6-24-21 Thursday

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Back in May, when I mentioned that May 19th marked 16 years since our very first litter of fosters and that we’re up to 442 cats and kittens fostered, someone asked how many of those were “foster fails.” I told them I’d have to get back to them because I didn’t know.

Well, now I do: 10. The first 5 are the focus of today’s post; the last 5 will be tomorrow’s post!

WARNING: all of the foster fails in this post have passed away. If you worry that that might make you sad, I understand completely if you give this post (and tomorrow’s) a miss.

Foster Fail #1: Tom Cullen.

Tom Cullen (Tommy) came to us on September 19, 2005 as part of a litter of 4 kittens (our third set of kittens). He was named Barrett then (this litter came to us already named.) They were about 12 weeks old and were on medication for coccidia and giardia. They were with us for about a month, and the very day they were supposed to go to Petsmart, Barrett developed a mysterious limp. I decided to keep him with us for a day or two and see if the limp went away; the other three kittens headed off to Petsmart. As an only kitten, Tommy’s super-sweet, snuggly nature shone through and I fell in love (and so did Fred, though he wouldn’t admit it). By the time his limp cleared up (the next day), Fred had agreed that we should keep him. We named him Tom Cullen (the name of a character from Stephen King’s The Stand) and immediately nicknamed him Tommy.

Tommy was pure sunshine from the moment we got him to the moment he left us – never a problem, always a sweet boy, always full of love. He was a friend to foster kittens his entire life (in his older years he got a little grumpy with the fosters, but he usually got over that pretty quickly.) He was just the BEST.

Tommy passed away in August 2015, at just over 10 years old.


Foster Fail #2: Sugarbutt.

Sugarbutt came to us on September 19, 2005, in the same litter as Tommy (then Barrett). He was named Sad Eyes at the time (again: we did not name this litter.) As mentioned, the whole litter was dealing with giardia and coccidia, but in addition to that Sad Eyes had a slightly prolapsed rectum. At one point, his back end was so swollen and painful looking that I asked Susan (I was fostering for Challenger’s House) if there was anything I could do to make it less painful for him. She said that she’d heard you could take a warm, damp cloth, dip it in sugar, hold it against the swollen part, and it would help the swelling go down. I tried that several times, and it seemed to help a little bit.

And that’s how he got the name “Sugarbutt.”

He actually went to Petsmart with his brother Smitty and their sister Little Cal and was adopted. But he was returned after a few days; the guy who’d adopted him said that Sugarbutt had blood on his back end. A trip to the vet showed that despite being treated for it, he still had coccidia, so he needed treatment for that again. By the time his round of medication was done, we knew he was meant to be ours. (To be honest, I was begging Fred to let me keep Sugarbutt from about the moment we got the litter. He was THE HAPPIEST little guy, even when I had to give him baths to keep him clean, he forgave me immediately. I always say orange tabbies are the pot-smoking surfer dudes of the cat world, and that was absolutely Sugarbutt’s personality from the get-go.)

Sugarbutt passed away in July 2015, at just over 10 years old (predeceasing his brother Tommy (foster fail #1) by about a month.)


Foster Fail #3: Stinkerbelle.

Stinkerbelle came to us in the summer of 2007 as part of a litter of very skittish, semi-feral kittens. She was then named Maryanne – we named them after characters from Gilligan’s Island. Actually, no – we named two of them (Maryanne and Gilligan) after characters from Gilligan’s Island. We named one of them Tina Louise (the name of the actress who played Ginger, since the name Ginger had been used for another kitten recently), and the last kitten was Spanky, named after our permanent resident Spanky.

Listen, we were still getting a handle on the whole naming-theme idea, okay?

The litter was so scared that we thought we were never going to break through to them, then finally Tina Louise decided we weren’t so bad. One by one the kittens became friendly, and as they did they went off to Petsmart. Maryanne(Stinkerbelle) was the last kitten left with us, and once her siblings were gone she decided we weren’t so bad. In addition to that, she fell absolutely in love with Tommy (foster fail #1). Despite that, she went to Petsmart to be available for adoption. I dropped her off one evening, and it just so happened that I was the room cleaner the next morning. She looked like she’d been digging to get out of her cage all night, and when I reported that to Fred, he started telling me that I needed to bring her home. I refused to (I don’t remember why, honestly), but he solved the problem by stopping at Petsmart on his way home and getting her himself. (I would tell you how the name Stinkerbelle came about, but I don’t remember. I’m sure one of us suggested it, it made us laugh, and we liked it. She did not stink in the slightest (she was a scrupulously clean cat), but the name somehow fit. We nicknamed her “Stinky” (of course) and Fred called her “Miss Stinky” her entire life.)

