The Rescue

My wife had always been partial to cats. She has almost always had a special feline at her heels throughout her childhood. I am mostly a dog person, but I have met a few cats that have met my criteria as being worth to earn a place in my heart and pocket book, but not many. Onry and her little sister Spot are the two felines that have earned that special place in my heart that is usually reserved just for dogs. The strength, endurance and survival instincts that these kittens have shown me would gain the respect of any dog-loving man.

The story begins at the end of August when my wife told me she was hearing cat sounds outside our bedroom window. It wasn’t the “meow” sound from an adult cat, but rather the “meuew” from what we thought would come from infant kittens. At my wife’s request I went out into our backyard and looked around, but nothing out of the ordinary was visible. Just as I was going back inside I heard it, “Meuew”.  Once I zoned in on where the cries were coming from, I went back to report to my wife that, in my judgment, the kittens were probably in the vacant lot behind our house.  

We assumed that one of the feral neighborhood cats had a litter in the field. I guess curiosity got the best of us when we decided that they needed to be checked up on to make sure they were ok; I was given the task. The weeds along the fence line were fairly thick so I carried a branch trimmer with me to make a path. I was also under the assumption that if I used my hands to move the nest my scent would threaten the relationship between the mother and the litter.  After several minutes of straining my ears listing for the tiny voices I took a step and an adult white cat darted out of a pile of grass, weeds and sticks. After very gently moving some material around I heard the voices again and soon found the nest.  

There was still a considerable amount of sticks and weeds covering the nest, so I could not get an accurate count, but it looked like there were 2 or 3 infant kittens bundled together.  After confirming that there appeared to be no immediate danger or issues, I used my tool to gently replace what I had moved and went to the house to report my findings.   

After discussing the situation my wife and I decided that because the mother was feral, and may have a difficult time finding food, we would sit a bowl of food out along the fence to help the mother produce milk for the kittens. The idea worked well for a time. Every one or two days I would either see an empty bowl or see the mother cat eating her meal with distrusting eyes. The “natural” care ended with the freak storm the mid-valley experienced in September.

At work I was worried for the kitten’s well-being. Was their nest weather-proof enough to provide adequate shelter for such small kittens? Would their mother move them to a more secure place if the nest couldn’t provide adequate shelter? I got home and prepared myself for the inspection of the nest it was dark, still raining, and there was still some wind. I climbed a slick, wet fence armed with two hand towels and a flash light and began to try to remember and locate where the nest was at. I was beginning to wonder if the mother had taken them away. I couldn’t find any clue to where they were. Eventually I looked down and put the beam of my flash light on a wet, matted ball fur in the shape of a kitten. I didn’t move. My heart sank. 

I squatted down for a closer look. It was a little white kitten laying on its belly and haunches.  Just to see if, by some miracle it was still alive, I reached out to touch it. The soft push from my finger moved the little body, the whole body, as if it was dead. My heart broke. I began to analyze the situation. The kitten looked dead, but I wasn’t convinced. I gently poked it one more time with the same results. After a few seconds I decided one more “test” and I would go back inside and give the bad news. 

 

 

The third gentle poke made the kitten turn its tiny head and strain a tiny “meuew” out at me. Overjoyed, I immediately wrapped the tiny body in the hand towel that was in my pocket. At that moment I heard a second “meuew” and turned to where I guessed the nest was and dug at the wet mass of weeds, grass and sticks until I found a little mass of matted calico fur. I picked up the second one and put it in the other towel. I gave one more inspection and felt around the nest with my hand just in case there were more. Satisfied with the search of the nest, I raced across the vacant field and handed my wife the two bundled kittens over the fence and after I made it safely over the fence we got them inside and proceeded to get them dry and warm.

As they warmed up they became more vocal and their eyes opened up. The calico was bigger, so we guess she was the oldest. The little one was all white Imageexcept for a small dark spot on the left side of her head that resemble a spot of grease. With the small mark on the white one, Spot became her name. 

With our small guests feeling warm and dry we went online to find out how and what to feed them. Since it was after-hours, it was difficult to find a store with all the tools and ingredients we needed to properly care for the kittens. We finally found what we needed and that night the kittens slept in a warm, dry bed with full tummies.

