A Little Baby Foster Kitten

tiny black kitten with ball
In fact, the world does revolve around me.

I had a chance to visit with Fromage, the neonatal kitten I fostered in 2009, a tiny kitten screeching for food and comfort somehow lost and found in an abandoned lot during the struggles of the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh in 2009. I took the photo above about a week after she arrived, but the photos in the article below were from her first few days. So much happened in a short time: she arrived three months after I lost Namir, Dickie came to live with us for a year a few weeks after she arrived, and the Fantastic Four had their first taste of fostering a kitten—and taught me a lesson in nurturing, that it’s best done by one, or four, of your own kind! She’s all grown up now at 3 and I still get to visit her. The other articles are linked below; enjoy watching her grow up!

Fromage on Day One–in my house, at least!

Little, little kittens fascinate me. A miniature that can easily fit in my outstretched hand with a Hello Kitty head and stubby legs sits and licks the side of her paw then swipes it across her face, though she sways perilously from side to side with the effort.

As soon as their eyes have barely opened at ten days to two weeks of age every moment is spent building skills and coordination, gathering knowledge out of the air and fearlessly exploring their surroundings and conquering the errant toy or human foot that gets in their way. They never worry about falling down or making mistakes or looking stupid.

By six weeks they can climb a scratching post, run faster than you, chase and kill a small insect or even a tiny animal if necessary, give themselves a complete bath and get into more trouble than you can imagine because they have yet to develop any common sense.

Fromage attempts to talk to Basement Cat.
Fromage attempts to talk to Basement Cat.

I am fostering a very young kitten for the first time in many, many years. She came in at about two weeks of age, fitting herself from nose to rump easily on the length of my hand, her eyes open but that cloudy blue gray that still doesn’t focus. A friend’s daughter heard her at night, tangled in brambles in a city lot, squeaking with a volume hard to believe in something that weighed just a few ounces. Her little life depended on that volume, though, and her persistence and vocal skill paid off in her rescue and is typically indicative of a cat with a strong will to live, able to face down most ills that may befall her through the rest of her life.

That early audaciousness has translated into an easy adaptability and an outgoing, affectionate personality, even in less than a week. At about three weeks old she had doubled her entry weight, at least by my little postal scale, was a little longer than my outstretched hand, her legs had grown so she was at least off the floor, her eyes were clear and her pupils reacted to light, and she was ready for action.

Fromage gets lost in one of my skirts. I hope it doesn

At this age she is considered “neo-natal”, not newborn but still recently-born and needing some critical nurturing. Her body was really too young to digest solid food at first, so I purchased kitten formula and a tiny bottle with miniature nipples to fit on the top. She was confused by the bottle, which did not feel like Mom, so I put a few drops of formula on the inside of my arm and got her little face in it. It had warmed to my skin temperature and she began lapping immediately and kneading my arm. I slipped the nipple of the bottle toward her tongue and squeezed a little more formula onto my arm, and eventually she got the connection and finally nursed from the bottle for a little but mostly from the crook of my arm and then from a shallow dish.

It took one session to recognize the cloth I put on my lap when I fed her. She danced and squeaked and climbed all over me as I sat down on the floor with her formula.

Good girl!

Her little digestive system also needs “stimulation” in order to be able to eliminate, as her mom would lick her in strategic areas to make sure what goes in comes out; this is accomplished by me with a warm, damp rag. Because I was already handling her already I simply put her in the litterbox when she was ready to go. On her second day here she got in the box herself, the little one I set up for her like a potty chair next to the big adult litterbox.

Scratching around in the big girl box.

In just a few days both the warm damp rag and the little girl litterbox were history because she decided she was a big girl and would use the big girl litterbox, and she didn’t need any help. The third time she got in the box she began scratching around in the litter first. How the heck did she learn that?! Scratching in the litter before elimination and burying afterward are instinctive, plus most kittens imitate their mother if she’s around, but the last litter of kittens had their mom, Mimi, an excellent momcat, and still I don’t remember them using the box that successfully or that young.