She started life as a permanent resident somewhat friendly – she’d lie near Fred and let him pet her – but as time went on she pretty much reverted to her feral ways. I could occasionally lightly pet her for a moment, and she would let Fred pet her from time to time, but she spent most of her time on top of the kitchen cabinets. She hated all cats who weren’t her beloved Tommy, and when he passed away I think he took her heart with him.

Stinkerbelle passed away in April of 2016, 7 1/2 months after Tommy left us. I had hoped, once Tommy was gone she’d come down and let us love her, but she always lived life on her own terms.


Foster Fail #4: Joe Bob.

Joe Bob came to us in early 2007. At the time he was named Moonman, and he and his sister Moondance needed a break from the cage at Petsmart where they’d been for a little while. They’d been sharing a cage and were clearly getting on each others’ nerves, so they came to stay with us for a while. They hadn’t been with us for long when we nicknamed him Joe Bob and her Myrtle. Myrtle was with us for about three weeks before she went back to Petsmart, where she was adopted. About a month later, Joe Bob went back to Petsmart and was also adopted.

Yes, I know, that’s not how one becomes a foster fail, but if we hadn’t fostered him then what happened next wouldn’t have happened.

Joe Bob was adopted, as mentioned, and then returned several months later (I’m not positive why he was returned, but judging by his behavior once we adopted him, it was probably because he had a tendency to spray.) In January of 2008, we said goodbye to our permanent resident Spot. Later that day, Fred suggested that the best way to honor Spot’s memory would be to adopt another cat. We talked about cats at Petsmart, we looked at the listings online, and then Fred remembered Joe Bob. I wanted to wait a few weeks to let life settle down and then talk more seriously about adopting him, but OH NO, Fred went to Challenger’s House the very next day and adopted him and brought him home.

When Joe Bob was our foster the previous year, he and Sugarbutt and Tom Cullen had been the best of buddies. Unfortunately, when we adopted Joe Bob a year later, Tommy and Sugarbutt decided they had enough friends, THANKS. They didn’t bully Joe Bob, but they had no interest in being friends. Luckily Joe Bob was more of a people cat than a cat’s cat, so when he wanted friendship and playtime he sought out Fred or me.

Joe Bob passed away in December 2017 at the age of 12 1/2.


Foster Fail #5: Kara.

Kara came to us in April 2008, very pregnant. She was a stray who showed up on someone’s doorstep, looking for a safe space, and they contacted Challenger’s House for help. I had never fostered a pregnant cat before but was game to do so, and Kara had her kittens a mere 24 hours after we got her, thus making me think that that’s how fostering pregnant cats would always be – you’d get them, they’d have their kittens quickly, HA HA HA. In any case, Kara had 4 kittens (River, Inara, Kaylee and Zoe – kittens were named after characters from the TV show Firefly. Kara was just named Kara because I liked the name.) She did a wonderful job raising her kittens; River and Inara were adopted by a friend, and Zoe and Kaylee went off to Petsmart and were adopted. Kara went to Petsmart at the same time as her kittens, but while they were adopted out she wasn’t. (In my memory she was only at Petsmart for a few days, but in actuality it was more like a week and a half.)

Ultimately we decided that we missed Kara an awful lot, and that she’d make an excellent permanent resident. She wasn’t buddies with the other permanent residents, but she also didn’t fight with them, and she always kept an eye on the goings-on. So we adopted her and brought her home, and she spent her entire life with us as the sheriff of whichever back yard was her domain – she spent her time running the perimeter of the back yard and making sure things were as they should be. If there was any issue with the fence (with the cat fence, the cats can’t get over the top of it, but if there was erosion at the bottom, they could get out that way) she’d let us know by getting out of the back yard and coming to the front door and sitting there until we let her in. She was the BEST little hunter. We’ve had considerably fewer chipmunks in the house since she passed away.

Kara passed away in February of 2020 at the age of nearly 13.


Khal waits patiently for me to open the window so he can come inside. Because the cat door to the screened porch messes his fur or something, I guess.

Someone asked yesterday if Khal likes to be brushed. Oh, YES he does – he LOVES it. Lately whenever we’re watching TV, I get out the Furminator (it’s the brush that works best on him) and go to town. It’s amazing he’s not bald, given the amount of fur I’ve gotten off of him.


2020: The Kitten Tree is ripe!
2019: If only Esmee could relax.
2018: No entry.
2017: No entry.
2016: (We knew the way you know about a good melon.)
2014: Blaster keeps an eye on the ceiling fan, ’cause SOMEONE has to.
2013: Here he is with the ever-patient Tommy.
2012: No entry.
2011: “Are you sure these Declan hats are all the rage in England?”
2010: Corbett (AKA “Bad Boy”, even though he really isn’t)
2009: Guess who’s about to go off and be spayed and neutered???
2008: No entry.
2007: No entry.
2006: No entry.
2005: “What the – ?” I said to Miz Poo, who was looking more than a little freaked out.