The next day I called the Humane Society and Animal Rescue. I was told that they could not help. Either they had no more “foster parents” or they could not afford the resources to properly care for them. We then decided that the best thing to do for the kittens would be to care for them ourselves. We decided to keep them. 

The next day we went to the Albany Animal Hospital and had Technician Akiko Nagai inspect the kittens. She told us that despite the lack of care from the mother, the oldest one, (the calico) seemed to be in fairly good health; however, the news for Spot wasn’t as pleasant. Because she is the youngest, (the runt), there is a chance she won’t survive. Spot was underweight’ de-hydrated, and had a bad infection. The technician let us know that Spot’s survival to adulthood was possible, but because her condition, may not be likely. 

We took the professional opinion as a personal challenge. I had made up my mind that not only would Spot survive to be an old lady; she would be as big and healthy as possible. Technician Nagai did a wonderful job with the kittens and informed us how to properly take care of them so they could reach their full potential.

 

 

That day we became parents to two female kittens and were officially gave the names Onry and Spot. We began the feeding rituals for infants, feeding every three hours. My wife and I would both wake up in the middle of the night, or anytime, to insure that “the babies” would receive the nutrients, cleanliness and attention that they required. We often called upon Technician Nagai for help when concern arouse often in the first 4 weeks, and with her patience and tutelage the “babies” and us pulled through. In about the 4 week of the kittens lives, feedings went to every six hours and my wife and I were finally able to get at least 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

We watched in delight as the kittens grew and they discovered new and different things as they went through different stages. We watched as they learned and taught each other to run, jump, climb stairs, use the litter box and dealing with their new sister and brother, a 6-year old lab mix and a 12-year old mini dachshund. 

The kittens have just turned 9 weeks and have went in for their first round of booster shots. They did fairly well during the medical inspection and also did well during the injections. However, the night of the doctor’s visit it didn’t go too well for Onry. She showed signs of discomfort at the injection site, had issues walking on the leg near the injection site, uneasy breathing, and sever lethargy. My wife and I were very worried. I called Dr. Fletcher and we found out that it wasn’t Onry who was acting unusual, it was Spot. We learned that it takes 24 to 48 hours for kittens to get over their reaction to the booster injections and all the symptoms Onry was displaying were completely normal. After about 4 hours of resting Spot was up and playing like nothing had happened. “That is weird,” Dr. Fletcher advised, “I would be more concerned about Spot than Onry”. Luckily for all of us, both kittens survived the ordeal and are doing well. 

Onry is, as the name suggests, a little on the ornery side and because she is the older sister, comes out with the attitude more.  I gave Spot her name for a few different reasons.  First and obviously, the dark smudge on her head. It looks like a “spot” of dirt or grease. Second, I am a bit of a Sci-Fi nerd. On Star Trek: The Next Generation there is a “cyborg” science officer named Data who named his cat “Spot”. According to the TV character, the name “spot” is the most widely used petname on the planet. And finally, since I am a dog lover, I couldn’t help but give my female kitten a dog’s name. Why would I do that? Because it is unique and special, for a unique, feisty, and special kitten who fought to be here.

It has been just over 8 weeks in our home and theImage new editions to the family are doing well. My wife is learning to deal with her allergies and the dogs are learning that they need to accept the new family members.  I do not recommend all people rescue feral kittens; per the Humane Society and The Animal Hospital, it is always best to leave the little ones with their mother if possible, but under the extreme circumstances that Spot and Onry were in, our choice to rescue seemed right. We had kicked around the idea of going to the Humane Society to find a cat that needed lots of love. But then we found our two kittens. We saved their lives and they enrich ours every day; A love/love situation.  My wife and I will never be without our bundles of joy, curiosity and excitement. Adoption may not be a choice for everyone, but if one does decide, we are here to tell you it is well worth it.

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About D.K. Hummel
I am a dis-placed Alaskan, Ham radio operator, Broadcaster/DJ, Seahawk fan, Alaska Aces fan, U.S. Army Vet, and a conservative; but not always in that order.

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