At the beginning the formula seemed to satisfy her. By the end of the week she was squeaking that it just wasn’t enough so I got food appropriate for her age and introduced her to it. She barely said hello to it before she was gobbling it down, then lapping formula out of a dish. In just a few days she had no interest in the formula at all but ate her canned food mixed with formula and then with plain water, purring and talking as she ate.

She also knows the direction in which I disappear and presses her little nose in the crack between the bifold doors to the bathroom to call for me. After a few days I saw her little paw on the edge of the door giving it a shove. Oh, no, not already! I have a hook and eye to hold it closed, but if she learns that fast she’s going to be a terror.

Who is that kitten! Fromage sees her reflection in the trash can.
Who is that kitten! Fromage sees her reflection in the trash can.

Now at about four weeks her little squeaks of “ee-ee-ee” have matured into a more recognizable “mew-mew-mew”, her eyes are shading to green and she’s begun to pin back her ears and flap her little tail and run around the bathroom with great speed and coordination, climb what she can and stalk and ambush me, crouching beside the mint green toilet on the white tile floor where I’ll never notice a fuzzy black kitten.

This is all happening too fast. In her four weeks she’s gone from zero to small cat with no signs of stopping. Just in the two weeks she’s been with me she’s transformed from helpless squeaking fuzzball to capable kitten, formula to real food, pee on the floor to proper litterbox use. She has a big personality and I can see the type of adult she’ll become, friendly and outgoing, audacious and playful, that same will that saved her life also making sure that she is the center of attention wherever she goes.

She moves too fast, waving herself around to get me to rub her belly!
She moves too fast, waving herself around to get me to rub her belly!

I sit on the floor and let her run all over me. She climbs my shirt and plays with my chin, then she runs onto my outstretched legs, flops herself down in some nook, rolls over on her back and waves her little paws in the air, waiting for me to rub her belly. She then gets up and walks the length of my legs to my feet and climbs up onto my toes where she precariously balances.

Doing the Kitten Dance.
Doing the Kitten Dance.

After this gymnastic effort she leaps off my legs and does a few laps around the bathroom, stops to pin back her ears and arch her back and tail and do the little sideways dance that always cracks me up when kittens do this, eventually coming back to my lap and starting over.

I worry that she doesn’t have a buddy to wrestle with. They need to develop those muscles and coordination and social skills, but all she’s got is me. It’s not a good idea to use your hand to wrestle with a kitten because they usually grow to learn that human hands are toys and anyone can conclude that’s not a good idea when kitty gets bigger. I have plush toys that I hold in my hand when she wants to wrestle with me, and when she’s a little bigger and I won’t worry so much about her falling I’ll add a slanted scratching pad to her toys so she can climb and a few little cardboard boxes she can jump into.

Fromage beats up her plush toy instead of my hand!

This is the first time I haven’t had any of the nurturing kitties who took over fostering little ones as they got older and needed to learn big cat things. I relied on especially Moses and Stanley to teach the kitten important lessons, even if that meant Stanley playing soccer with the kitten, using the kitten as the soccer ball. Right now, Fromage is sleeping in the special “kitten bed”, the one I purchased for a long-ago kitty who helped me to foster kittens and all the kitties who have used it since then. Added in the bed are the small pillow with the gray kitty face that was Moses’ bed, and underneath that is Stanley ’s infamous pink sweater. Mimi’s Children slept in this bed, cuddled in the memories of all the other rescues who’ve lived with me, and Fromage returns to this bed frequently, so I guess they are still doing their magic.

Fromage rolls back and forth and plays with two toys at once.

