At 4:40 p.m. on Friday, my 13-year-old bellows for me. She and her younger cousin have found a kitten lying in the wet grass; can I help?
There is no mother cat around, and it looks abandoned. Its eyes aren’t yet open, and it still has its umbilical cord. It’s extremely young, born perhaps just a day or a couple of days ago.
There’s a clear rule on farms around here: kittens, if found with their eyes not yet opened, can be put in a sack and drowned. Once the eyes are open, they are safe. When I was a child on my grandparents’ farm, I helped save quite a few kittens and puppies by keeping my mouth shut as to their location.
The kitten is sodden, and cold. I get a cardboard box out of the back of the car, my 13 yo gets a flannel shirt for the bottom of the box, and we turn on an electric heater that we’ve been using because it’s been in the 50s and 60s here. As of now, summer hasn’t yet come to England. We station the box next to the heater.
In the past seventeen years, my family has had three cats, Lucy, Tess, and Shadow. We found Shadow during an Easter weekend in Indiana on our front steps; we believe that someone, seeing my young children and her three cousins, thought our house would be a good place to leave a six-month-old kitten. We flew her home with us to Boston, where she had seventeen very happy and active years of life.
Our two youngest cats, Lucy and Tess, were orphaned, feral sisters, who were found by Suzanne, an acquaintance of mine. Lucy was on a sidewalk, and Tess nearby under a porch. Suzanne took them home and fed them milk with a dropper for two weeks, every three hours, and then advertised them. We responded immediately, and they came into our lives.
To our great sadness, Lucy dashed out of our house during a thunderstorm in 2012. Six weeks later she appeared at a vets, brought in by a strange woman. The vet informed the woman that Lucy had a microchip and told her to leave her so they could return Lucy to us. Instead, the woman left with Lucy, and stated in an affidavit, after a private investigator we hired finally found her, that she dumped Lucy out on the street outside her house when she returned home. Lucy has never been seen since, and Shadow died two months ago.
There’s no way we’re not going to look after this kitten.
I dashed off to a pharmacy in a nearby village, and the women in the shop kindly looked out a dropper for me. She gave me an extra one free, and asked me to tell her “how you get on with the kitten.” For the first night, we fed the kitten with the dropper, using a mixture of half milk, half water.
The next morning, I went to a vets’ office. The woman at the desk said that if this kitten hadn’t already received several feedings of colostrum from her mother, almost certainly she will die. If she had, the chances were 50/50. The big danger is infection, so everything must be kept sterile. I bought powdered milk, a vial for feeding her, and three kitten-sized nipples, and began boiling and sterilizing.
And so my daughter and I have been feeding her every three hours, with my daughter taking the night shift, thank God. I’m too old for this waking up every three hours, it reminds me of the 5 1/2 months I spent looking after my first-born child who had colic, when I averaged two hours of sleep a day. I have no wish to repeat that experience in any way, shape, or form.
But I have to say that my maternal instincts are kicking in big-time, and I want to give this little kitten the best shot possible at life.
That evening, after a rainstorm, there was the best double rainbow I’ve ever seen.
This is apropos of nothing, but it was absolutely breathtaking.