It began Friday afternoon. There is a colony of feral cats behind my work-place. Its members are fed and watered and most of them were neutered and spayed. Unfortunately, there was at least one who escaped the veterinary’s attentions, and she evidently became pregnant. She gave birth to kittens, probably on Friday. I was behind my work-place and saw this young cat lying on the pavement. I thought she was warming herself on the hard surface, as it was a sunny, almost hot day. Then, I saw a tiny kitten attached to her. Then, I saw another tiny kitten, black and white, and not attached to her, crying, about twenty feet away. I had heard the noise but thought it originated with a bird. A third kitten was found in a pile of wooden pallets.
I needed to bring the kittens that were far from mum to where she was but, predictably, any movement on my part caused the mother-cat agitation. She was lying in the only path to her other kittens. I found a way around her but, when she saw me behind her, she ran off. I and some co-workers gathered the tiny ones and put them in a box, lined with one of my sweatshirts, and placed it in a sheltered location, near enough to where mum had been lying for her to find them. The best thing for kittens is their mum, so we left them for their errant parent to return.
Saturday, I came to work several times to check on the kittens. I think mum had visited them at least once. The black and white one in particular screamed loudly when hungry, but the newcomers were quiet now, except when disturbed. By late afternoon, however, they were crying and I worried that they had been abandoned, or at least were not receiving enough attention to survive. In consultation with the rescue-group to which I belong, the Lethbridge PAW Society, I decided to feed the kittens. I bought some Kitten Milk Replacement, and came back to work.
Two of the kittens were on the pavement in the hot sun. I don’t know if they crawled there over time or mum had carried them so far and no farther. One, whom I later named Seraph, had already perished. A second, Jacob, was in a bad way, while his sibling, Esau, was outside the box in which he had been placed, but in the shade. He was screaming. Clearly, neither of the remaining kittens could be left for mum.
I and a colleague worked to feed the two survivors with a syringe, massaging their nether-regions to make them urinate, which Jacob did. He shook and convulsed often, and I feared he would be joining Seraph soon. I decided to take the siblings home – I walked, rather than risk the bouncy ride on my bicycle - but Jacob died on the way. At the apartment, Esau accepted food, but certainly not enough to survive.
There was, by coincidence, a means of salvation. PAW had received a call from someone whose cat had given birth to stillborn kittens. The mother-cat would benefit from having a baby or two to nurse. I and a fellow member of PAW took Esau to the mother-cat, and he survived the night, thanks to his new foster-mum. As of late Sunday afternoon, he is doing well and, though newborn kittens face a wide range of natural enemies, I have hopes for his future.
These events threw my weekend’s routine out the metaphoric window. No movie, no bath-time (sorry, Renn); instead, ten trips to and from my work-place by bicycle, constant attempts to feed Esau (which paid off during the car-ride to his foster-home, as he got the hang of drinking from a syringe) and trying to keep him warm, while helping him urinate. My beasts took the situation well, except for Parker, who seemed to have a sympathetic bond – though not necessarily a friendly one – with Esau: every time the kitten cried, Parker did; the louder the cry from Esau, the louder the cry from Parker. The orange boy wanted to touch the baby, but I wasn’t having that. I had my sturdy-boy keep his distance, which wasn’t easy.
Now, we are attempting to capture the kittens’ mother, who looks to be very young herself. She may have been too young to understand what she was supposed to do with her babies. This could be a lengthy adventure, but we don’t want her to become pregnant again.
This was not my usual weekend. I regret very much the passing of Seraph and Jacob, but perhaps Esau can live for his siblings, as well as for himself. When he is weaned, he will be ready for a permanent home. I will keep you apprised.
I wasn’t in a position to take pictures initially, and didn’t want images of the two after they had died. But here is Esau. It is rather difficult to photograph a one-day old kitten. They move jerkily, and this one in particular was restless, no doubt due to hunger. These three images were all I was able to salvage.
Godspeed, Seraph and Jacob. Long life to you, Esau.