Keep or give up foster kittens?
February 20, 2022 3:13 PM   Subscribe

I have to decide what to do with my foster kittens, and there are a lot of conflicting views. In December a friend asked me to take over her emergency placement of a cat with four kittens. The feral mother cat ran away (hid near the front door and shot out when it was opened) once the kittens were eating food - I've tried re-catching her several times but she refuses to come near or in a trap, and is hanging out as neighbourhood cat now, looking relatively healthy. This is long - but I appreciate sensible advice!

I had not worked with this foster org before - my previous cats came from the large established rescue place. It's a couple of people doing a shoestring rescue with facebook donations. They got in trouble recently over sterilising what turned out to be a pet and refusing to return it as they said the pet owner wasn't responsible enough. They ended up posting private messages and lots of personal details about the pet owner for 'their side' and it was Not Good.

During this period, the group dropped contact with me entirely. I was already annoyed because after the feral mama cat ran away, they gave me a lot of guilt-trips for not magically re-catching her. I've been paying all the vet bills and food - they gave me some food for the first two weeks then stopped, saying they'd pay me back when the kittens were adopted. I messaged and got brush offs or no reply, so I figured okay, I'm stuck with the kittens.

My big cats tolerated them when they were in one room but now they roam the house. The older two cats are chill, but the 2 year old sisters go from ignoring to picking fights to sitting pointedly next to a sleeping kitten. The kittens are cautious to adoring with the older cats.

My youngest daughter adores them, but my three adult kids who live with me do not want more pets. They like the older cats and while they are kind towards the kittens, they would prefer to have just one or two cats total.

My dilemma: last night my friend who originally fostered them got back in touch and is pushing me to let her list them for adoption. I'm not confident in the rescue org's ability to carry out the adoption, especially if later there are issues. These are great socialised, healthy and sweet kittens (alright, one of them is a little madam) and I know they would get used to a new home. But right now they are still very much a little pack of four. Her suggestion is to have them adopted as pairs.

I know my adult kids would love to have them gone, that the chances of them getting a good home is high, that eventually my youngest will forgive us (she put a sign on the door "No adopters allowed" last night) and that eight cats is A Lot. But - I've always had lots of cats, and I feel like - well, why can't my hobby be cats? I don't have a lot of indulgences and I have enough money for eight cats, and my adult children live in my house rent free with complementary groceries, laundry and utilities, so they can just deal.

I'm not sure if I'm being selfish or a doormat, and what is best for the kittens. Please help me clarify!
posted by dorothyisunderwood to Pets & Animals (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: kitten tax for two of them
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:17 PM on February 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

You're allowed to listen to your own wants and desires here. Most of your worries come from thinking about what other people want and what other people might do, and while that comes from a good and generous part of you, please be just as good and generous towards yourself. What YOU want matters a lot (especially since it sounds like what you want is also good for the kittens, and you're a good cat parent).

tl;dr: If you need this internet stranger's permission to keep all of those kittens, consider it given. Why CAN'T your hobby be cats?!? As you say, your adult kids are adults; they can deal with it.
posted by contrapositive at 3:28 PM on February 20, 2022 [13 favorites]

Just my 2cents… adult kids get no say for the reasons you listed. Your only concern should be whether the house is big enough for the eight cats to coexist peacefully / more or less happily (or if you foresee more conflict. Once kittens are adults, they may gang up on your older cats etc).
posted by ClarissaWAM at 3:29 PM on February 20, 2022 [18 favorites]

I mean, you don't need anyone's permission, and your adult kids I feel like can get over it unless you have an exceptionally egalitarian set up where everyone contributes equally financially/housework/decision-making style.. buttttt... 8 is lot of cats. It is possible to make a good home for 8 cats, but it's not easy. Imagine 8 senior cats with their various veterinary needs? I just think it's objectively a lot of cat. There is a middle ground: You could adopt out 2 and keep 2 for example.
posted by latkes at 3:34 PM on February 20, 2022 [11 favorites]

In my town, a household is legally limited to four cats at most. You might want to look into whether your town has limits too, as a factor in your decision.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 4:11 PM on February 20, 2022 [10 favorites]

Best answer: If you're considering a hobby, don't limit yourself.
posted by amtho at 4:20 PM on February 20, 2022

Also: that many cats is not a hobby. It's an entire way of life, and eventually you might get way too tired to clean all the litter boxes all the time, take one cat to the vet for medical issues every year for three visits (maybe more) -- and four litter mates will probably all develop old age problems at the same time, 15 years from now, and how sure are you that you will be able to handle hypothyroidism procedure/home care at the same time as giving fluids to another one, while cooking special food for all of them, and dealing with your own health issues?.... just saying, start that cat-centric dating profile now if you want some help :)
posted by amtho at 4:23 PM on February 20, 2022 [7 favorites]

I don't think you're being selfish or a doormat. I think you are fine and coping with an unexpected situation with a lot of conflicting needs and wants. It's okay to be uncertain!

