About three weeks ago, The One And Only and I decided that we should maybe try fostering a kitten. This decision was brought on in part by the fact that we have been thinking about getting another kitten for some time now, but largely it was due to the fact that a coworker of mine had been bringing her tiny foster kitten to work, and it was just soooooo cute that I wanted one of our own. Shallow, trite, and true.
We also decided that fostering the kitten, rather than adopting outright, would be the way to go. This was largely out of deference to our own cats, who have a rather important veto power in this situation. When I was growing up, we got a second cat, because we thought it would keep the older cat company. Their relationship was rather disastrous; even when the older cat had gone blind and deaf, she'd still know exactly where the younger one's food bowl was, and would smack her even without the benefit of eyesight. That's the sort of situation we're hoping to avoid; hence, fostering rather than adopting. (Plus, our kitties came to us through a foster home, so it seemed a way of returning the favor if it turned out we couldn't keep him.
So, through someone who works at a local animal shelter, we got a very young, not-yet-weaned kitten. (We figured, the younger, the better, as far as getting Zora and Tista to accept it.) We had to bottle-feed him, which even meant getting up to feed him at night for the first week. The day after we got the kitten, my brother and sister-in-law had their baby (hooray! I'm an auntie! and I can't wait to meet my new niece!!), so we felt a certain kinship with them - not to mention relief that we weren't the ones with the human baby. After all, it only took three days to toilet-train the kitten, and it won't ever need a college fund.
It took us about two weeks to name the cat. First, we weren't sure about its gender - with kittens, it takes at least 4 weeks before you can tell, and even when I took him to the vet for his 6-week checkup, the vet techs wanted the doctor's opinion before they would say for sure. Turns out, though, that it's a boy, which was what we were hoping for, as boy cats are much less territorial than girl cats. (After all, it's Zora who bonks her head on the window trying to kill the neighborhood cats outside, not Tista.) (We'd also decided that we'd like to have a black cat but would take whatever kitten was available, so we got lucky there too.) After we figured out the gender, we also had to find a name that fit well with our other two, but that also didn't sound too similar. Zora is named after a children's book that also inspired a German leftist group; Tista is named after Emiliano Zapata - his name's actually Zapata, but he didn't seem to be able to pull that name off too well, so after a brief flirtation with Zapatista, we just stuck with Tista. So, after working through a number of different options, we decided on Gramsci, after the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci.
And on a less political note, TOAO also really liked that the name could be shortened to the adorable "Grammikins."
Grammikins adores Tista and Zora. He follows them around, and like the classic younger sibling, he wants to do everything they do. We tried to have him poop in his own litter box (because he hasn't yet been tested for feline leukemia, we're being extra-careful about what contacts the cats have with each others' bodily fluids), but he is positively desperate to go where the big kids go. When it's time for him to eat, he makes a beeline for the older cats' food, even though he's not only fed out of different dishes, but in a different room entirely. When they get fed up with him following them, he tries to act casual - and then, casually, copies whatever they do. It's really terribly cute to watch.
The two older cats, meanwhile (whom I still think of as kittens, but they're the older kittens now!), are pretty tolerant of Grammikins. They hissed at him initially, especially when he got too close, but they kept allowing him closer and closer, and now they'll only hiss when he oversteps his bounds - by, say, trying to pounce on Tista's enticingly twitchy tail. They don't quite seem to like him yet, but they do tolerate him well - and Zora, at least, has clearly accepted him as a member of the family. When I gave him a bath last night (though litter-trained, he still has the occasional cleaning issue...), he meowed up a storm - and as soon as he started, Zora rushed in, worried that he was being hurt. (She does the same thing for Tista if he meows, and for both me and TOAO if we are crying or, er, well, if I'm, uh, singing, which she interprets as a sign of distress - she may be afraid of almost everything, but she's also damn sure no one's going to hurt the family she cares about!)
I took Gramsci to the vet this past week, and he is apparently very healthy, although we can't do the feline leukemia test for another two weeks. That means two more weeks of separating the cats when we're not around to watch them, and chasing after Gramsci as he dashes for the big kids' litter box, but it's worth it to be on the safe side. The vet visit freaked Gramsci out a little, but on the ride home he found himself a great hiding place where he could still look out the window - as you can see in the picture below...
In two weeks, he goes back, at which point he'll get his vaccinations and will get tested for FeLeuk. If he is, as we all hope, negative, I think that he'll go from being our foster kitten to simply being our kitten. He's integrated himself into the family already; he sleeps on the bed with us, tries to do whatever it is the big kids do, and, of course, he helps me write my webpage entries!
If you want to see more pictures of the kitten, there are plenty; here is the first page, with links to more!
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