Sunday we found a home for the last kitten.
In August we had a 6 month old kitten dumped. The vet said she was too young to be pregnant. Three weeks later she had two kittens no bigger than your thumb. They were naked. They were at least 3 weeks premature. We figured they would die; she cared for them never leaving the box. We had to take food and water to her and moved the litter box next to the nest box. We couldn’t believe how they thrived. It took two weeks for them to start getting hair. And it was almost a month before they opened their eyes. It was amazing to watch her take care of the kittens. She was nothing but a kitten herself.
The first of the orphaned kittens showed up when her babies were 3 weeks old. This one barely had its eyes opened. It was lying in the middle of the barn floor. I picked it up trying to find where it came from. I had no luck. I called Hunny and told him to pick up some goats milk from Wal-Mart. Till he came home I gave him diluted cow’s milk to keep him hydrated and his tummy full. Middle of the afternoon I thought, “I wonder if the mom will take this orphan?” I made a trip to the barn to see if I could introduce the kitten to the new mom. (New mom’s name is Dawn.)
Dawn was nursing her babies so I put the little one next to them. He immediately started rooting around. She looked down, reached over the other two and gave him a nudge, pointing him in the right direction. Success, But I was worried that she wouldn’t have enough milk for them. Nursing her own 24 hours a day I knew they were needing all she could produce. She was still not leaving the nest box; this had been going on for 3 weeks. She was so tiny herself. I decided I should still supplement.
Evening came; Hunny brought home the goats milk. I went down to feed the new arrival at 10 Pm. I figured it would give him the extra nutrition he needed and stop his drain on her, so she would have plenty of milk for her babies. When I entered the barn I heard babies screaming. It was not the babies that were snug in the warm furnace room. This was a litter in the barn somewhere. I thought Mom has left them to go get something to eat. I didn’t think any thing else. I fed the baby and when I came out, little ones were still hollering. I turned out the lights and left.
The next morning I had to get up early to take care of the new little one before I had to get Hunny up. At 5 in the morning things are so quiet, the birds haven’t even gotten up yet. Fall wasn’t here but my valley already had frost. When I got out of the car, I could hear babies crying. These were the same ones that were crying last night. I thought, “Oh no, Mommy isn’t hunting, something is wrong. Mom is gone.” I listened and started searching. I found the babies; they were not in a nest. They were under the mower. There were three, very dirty kittens. Their bodies were so cold. They evidently had been scooting around trying to find mom, crying all night.
I took them in the furnace room. Wrapped them in a warm towel and filled a bucket with warm water. I put the kittens in the warm water. They were so cold I had to keep adding hot water to keep the temperature of the water warm. It took about an hour to warm the kittens to where they were not cold to the touch anymore. I dried them thoroughly. From the size and colors of them, they were siblings to the little one I found in the floor the day before.
Next on the agenda, was to get some warm milk in their tummies and feed their brother too. They were so hungry I had no trouble getting them to suck on the point of the shot syringe. As I fed them I placed them in the nest box with the Dawn. I hoped I wasn’t overwhelming her with the deluge of kittens. She accepted each baby giving them a thorough washing, nudging them so they would start nursing.
Dawn now had 6 babies with her. I decided I should also try to get her babies used to the syringe because all those kids would be stealing their milk and they wouldn’t get enough. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. The little ones started sucking right away. It was now apparent Dawn and I would be sharing mothering duties.
The babies had gotten so chilled I was afraid they would be sick from hypothermia. I decided I should put every one on a goat’s milk diet every four hours around the clock until I saw how they fared.
Three days went by, everyone was doing great. It was the first feeding of the morning. A similar day to the day I found the kittens. Entering the barn I hear the screams not just crying of little kittens. In front of me on the floor was a cat, she was very deceased. Something had mutilated her. It was the mother of the screams I was hearing. The sounds were coming from the back of the barn. When I got nearer they stopped. I had to wait for five minutes before they started again.
There was a stack of boxes in front of me and I could hear the cries coming from that area. I had to un-stack the boxes to get to them. In the back behind the shelves I found five cold kittens. They were about a week older than the ones I found four days ago. They were not hypothermic yet. I put them into a box with a towel (it is impossible to carry five squirming, hissing kittens in your arms). Yes these were old enough they had been taught to hiss at a stranger.
