Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday Squee: Tiny Kittens

The Sunday Squee is about things that make me happy and excited. From books to movies to television shows to podcasts, I'll highlight less commonly known things as a way to share what I love. If you want to join in the Sunday Squee, please link back to me, magnifying both of our joy.

Every day, kittens and cats romp, sleep, and recover on camera - and we're all invited to meet and appreciate them! Tiny Kittens began as Shelly Roche's foster home for cats picked up by the Langley Animal Protection Shelter in British Columbia, and became a non-profit in 2015 ( Livestream / YouTube ). LAPS was also doing a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) Pilot - one of the programs being developed and practiced by cat lovers across the continent to try to manage feral populations while not overwhelming either the human or the cat ends of those interactions. Alley Cat Allies has an outline of the Case for TNR, including a stabilization of feral colonies, improving the lives of the cats, and decreasing the spread of disease as trapped cats are vaccinated before being returned to the colony. Roche helps to manage a local feral colony, which includes feeding the cats, observing and tracking them over time, and trapping cats for treatment and neutering. One of the issues that came up during the latter was the cats being too frightened to eat or drink during surgery recovery, and yet not wanting to release the cats during inclement weather until they were fully healed. This inspired the Feral Recovery Room, where a simple, full-of-comforting-things environment is created and contact with humans is minimized so that the cats can feel comfortable enough to eat, drink, and recover fully. One bonus was that increased contact led to several of the cats seeking out human interaction and proving to ultimately be adoptable! Another bonus was that the cameras used to monitor the cats for problems could also be livestreamed, and this built world-spanning support for Tiny Kittens.

Another regular issue for the TNR Pilot was the capture and management of pregnant feral cats, and this is where Roche is breaking new ground through the fostering of pregnant feral cats along with the socialization and adoption of their kittens. Historically, the options for pregnant ferals were to wait for the birth then try to catch mother and kittens, or capture the pregnant cat and abort her fetuses during the spaying process. Roche's third options is using many of the features of the Feral Recovery Room, including minimizing human contact and using cameras to monitor the cats, but also includes added socialization for the kittens once they are born, and an attempt at maintaining the mother/children relationships until the kittens are as old as possible. Roche emphasizes that this is a program still in its infancy and one which requires a lot of flexibility and tolerance for non-ideal situations, but so far it has been an astonishing success. She currently has four pregnant feral cats in three different rooms, and it's been an absolute roller coaster!

Savina was trapped on Feb 24th 2016. The plan had been to trap her with Neelix, but that ended up not happening and Savina was incredibly unhappy being kidnapped and manhandled - possibly due to he rbeing new to the feeding station, and thus even less trusting of humans than the other cats. She got some basic care, but human contact was minimized due to her stressed reactions. By the end of her first day with Neelix it was clear she not only was more stressed than Roche hoped, she was also upsetting Neelix and another cat who was there after being spayed - as such she was carefully trapped and moved to her own room where human contact could be kept at an absolute minimum; within a week she was calmer, eating and drinking, and using the catbox. When an injured cat, Faerie, came to TinyKittens to be treated and recover form her spay she was put in with Savina, and both responded positively despite Roche having to be more interactive with Faerie. Due to her sensitivity she's not often shown on her livestream, but that may change as things become more exciting!

Neelix was trapped on Feb 25th 2016, a day later, and was in every way a different animal from Savina - being much more accepting of human contact. As she became more confident that acceptance dropped - an interesting correlation between confidence and setting boundaries with scary humans! Roche decided she was perfect for the experiment of trying to foster two mothers at once, to see if they would help each other manage stress levels, but needed a second cat to finish the experiment - and that cat came in the body of Sable. Neeliz is only sometimes on camera (she's a very pretty tabby), but her room is being livestreamed here.

Sable was trapped on March 5th 2016, very obviously pregnant, and ironically ended up being the first to give birth! She was put in Neelix's room as part of the experiment to see if fostering pregnant feral cats together decreased their stress levels - an experiment still very much in progress! The usual cycle was to wait for Sable to leave the nest in the morning, remove her four babies for observation and treatment, and then return them to be nursed. This worked well with three of the kittens - Mayzie, Bartholomew and Trudie - but less well with Cindy Lou who had malformed lungs and hind legs. Cindy Lou was removed for hands on treatment, and when she declined in health was put to sleep. Sable proved to be a very good mom, though several times in the last three days she's moved the kittens from the nest, including taking Bart up high to the window, likely wanting to protect them from Roche, who keeps taking them for socialization! She and the kittens are the bulk of what's being livestreamed here right now, though that may change when Neelix has her kittens.

Skye is the first cat to come in both pregnant and injured and was trapped on March 23, 2016.  Her eyes were very badly damaged, which would require not just treatment, but treatment of a very sensitive and difficult body part. Add this to worries about over-stressing her and causing difficulties with her pregnancy, and Skye's fostering has been a long series of question marks and best guesses. Roche set her up in a separate room, the bathroom off of her office, with the full knowledge that any safety was better than her trying to give birth injured in the wild. Luckily, Skye has proven to not only have a sweet disposition, but she also has been responding incredibly well to being socialized by Roche. As of last night, she was hanging out on the sink and leaning into pettings while Roche filled in the viewers about the excitement in Sable's room! She's going to be fostered out to someone prepared to take care of an injured cat, and we all breathed an enormous sigh of relief! Skye is so amazingly sweet that I really was worried about her going back into the wild mostly blind. She shares a livestream title with Savina, but it's pretty much always on her while she naps away in the sink!

I can't say enough good things about Tiny Kittens! Not only is Roche a wonderful caregiver, and this is only a fraction of what she does, but the livestreams themselves have become a wonderful part of my daily routine as I check in with her and the kittens. I also discovered Little Darlings, which is a viewer who captures fragments of livestream, titles them, and posts them on her YouTube Channel. I hope you learn to love them as much as I have!

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