I think adults should get a say because it's respectful to take into account the needs and wants of people sharing a living space with you. That doesn't mean doing what they want, but I don't think it's respectful to say "lump it' without considering their opinions, either. There is a good middle ground there. So I don't think they get an automatic veto, at all, but I think it's kind and the right thing to do to take their wishes into some account, particularly since they are unanimous.

That doesn't get us to an answer, though! But I do want to say that having a sort of "well I pay for everything and don't care about your opinion" attitude is both completely COMPLETELY understandable, and yet not really how I'd think about their thoughts on this.

Instead, they're all reasonable adults (right?) and they unanimously want them gone. That seems like a pretty important signal to me that they have valid concerns.

That makes me think maybe their concerns are reasonable, but I don't know what those are. Is there a mess/smell issue? That can be physically unhealthy, not just unpleasant, and it may be that you're not seeing it or recognizing it if you're nose blind to it.

Or perhaps the cats themselves seem really unhappy. Cats are not really pack animals. They often find other cats in their space stressful. Having eight cats in your space, although it sounds large, seems like it is probably stressful for the cats. Is this really a healthy emotional environment for the cats themselves? Particularly the existing cats? I would question that from what you're saying here.

Realistically, I would adopt out these kittens. I would suggest keeping one, except that they are bonded. I'm sorry you're dealing with this. It is totally reasonable that you would be upset and want to keep them.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 4:25 PM on February 20, 2022 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I'm feeling a little cranky about unrelated stuff right now, so maybe take this with a grain of salt: You get to choose how many cats you have (provided there's no local law you'd be breaking and the situation is humane to the cats). Unless your adult children are more like roommates who pay you market rate rents, pay for their own utilities and groceries, and otherwise share the responsibilities of the household equally with you, you're the boss of the house. You're not being selfish by making choices that give you the kind of life you want in your own home. (Also, and maybe this is beside the point, but if you have two adult cats and four kittens, how would there be eight cats in the house?)

Do you feel like you can provide a good, happy, healthy space for all of these cats? Are there two kittens who get along better with the adult cats and might be good candidates to keep if you adopt out the other two? Or, can you reasonably keep all of them in separate enough zones to reduce stress among the animals? Their well-being is an important consideration, and might be a good reason to adopt out at least some of the kittens.

I wouldn't go anywhere near that rescue org again. They sound both unethical and incompetent. I wouldn't want people adopting from them and then ending up getting guilt trips instead of helpful advice if they reach out for support from the rescue once the kittens are home. If you decide to adopt out some or all of the kittens, you could invite your friend to find a new rescue to work with. (That's assuming she's offering to do the leg work of listing them to be helpful and repay your kindness of taking them in--you obviously don't have to have her do the listing if you'd rather work directly with a rescue.)
posted by theotherdurassister at 4:59 PM on February 20, 2022 [6 favorites]

If it's your house, you don't have a landlord to deal with, and the adult kids are free to choose to leave if they don't like your pets --- and you care for them well, and keep the boxes clean, and can afford the vet care if needed - then it's totally up to you how many cats you have.

And just to add... I grew up in a house where 1) it definitely wasn't the cleanest, as my mother was a hoarder, 2) the cats were indoor/outdoor as they wished, but we were in the country with 3/4 acre, 3) I couldn't tell you exactly how many cats we averaged, but it was at least five, and sometimes as high as a dozen or more, 4) they always had food, vet care was as necessary, and 5) we had ALL sorts of other animals, farm and not, including two to four dogs at any given time but.... the cats were HAPPY and loved and healthy and social and tame and even safe, except for very occasional misadventure over the years.

Oddly, you have that many cats around, in a large enough space, and they don't really pick at each other in the same way a household with fewer cats do, at least in my experience.

The cats were honestly one heck of a lot happier than THIS child in that house, anyway. And they were one of the things that saved my sanity.