I’ve been lucky Fromage has been healthy and progressed normally; I’ve fostered others orphaned young who had so many health issues it was hard to treat them all, upper respiratory infections, parasites, injuries, infections, all of them life-threatening, hard to believe something that little could fight off that much. But wherever Fromage emerged from she didn’t encounter any of the usual orphaned kitten illnesses or they would have evidenced by now. The bigger illnesses—I guess we’ll see later. Fromage certainly seems to be in control of her destiny, and perhaps that will keep her protected through the rest of her life.

And where did she get that name? The night my friend took her in and called me to ask what to do when she didn’t eat canned food, I told her to offer the kitten anything she would eat just to get something in her. Fromage chose a quality brie as her meal, so she was named the French word for “cheese”.

Other stories about Fromage:

A Little Life Saved

An Update on Fromage, My Little Foster Kitty

Visiting Feline Nieces and Nephews

Fromage Being Cute

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All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.

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Bernadette

From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, The Creative Cat offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats. From catchy and creative headlines to factual articles and fictional stories, The Creative Cat provides constant entertainment and important information to people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

16 thoughts on “A Little Baby Foster Kitten

  • August 18, 2016 at 9:03 am
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    I am charmed by Fromage. Your candid of her — “Fromage beats up her plush toy instead of my hand!” — is one of your best ever. (I look forward to my mornings with you, Bernadette.)

    Reply
    • August 18, 2016 at 9:29 am
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      Thanks, Meg. It’s hard to believe this was 7 years ago. I’m trying to make sure you have posts each morning! So much to share, so little time. Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  • Pingback: The Creative Cat - Daily Photo: Sending Me on a Guilt Trip, and Visiting Kitty Cousins

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  • Pingback: The Creative Cat - Daily Photo Reprise: Fromage Being Cute, 2011

    • April 10, 2012 at 10:22 pm
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      I can’t thank you enough for reposting this story about Fromage!

      Reply
  • April 10, 2012 at 9:34 am
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    Lovely story to read on a sad day. Took my Dear [old] Lucy up to the vet’s this morning n we decided that putting her to sleep was going to be the best, last kindest thing we could to for her. I had suspected such. Rest Easy, Dear Queen Lucy of The Big Bed. See you later.. when my own time comes.. xxx

    Reply
    • April 10, 2012 at 10:19 pm
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      I am so sorry to hear about Lucy. I had no idea she was in such serious shape. That decision is never easy, but the alternative is watching them truly suffer. Being without them is so very hard in those first few hours and days, but soon enough all the good memories will replace the pain. I know it all sounds like platitudes, but I speak from experience, having lost 14 cats of various ages over the past two decades; and just lost my best friend Cookie at the beginning of February. We’ll all be thinking about you and purring for you to heal and for Lucy to let you know she is in a good place.

      Reply
      • April 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm
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        Thank You, Dear Bernadette. I’m sorry if I didn’t make our situation clear. Lucy had congested lungs as a result of Congestive Heart Disease.. was [reluctantly] taking Frusemide, a diuretic, daily. Also, Fortikor, daily, for kidney disease. Lucy had only lived with me for the last two years.. since her family handed her into Cats Protection [we’re in the UK here], I don’t know why. They said she was born in 1989, which made her 21 years old then, but the vet wasn’t convinced. She wasn’t 100% when she got here, but didn’t start a serious decline until last autumn. She was a very friendly, good-natured big black girlie, who, I know, really Loved being here with me. We had many fun routines through the day, which we both enjoyed. Until the weekend, when she was very poorly, she could purr with a double trilling note like that produced by guitarists, n violinists, by trembling the strings, when they’re playing. I had really enjoyed her company.
        I’m sorry to hear of the loss of your dear Cookie. Thinking of you, too.

        Reply
        • April 12, 2012 at 8:41 pm
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          Anne, how wonderful of you to take a senior kitty! Who knows why people do this, sometimes they just get tired of the cat, sometimes it doesn’t match their new couch. I’ve heard them all. But it’s wonderful for you to give a geriatric kitty a home where she was happy. And a black kitty too. I know a purr like that, very special. She was very happy, I can tell. I had a kitty who lived to be 25, so she may have been up there.

