If you are involved in animal fostering or understand the world of animal rescue, you know that losing animals is inevitable. It is a sad truth, but one that many of us have experienced, including myself. Many animals are euthanized across the United States because there are not enough resources and funding to care for sick animals. This need is where animal fosters come in.
Foster homes essentially create sanctuary spaces for these animals that may not have a shot at life in the shelter. Whether it be a neonatal puppy or kitten, or a hospice animal, foster homes give these animals a shot at life with a little love and care. Many foster homes are incredible, selfless humans that give their time and home to these animals. Even when we do all we possibly can, sometimes the animals don’t survive. Hospice fosters are known to be at the end of their life, and neonatal puppies and kittens are at high risk.
Losing a foster animal is never easy. For hospice animals, it is expected but still heartbreaking. I have incredible amounts of respect for those that take these animals into their home they are amazing people. It is a different kind of loss you don’t know until you’ve experienced it. Hospice animals leave a mark on your heart that you can’t replace. Whether you have a week or a year with them, they were a part of your family, and we grieve their loss.
We pour our hearts into these animals, doing everything we can to save them. When you take in neonatal animals, you always have to assume that they are at their worst. Whether they have congenital disorders they may never overcome or diseases with an end in sight, you fight hard for these animals. I, for one, did not expect the emotions I would experience losing my first fosters.
The first part of this story is Frank. I had many reasons for keeping him, but one was losing his two siblings. I was fostering three kittens who were five weeks old, extremely unhealthy, and emaciated. The vet told me there was a very small chance of any of them making it more than a few days. The first little girl passed about 30 hours into my care. Her body was too weak to fight whatever was going on inside of her. The next little boy fought very hard for about six days in my care, and we, unfortunately, lost him too. I took this extremely hard and put all of the efforts into the remaining kitten of the litter, Frank.
I will not go into the devastating details of their loss of life, but I said goodbye to both of these babies in my hands on the way to the emergency clinic. It is something that I will never forget. When it first happened, I blamed myself. I convinced myself that I didn’t do enough to keep them alive, and it was my fault they wouldn’t grow up and find loving, forever homes. I now know that at the time, I did everything I could have done to keep them alive. Seven months later, I have learned from this experience and can take this knowledge with me in fostering future neonatal kittens.
Although I would have never wished this to happen, or to any animal in this situation, but it does happen. And when it happens, it is our job as animal rescuers and advocates to learn from it so we can use that in the future. For example, I now keep Pedialyte, chicken baby food, formula,, bottles on hand, etc., no matter the age of the kitten. I didn’t do this before, but now I know that it’s best to have supplies you don’t end up using, than to need supplies and not have them.
I had a hard time for a few weeks grieving the loss of these two kittens, but one thing that helped me was Kitten Lady’s article on losing a foster kitten. If you are experiencing loss, I highly recommend this read. During these trying times, keep your animal foster community close, as they know how you are feeling.
If you are ever having a hard time, please reach out to me via firstname.lastname@example.org. I know what it is like to be in this position and am always here to help. Grieving fosters that don’t make it is, unfortunately, part of this experience. Follow for more tips on fostering and animal rescue!