We're at three cats, one dog, in an apartment that allows (amazingly!) up to five pets. (A unicorn, I know - it's the best part about this place.) And one of the biggest reasons that my kids want our own home is because then WE get to decide how many and what kind of pets we have... and I'm pretty sure the number of cats will double, at least. And we DON'T do outside cats. (I can't handle the risk of losing them.)
posted by stormyteal at 5:00 PM on February 20, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: i noticed that one big hesitation in allowing them to go to new homes is your concern about the rescue agency not being very responsible. If you decide to allow them to be adopted, this you might want to get as actively involved in the process as you can. I don't know if you have power to insist on reviewing and approving potential adopters but as a minimum I think you could insist on personally meeting them for the transfer and then letting the new families know that you are there for them as backup if they have questions or run into problems. That might make you feel more comfortable that the kittens are in a good home and that they still have you as a backup if needed.
posted by metahawk at 5:32 PM on February 20, 2022 [5 favorites]

Those kittens are adorable!

I don't have any answers, I think what I would consider is:
- Do all the cats seem reasonably happy with the situation? They don't have to be constantly delighted with each other, but are any of them hiding more than previously? Any litterbox issues? Do they all tolerate each other's presence in the room/at feeding time?

- Do your adult kids have quality-of-life concerns about the cat situation - like a cat allergy, or litterbox issues? Can they keep their own rooms cat-free? Do the cats spend half the night thundering down the hallways or yowling?
Are they noticing issues with the cats' interactions/stress levels? Or is it more that eight cats is 'weird', or they don't like the cat fur on the laundry (that you do), or wish they had a dog instead? (You're allowed to be weird.)

-Among the humans, are there any sibling fairness issues going on, where some siblings have gotten to select pets for the household and others have not?

- Who handles the cat care now - feeding & litterbox scooping & brushing & etc.? If that person isn't you, are they at their limit on what they're willing to do and/or likely to leave the household without taking cats with them?

- Do you enjoy having young kittens around, and is fostering something you'd want to do again in the future?

I don't think you're selfish for considering keeping the kittens - that rescue sounds real flaky, and you're taking good care of them now. If it were me, I'd consider listing them for adoption as pairs, and then keeping the pair that doesn't get adopted first. That gives you matched age sets of cats - two senior, two young adult, two kittens. And some leeway if you want to foster kittens again sometime. Six is still a lot of cats, but... it is good to have a hobby.
posted by mersen at 5:40 PM on February 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

One thing I would consider is- are you fine with the prospect of your adult children moving out over this? Because it is all good and well to adopt a 'take it or leave it' attitude to the cats. It really is! But will it be ok with you, or rather, will you consider it an acceptable outcome if they choose to live somewhere without cats? You may well! Maybe it's time! But I think you'd want to be sure about that before you elected to disregard their feelings on the topic.
posted by jojobobo at 5:46 PM on February 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: "My previous cats came from the large established rescue place."
Tell your friend this, and that any adoptions will be through this agency. Your house, your bills, your call.
Trust your instincts on this.

Seconding checking your local municipality for zoning laws and the number of pets allowed per home.
Fostering the excess cats is a good plan. Life happens, and a cat is a ten-plus year commitment. You do the pets no favors if you do not consider what the future holds.
Also, reach out to your veterinarian about possible future pet owners.
posted by TrishaU at 6:06 PM on February 20, 2022 [5 favorites]

I'm not confident in the rescue org's ability to carry out the adoption, especially if later there are issues. These are great socialised, healthy and sweet kittens (alright, one of them is a little madam) and I know they would get used to a new home.

It's not challenging at all to adopt out healthy, socialized kittens. The behavior you've described from the rescue, while not great, is extremely common and yet these rescues successfully adopt out kittens all the time. The kittens will be fine if they are adopted out in pairs. It will not benefit the kittens for you to keep them.

Having four kittens is NOT like having four cats. And I do think jojobobo has a point. Having eight cats is kind of a big deal, most people would not want to live with eight cats (I include myself in that number even though I have done a ton of volunteer work with cats), and this will affect your life, even if you personally are ok living with eight cats. I don't think the comments about cat ownership ordinances are on point -- local laws or not, the cat police are not going to come to your door and arrest you for having eight cats -- but this is still many cats.