First order of business was to warm and feed these little ones. I wiped each down with a damp cloth to hopefully get some of the smells off them and fed them and then decided to put them in with Dawn. I wondered if I would be asking too much of her? She had 6 babies already. This would be almost doubling the population. I fed the six babies before I introduced the new ones. I didn’t want to upset her and have her not feed the ones she had.
The six babies had really grown the last few days and were starting to roll around and play. Her own two had opened their eyes and were joining in the fracas. Watching them made me worry, if I introduce the new ones who were larger would they overrun the little ones? I decided to put all five in the box at the same time. It was love at first bite. There were eleven tumbling bodies. Mom was ecstatic. She didn’t know who to love first and started giving everyone a bath. At one point she was holding two down under her front legs and licking each one alternately. She was thrilled. She would roll over on her back to give the babies the best advantage to gain access to her teats. At this point there were not enough teats for all of them so it was push and shove. You heard a lot of squeaking going on as they tried to get a hold of the prize. I didn’t worry about it though because I knew their bellies were already full. All they needed now was their pacifiers. Did you know little kittens slurp when they nurse?
At the end of week one of the babies that was in the batch of hypothermic kits developed pneumonia. It moved real fast. We lost the kitten in 12 hours. So now there were 10.
Two days later there was a thunder storm. It rained 11 inches in 3 hours. There was no where for the water to go except on top of the ground. We had had so much rain in October. It rained almost everyday an inch or more. The ground was so saturated. One of the cats had her kittens somewhere outside in a den (at least this is what we suppose). I went into my potting shed and heard crying. There were 5 very large 3 week old kittens. Three of them were dead. They all were so wet. It was evident that the dead ones had drowned. The two that were alive were almost gone. It was apparent the mom tried to save them all. I removed the deceased ones and dried off the others. Kept watch all day to see which mom they belonged to. Mom never showed up. When I went down for the 10PM feeding I took a flash light with me to see who the mom was. I figured she’d return after I left. Not a sign and the babes were now crying non stop.
I reluctantly removed the little ones, worrying the mom would return and be upset. (The next twenty-four hours I never heard a Mom crying for her babies.) I took the babies to the furnace room to try to give them a meal. I really thought these would be too old to teach about the syringe. They had no problem, they attacked it. That was when I realized they were younger than their size indicated. They were also just starting to move around.
While I am caring for the new arrivals, the box behind me was very noisy. The contents had awakened when I opened the door and they were now lined up at the side of the box waiting for the two legged mom to feed them.
I presented the new arrivals to mom under her chin. It was like, “Oh my, look here, where did these come from?” She didn’t have long to wonder, these little monsters headed the right direction to get some affection, straight to the feed station. While I am feeding the ten little ones, each of them are practically jumping into my hands to be next, the new arrivals are getting a bath from Dawn.
Dawn now had 12 kittens to keep track of. Every day she amazed us at her abilities to keep track of a care for the little ones. At the end of the first full week with the 12 babies we noticed Dawn was climbing up on top of the counters and watching the little ones in the box. I decided she needed some down time with out kids. (We all need that lol). I let her out of the room. When she ran out there was another cat about 10 feet away. You have never heard such hissing; Dawn turned around and begged to get back in the room. When I let her in it was like she was counting all her kids making sure each was there. When finished she jumped out of the box and back on top of the counter. She was not ready to join the public yet.
Dawn raised all twelve kittens. (We have to watch her now when she is out and about, if a kitten cries in the barn she runs to steal it. We have had to replace several babies back to their mothers.) Most of them were here till they were 12 weeks old and older. We found wonderful homes for all of them. From the beginning we picked out a kitten to save for ourselves. We figured if we were to get stuck with raising a cat it should be one we wanted. We picked out one, when people came to choose a kitten we said she was spoken for (everyone that came picked her first). By Christmas all of the kittens were spoken for except two. “Spirit” the chosen one, and a little grey stripped tabby named “Winky”, who has his own story.
Next Chapter “Spirit” The act of giving.