My Weekend: Beware the cute kitten sneezes

My weekends usually aren’t as exciting as Steve Lowery’s. He spends his weekends going to cool shows, talking to other humans and being very cultured. I like to spend my weekends staying home, reading books and generally avoiding excess humans. 

Except this time I had a cute kitten to keep me company.

You see, it’s what animal advocates call “kitten season,” where the weather is perfect, so stray and feral cats just start breeding like rabbits. The shelters are inundated with kittens and cats. And with the Fourth of July coming up—illegal fireworks tend to scare pets and cause them to run away—the shelter is expecting a deluge and needs to make room. 

The Long Beach Animal Shelter put out a plea last week on Facebook for kitten fosters and Kate Karp wrote about their new emergency foster program. 

I couldn’t resist. 

I’ve wanted to foster kittens for a long time and since moving recently, we now have the space. I talked to my husband and he was down with it too. So my weekend started on Thursday, when my editor and fellow cat-lover Melissa Evans and I took a trip to the animal shelter to get us some kittens. 

And of course, Kate happened to be there to pick up two foster kittens herself. 

Melissa and I were roped in immediately to a litter of babes: two all-black ones and two gray tabbies. I had my eye on a black kitten who looked like she liked to play, but also wanted to cuddle a lot. Melissa had her eye on a frisky tabby with a lot of energy. And Kate would take the last two: a sleepy tabby and a playful all-black kitten. 

But then Staycee Dains, the shelter’s director, told us since the kittens came in a litter, she wanted to keep them in at least pairs so they would be able to play together. And a Long Beach Post reader happened to come in at the same time willing to take a pair.

Staycee knowledgeably told us that if we went with our first plan, we would just clear two cages, but if Melissa and I each took a single kitten (taking up a cage each), we could all clear three. Which, the goal of fostering is to clear the cages, not to pick your favorites. 

Our temporary bonds with our chosen kittens severed, Staycee took us to another room where she had our kittens picked out for us already: for Melissa she had a gray and white 10-week-old boy who just started reveling in her head rubs immediately. For me, she had a teeny tiny 6-week-old brown tabby boy with big ears and some muck on his nose. 

I gingerly picked him up and held him, cooing at his wittle face.

He tried to fly out of my hand a second later. 

Don’t worry, I caught him. Then Staycee assured me, “They’re rubber at this age.” 

After signing some paperwork, Staycee handed us each a gallon-sized bag of dry kitten food, about a dozen cans of wet kitten food, a cardboard tray of non-clumping litter and of course, our kittens in cardboard carriers. 

Some of the supplies the animal shelter gives to it’s foster families. Photo by Valerie Osier.

She reiterated to us what was on the paperwork: if anything happens, if we’re worried our kitten is sick, if their poop looks funny, call her, day or night. We’re supposed to bring our kittens back when they weigh two pounds so they can get fixed. For Melissa, that’s about two weeks. For me, it’s about five.

I gleefully drove home with my little guy in the front seat, talking to him through the holes in the cardboard carrier, trying with all my willpower to not take a peek while waiting at stoplights (OK, maybe I took a peek or two). 

Once home, I briskly walked the new baby to the spare bathroom— past my curious cat, Jones—and closed the door. I took the tiny thing out of his carrier as he attempted a meow in protest, turned the carrier on its side while placing the blanket he came with on the floor inside, creating a cozy and hopefully familiar hideaway for him where he could feel safe. 

Once I got his litterbox and food and water set up, watched him explore his new room and gave him pets, I let him be so he could adjust without the stress of a giant stranger making weird noises at him. 

The foster kitten when first got to his new home. We just call him “the Baby.” Photo by Valerie Osier.

I went back to work, leaving my husband to keep an eye on him. Jones, my cat, kept trying to nose his way into the bathroom as if saying, “What’s going on in there? What’s that thing? What’s that SMELL?” (The kitten’s blanket smelled, well, like a shelter.)

The first night, I watched him play peek-a-boo around the bathroom toilet. The second night, I took him out onto our bed and watched him lop around on unsteady legs, consider jumping to the floor but ultimately deciding it might be too big of a jump. 

Then I noticed the sneezing. 

Every cat sneezes occasionally, right? Just like any other animal. That’s what I thought the first two times. 

Then I remembered that Staycee said some of the other kittens had runny noses. 

Then I started Googling. 

Then I texted Staycee. 

I told her everything else seemed OK: he was eating and drinking and going potty just fine. He was just sneezing a lot. 

Cats can get colds, who knew? Staycee immediately responded and made a vet appointment for Monday, instructing me to sit in a steamy bathroom with the kitten a few times a day to help keep his nose clear.

The Baby looking at a foggy mirror during a steam bath. Photo by Valerie Osier.

So that’s what I’ve been doing this weekend. It seems it’s likely the baby has an Upper Respiratory Infection, or URI, according to my little bit of internet research. Other than steaming, there’s not a ton I can do for him until we get him to a vet who can give him antibiotics. Despite his sneezes, he seems to be fine; he’s playful and active, curious and of course, adorable. 

This might be a little TMI, but it’s what you deal with when you foster: on Sunday morning, he had a little diarrhea/ soft poo’s. I again told Staycee about it immediately. She told me to bring a fresh stool sample to my appointment on Monday (refrigerated, not frozen. Yum). 

This is the foster cat parent life: I’m in charge of this teeny, tiny life until he can find his forever home, so I have to pay attention to everything. But, I get to experience the joy of seeing a kitten discover the world of my apartment, get accustomed to home noises and humans and being held. I get to see his little personality take form and participate in shaping it. I get to help make this formerly abandoned kitten more socialized so when the time comes, he’ll get adopted no problem. 

It’s a really cool experience.

The Baby taking a nap in his make shift play pen (laundry basket). Photo by Valerie Osier.

Now, you ask, how will I give him up? My mother sure isn’t confident that I will actually give him back. And I’m still not sure how I won’t fall in love with this little mucky guy.

We’ll just have to wait and see. 

If you’re interested in fostering a kitten or two, go to the shelter and ask if they still need foster homes. They most likely do.

The Baby escaping from his make shift play pen (laundry basket). Photo by Valerie Osier.


The Baby playing on the bed. Photo by Valerie Osier.

The Baby distracting his foster dad from work by being cute. Photo by Valerie Osier.

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Valerie Osier is the Social Media & Newsletter Manager for the Long Beach Post. She started at the Post in 2018 as a breaking news reporter. She’s a Riverside native who found her love for journalism while at community college. She graduated from the Cal State Long Beach journalism program in 2017 and covered the Palos Verdes Peninsula for the Daily Breeze prior to coming to the Post. She lives in Long Beach with her husband and two cats.