Also, if you do choose to keep the cats it's not clear from me if you intend to officially adopt them from the rescue org or just kind of hang onto them, but if you do keep them without adopting them, it's possible that your friend may not be allowed to volunteer with that org in the future. (It's also possible that the rescue org may not approve an adoption of 4 kittens to a home where there are already 4 cats in the house and there are 3 adult residents who do not want the adoption to take place, which, if so, is their entirely understandable prerogative.)
posted by phoenixy at 8:14 PM on February 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Gosh, those are some cute kittens - I can see why you'd want to keep them all.

I'm curious why you think the org will botch the adoption - I get that they seem a bit off, but like phoenixy says, it's relatively easy to find good homes for kittens (especially as cute as these are!). Are you worried they won't properly vet people?

I agree with those saying your number one concern needs to be the well-being of the cats, though it sounds from your description that they are mostly getting along, so that's good. But I also agree with mersen that the reasons your adult children object to them matter, and while you get to set the rules in your own house, I think most people (even cat people) would view eight cats as too many cats. Which is to say, I can imagine that your adult children might have reasonable concerns (not just the litter boxes but cat hair, and just the general mischievousness of four cats x 2).

I also agree that keeping two would be a nice compromise.
posted by coffeecat at 8:35 PM on February 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

What’s the end game here? How long will you actually want to keep them? Do you want to adopt them out at all, or is this a foster to permanent situation for you?

Because if you plan on adopting out, kitten stage is when you do that and that’s now. Have a heart to heart with yourself about your intentions and about how much you are willing to take on.
posted by Bottlecap at 9:11 PM on February 20, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I fostered a few litters of kittens over the course of a year, through a highly reputable org, and I had such a hard time when each litter was adopted out. I sobbed every single freaking time, and I am someone who rarely cries. It's very easy to bond to young animals.

But young animals grow into adult animals with adult animal dynamics. My parents at one point had 6 cats, indoor-only (albeit in a large house). Once the cats matured, some weird dynamics evolved between the cats and honestly I don't know if all the cats were all that happy. The cats outnumbered the people and the cat dynamics dominated. Maybe if you live on a large property it could work ... but they're not going to be kittens forever.
posted by stowaway at 9:12 PM on February 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

8 is a lot of adult cats.

Especially once they form up into factions that intensely dislike each other, and monopolize resources like the water bowl and each litter box.

And one or two of your cats is living in a highly stressful environment, when they deserve a peaceful home.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:18 PM on February 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've started fostering kittens this year, though I'm working with a big, established, and organized agency. I would suggest getting the kittens adopted out. Eight cats is a lot; I would personally be pretty nervous about supporting (financially, emotionally, and logistically) the inevitable health issues in that many cats. Plus, if you adopt these kittens, you won't be able to help any new kittens that come along. As some other commenters noted, if you don't have a lot of trust in this foster org, definitely be involved in vetting potential adopters. Kittens like having playmates, and (I think) need other cats to teach them how to cat, but in general, they're very adaptable creatures, so I'm not sure it makes sense to call young kittens bonded. As long as they're going to a home with another cat who will play with them, and with humans who will dote on them, they will do great. And it also spreads joy to those families.

For the momcat... if there is any way to do a trap, neuter & release (TNR) on her, that would be much better - if she isn't fixed yet, she will absolutely be having more kittens. :( There might be people in your area who can help you do it - maybe check to see if there are any rescue Facebook groups in your area?

I do think fostering cats and kittens is a great hobby! For your own peace of mind, it would be best if you can switch to work with a more legitimate organization, though.
posted by catcafe at 9:21 PM on February 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Quick points:

1) I have always had multiple cats, topping out at 24 once (it was a big place), so eight in the practical sense doesn't phase me. I have had the full gamut from kittens to sick older cats, and that doesn't phase me either.

2) The group presented themselves as not having any kittens or experience with fostering them, but now looking through their social media, they have at least a dozen other kittens for adoption this month alone. Add in the cat psychic and I'm reluctant to deal with them.

3) My adult kids deal with cat litter maybe once every two months. We overhauled the cat litter room so it's even better now, and I'm upgrading it again this week with more litter pans.

