harmony, Faith, and the aforementioned Grace. Because female orange kittens are uncommon, I originally assumed they were male and planned to name them after Order of the Stick characters. Sigh, so close.
Three of these kittens had their own problem that I am more equipped than most to solve. As is common, the three had diarrhea and were losing more and more weight every day. I took a fecal sample in to the shelter, and it came up negative for parasites. “Can we please try treating them for clostridium?” I asked. The shelter tech said to put them on probiotics. “But they are on probiotics – the expensive ones my vet sells me.” “Well, we can’t treat them for anything if there’s nothing in the stool sample,” replied the tech.
At this point I realized two things:
1. I’ve been dealing with kittens longer than the vet tech I was talking to. I simply have more experience.
2. I’ve been right about this sort of thing before, and since they ruled out other infections and I happened to have some Clavamox on hand, I would just start treatment on my own.
The kittens all improved within twelve hours.
This is probably the most complicated part of my job as a foster parent. Usually I am dealing with a fresh-from-school vet tech who believes he(or usually she) knows more than me about what is wrong with my kittens. I deal with someone different every time, so no one has the chance to learn to trust me. They also have no idea that I have so many years of experience with the kittens, or that I have a more advanced degree than they do. They have no idea that I am incredibly observant or that I can make calls that most people don’t have the experience or knowledge to make. The problem with knowing the right answer and just letting the shelter be wrong is that it costs lives. I can’t let a kitten die knowing that I knew how to fix it (it would seriously plague my conscience, my soul even), so I have to treat them without approval. And I also have to find a way to get ahold of antibiotics on my own. Hence the complexity.
Even getting a vet tech license wouldn’t help me here. Only vets can prescribe meds, and only vets can buy them. I have to convince a vet to sell me the meds, so it takes money from my own pocket and a good relationship with a vet outside of the shelter.
I don’t know what to do about the situation. Maybe the answer is that I need to start working for the shelter. Maybe I just need to become a vet. Who knows?