The coolest person I have ever met is named Meg and she, among many other things, is an animal control officer. Since animal control doesn’t really deal with cats, when Meg called me up and asked if I would help her with two litters of feral kitten and their mom, I naively said Yes! What fun it would be to help rehabilitate feral kittens! I was soon brought back to reality when Meg told me that we were dealing with 2 litters of at least 8 week old kittens.
With trepidations, I accompanied Meg to Westford where we picked up one litter of kittens and set traps for the second.
After everyone was trapped, I brought the moms home to live in cages for two weeks — to let their milk ducts dry up so I could spay them. The kittens went into two different foster homes to get used to people so they could be adopted. One of the litters of feral kittens turned out to be awesome and came around completely. They sat in front of the cage and cried until they were held. The second litter were little hiss muffins and needed an intervention. This is when my friend Lucy and I came up with Kitty Taco Time. We took big towels and grabbed the hissing and spitting kittens and wrapped them up in towels so that we would not get hurt and they could be held. Before long, we could hold three of the four very easily and they purred and fell asleep in our laps.
Seven kittens were adopted to very good homes. The last kitten, Jane, resisted to the core, and my family and I took over her rehabilitation. We put her in my father’s barn office where there are two other rescued cats, Nina (below left) and Wolfie (below right).
Then a surprising thing happened. Jane fell in love with Wolfie.
And then she fell for my father and started eating out of his hand!
The feral moms story is not so cutesy and trite. After two weeks, I brought both moms to the vet in order to be spayed. After a magnificent fight with Fiona, a feral cat with the temperament of a raccoon, Meg, who is also a vet tech, got her knocked out and onto the table to be prepped for surgery. Meg told me she thought Fiona was awful big, and looked quite pregnant. Through my denial I assured her that it must be worms; how could she have become pregnant again? She had been in a cage for over two weeks! Then I remembered that cats are one of the few animals that can get pregnant as soon as ten days after giving birth.
Meg squeezed Fiona’s nipples and since no milk came out we decided to proceed with the surgery. Let me preface the next part of this story by telling you how small the uterus is. When I saw my first spay I was extremely disappointed when my vet pulled out the uterus. It’s skinnier then the width of a pencil, a total let-down. So when Fiona’s uterus started coming out like giant sausage links I, the softy, started screaming for my vet to save the kittens. He looked at me with exasperation and broke open the uterus. Once this happened all hell broke loose and the weirdest sort of assembly line began to form. Three vets, two vet techs, two volunteers and I all started breaking open the embryonic sacks, massaging the kittens, and swinging them in attempts to get the fluid out of their lungs, a heart beat and a sign of breath. Time lost all meaning, and eventually all the kittens were safely breathing and had their umbilical cords sutured off.
Once all the kittens were out of harm’s way Meg knocked out the second mom, Morgaine, and looking up at me with a smile told me that she was pretty big too. I fought back tears, and after much deliberation the vets told me that they were going to x-ray her and find out how far along she was. I sat in the room rubbing my new born kitten as they told me that they saw six defined backbones, an indication that she would give birth within a week. The thought of nursing ten bottle babies makes me want to throw up a little, and so everyone decided that Morgaine should just be allowed to give birth on her own.
I left the vet clutching my box of four kittens, and braced with formula and bottles and headed home knowing that I had forfeited any chance at a social life for the rest of the summer. Bottle baby kittens need to nurse every hour around the clock, and cannot go to the bathroom on their own, so I had to emulate the mother by rubbing their bums to make everything come out right after they eat. Unfortunately since Fiona was not lactating the kittens did not get colostrum which is the first milk and bolsters the kittens with the antibodies from the mother. This left them in a very fragile state, especially for the first 48 hours which is when they are most likely to die. Sadly one of my little black male kittens broke my heart and died on the second night. SARA
Sara on January 5th 2008 in 3 Moms, 4 Weeks, 22 Kittens