4) I will reach out to my usual cat org about TNR for the mother cat. The group made a botched attempt, and I don't want to use the public service one because they euthanise. I will also use their public board for adoption of one pair of the kittens and see if I can find someone not giving me whack vibes.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 9:34 PM on February 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I think eight cats is a lot of cats, most especially in your case because you seem perfectly set up to be a fantastic foster for future cats with difficult or complex needs. These kittens would be great companions for people with much less cat experience, and you’ve got your own core group of grown cats (and kids!) so it’s not like you would have an empty nest. If I were in your situation I would spend as long as I pleased slowly finding adopters for the kittens, and then present it as a done deal to the nutty rescue group. Maybe if your kids know the kittens need perfect adopters, they would pitch in to find them? Then, wash your hands of the troubling rescue group and get in touch with organizations that can use your advanced cat skills.
posted by Mizu at 1:14 AM on February 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: cat psychic

Yep, you have this internet stranger’s permission not to deal with this org anymore.

Honestly, I think that sometimes peoples prejudices about How Many Cats Is Too Many Cats come into play a lot here. I have had a relative who had what other people definitely thought was Too Many Cats, but it brought her great joy and I’m glad now she had that opportunity. I suspect adult children are likely reacting to the social stigma rather than the practical aspects. However, if they are living in your house rent free I agree that they do not get to make decisions about how you live in said house.

Be honest with yourself about whether the cats are happy and healthy; if so, I say keep them (especially as it sounds like your youngest is bonded already) but make sure they are spayed/neutered ASAP, as that many cats can easily compound.
posted by corb at 8:06 AM on February 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Can you be the one who adopts them out through the rescue, after they are spayed and neutered? If you can do that, maybe it will be good. It's harder to adopt out adult cats, so deciding this quickly is good. Having eight adult cats can be hard.
posted by answergrape at 10:21 AM on February 21, 2022

Best answer: "They ended up posting private messages and lots of personal details about the pet owner for 'their side' and it was Not Good." First off, whatever you can to to divorce yourself and the kittens from this so-called rescue, do it,, and do it now. This a textbook case of hoarders or worse fronting as a rescue. Do they even have legal status?

Healthy well socialized kittens are, generally, easy to adopt if the rescue makes the slightest effort to find good homes. These loons are trash posting about a cat owner. And they don't have money.

Why not ask the other org for help? They probably have access to legal advice in case you want to put the kitten up for adoption while they're young and irresistible. If they've been around a while, they've seen this before.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 2:30 PM on February 21, 2022

I think it's pretty common for people to want to say that paying rent is what gives people a say, but I think that as a general rule, it's good to avoid treating familial relationships as though money is the main thing driving them. Surely they provide other value by living there, like babysitting, companionship, help (even if occasional) with the pets, etc. -- even if the value is just that you know that they live somewhere safe and affordable!

The attitude that not paying rent as an adult child means you don't get a say was a lot more reasonable in 1990. when in most places, people could just easily move themselves out to a safe, affordable apartment, or even buy a home. Nowadays, it's just not the case.

That all said, if you're resentful or unhappy about your kids' lack of financial contribution, I think that's a valid issue! And I don't think that they get a veto over everything that has to do with the house, at all, after all, you live there too! But I think money is a separate issue from whether or not they deserve to have some input about their living space. I don't think you're that person, but when you're dealing with family, especially, it's a pretty harsh perspective to make financial status/contribution the only relevant factor in a disagreement.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 2:55 PM on February 21, 2022 [4 favorites]

I think you want cats as a hobby, and so this is what I think your core question is: is my hobby having 8 permanent cats including these particular kittens, or is my hobby becoming a cat foster for any number of cats through a legitimate rescue?
posted by kapers at 3:48 PM on February 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

From my point of view - bonus if the adult children move out. My cats have never been as crabby as any of my children.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 6:02 PM on February 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

Seconding kapers. Finding people to adopt cute kittens who are acclimated to humans and other animals? Easy. Finding someone who wants to wake up every 2 hours to bottle feed a litter of foster kittens? Difficult. If you like fostering and your house is set up for it, I think that's the direction where you can do the most good.
posted by Nickel at 11:02 PM on February 21, 2022

Response by poster: I'm marking this as resolved. I spoke with a friend at the reliable cat org and she encouraged me to list them, which I've just done for two of them, and then to take my time to find them good homes. I'm cutting ties with the other organisation as politely as possible. Knowing I have the reliable org's guidelines and time to assess the potential adopters directly, I feel way easier about letting at least two, and likely all four go somewhere. I'm also arranging for a professional cat trapper then sterilisation for the mama cat through the reliable org.

It was v. interesting to see the difference between people who see eight cats as A Lot and people who don't. I marked as best questions that directly impacted what I was considering, but enjoyed all the discussion - and hah, if only more pets would make my kids move out!
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 4:44 AM on February 22, 2022 [3 favorites]

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