          I also had a cat with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a long way of saying his heart valve malfunctioned and caused his heart muscle to thicken in one area, enlarge and constrict, and he took furosemide as well as a number of other heart medications. Occasionally they would not be enough and he would slip into congestive heart failure, and for years I was ready to say goodbye to him but he lived to be 15. That would be Namir who I wrote about last week, who was Kelly’s soul mate.

          Thanks for sharing, Anne, you are in my thoughts.

          Reply
        • April 13, 2012 at 5:56 am
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          Thank You, Dear Bernadette. It helps to describe things to someone who understands. Even many cat-loving friends are unsure what to say.. n seem a bit wary.. lest this sad situation become contagious. I did two-thirds of student nurse training in late 1960s – early 70s [Yes, Time has flown n I’ve become, by experience, at least, an old lady!!], before leaving to take teaching degree course n then, teaching. Plus, I did a lot of agency nursing here n there through the years, in vacation time, etc. The knowledge gained has stood me in good stead when caring for my oldies.. when caring for my Lucy, in this case. She had quite suddenly failed three times previously.. as each progressively more serious stage in her illness was reached, but each time we all, Lucy, the vet n I, had gotten her going again. Though never quite returning each time to where we had been before, each time with some lost ground.
          But, this time it was, unfortunately, time to go. Feeling rather stunned, to be honest, here now. All will be Well, I know it, but here n now, a bit dis-located.
          Thank you for your thoughts. Sorry I’ve butted onto this dear little Fromage’s page with this sadness. My Very Best Wishes to Him.
          Only last Tuesday week [3rd April] we handed our b/w kitten Jimmy in to be re-homed from a [rather select] homing sanctuary in a nearby rural area. Only because it was a marvellous opportunity for him, an increased chance of a safe [n loving] home. He was found at about 4 weeks old wandering in a nearby lane alone last October.. n as there was no room anywhere for him, Lucy n I reared him.. brought him around from tiny Fearful fizzball of teeth n nails.. to precious loving, lively, lanky 7 month old youngster , still a little wary, but ready for anything. Even up to when he left, Lucy used go sit in the middle of whatever game he was playing n growl at him like a Rottweiler n wave her tail around for him. They both seemed to think this was Great Fun. Cats are so Funny. It seems especially quiet here just now, though, without either of them.. n difficult knowing that he’s still sitting over there.. waiting for his ForEver family n his ForEver home. xxx

          Reply
          • April 14, 2012 at 10:05 am
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            I understand that Jimmy is a part of this. I feel bereft if something I’ve associated with one of the ones I lost is also gone for some reason, even a houseplant, but a little kitty who played with her would be even more difficult. Cats do have a strange sense of humor, like the growling in the middle of the kitten game! I had a kitten named Lucy who died of FIP at 15 months, and everything associated with her, including Namir who she absolutely adored. He was the CHF kitty, and I always knew his life was tenuous.

            I’ve written extensively about my experiences in pet loss, “Pet Loss in the First Person”, but I’d like to share with you more about Namir. I also feature personal rescue stories on Tuesdays, and recently I featured Namir. This article also has links to some of the other things you’ve commented on such as Feline Garden Sprites, and there is a link to the article I wrote about him a few weeks after he died, Not a Bad Deal on a Pre-owned Cat, and another, Perhaps the Storm is Finally Over. Start with this article: http://portraitsofanimals.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/who-was-that-namir-anyway/.

  • April 10, 2012 at 8:43 am
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    Such a sweet story – I’m so happy Fromage grew up to be a happy, healthy kitty! I miss my kittens and would love to foster, but I’m afraid my daughter would put me out in the street. 🙁

    Reply
    • April 10, 2012 at 10:15 pm
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      Vicki, that’s why it’s handy it’s just me here, but of course when I showed up with yet another cat of any age my Kublai used to give me a look asking me if I couldn’t please get myself spayed.

      Reply

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