Although this story has a sad beginning, it has a wonderful ending.
Mid-August last year we were asked by another cat rescue charity to trap and neuter a little feral cat at a Casting Works about five miles away. The job was not easy as we only had a phone number of a concerned worker who fed and cared for the cat. We were told that the little one also had a paw missing. It was to be another two weeks, and with much begging and pleading on our part, before we finally got permission to go in and catch the unfortunate little mite. But nothing could have prepared us for what we found.
Fortunately, the little cat went straight into the trap. We then smelled her infected leg – and what a putrid smell it was. However, she also appeared to be about seven to eight weeks pregnant (gestation period for a cat is nine weeks), and our vet was not sure that she would survive the amputation. And even if she did, he held out little hope for the kittens.
Peggy (as she was dubbed by the nurses) came through her operation, but was extremely traumatised. She huddled in a corner of her pen on a drip and was too frightened to eat or pass anything. Three days later she gave birth to four tiny scraps, three of whom only just held on to life and one who did not make it.
In all the years of rescuing we had never seen such tiny kittens that were living. They had no hair on their tails, bellies, legs or ears, which were a bright shade of purple/red and there were patches of fur missing from their heads. They could not hold their tiny heads up, nor could they crawl. Worst of all, Peggy would have nothing to do with them. Although the vet was not optimistic about their survival, I brought them and their mum home and started the long struggle to save them.
6 September: I was still plagued with doubts and worry. If only they could get some of mum’s colostrum, which is so important for their immune system, but mum totally rejected them. It was now left to me to keep them warm and feed them every two hours.
8 September: The kittens were still with me, but the smallest two were less than 55 grams and the largest was only 60 grams. These weights were below the expected minimum weight. Then the little black female had some sort of spasm and appeared to die in my hand, but somehow I managed to revive her. Peggy had diarrhoea and was discontented, as were the kittens. I was very despondent and very tired.
11 September: The kittens were not contented nor were they thriving and I was losing hope. If they did not show some signs of improvement and weight gain soon, then I would have no choice but to have them put to sleep.
In the wee hours of the morning, I remembered that someone had donated a new kind of kitten milk, so I dug it out and started them on it. They quickly responded to the change in formula and were much more content and no longer runny. Within days they began to gain weight.
In the meantime, Peggy contented herself by tearing up the birthing box, which was still in her pen.
15 September: The kittens were now gaining weight nicely, were a normal colour and had grown little claws. They were still on two hourly feeds, so I was getting by on three to four hours sleep a day and was exhausted – but also elated that they might make it after all.
19 September: The kittens now heard me coming and purred when sitting on my knee. Their eyes had not yet opened, but then I have had new-born kittens that were heavier than these wee guys were now. At this point, I dared to give them names. The biggest, a pure white boy, I called Fred. The white boy who had a little grey flash on his head was dubbed Bam-Bam and the little black and white girl was Pebbles.
26 September: Pebbles’ eyes finally slowly opened and they all adored being nursed. Peggy continued to chop down the birthing box – it was almost at floor level by now – and she was walking well. My cup runneth over with joy!
29 September: The kittens were now doing splendidly. Bam-Bam’s eyes had opened and they were all beginning to walk. I was also sure that Fred could hear (cats who are pure
white are often deaf). We now had Peggy neutered.
The kittens were now using their litter trays and the news just kept getting better. Adele, one of my favourite vets, asked if she could adopt Fred. Then my daughter decided to adopt Bam-Bam and Pebbles for my 17-year old twin granddaughters, who just adored them. Surely this was how it felt to win the lottery!
The kittens have now gone to their new homes and are all doing exceptionally well. They have caught up to full-term kittens and are just as naughty! Their coats are gleaming and they are such friendly babies – with absolutely no fear of people. And best of all, I have full visiting rights!
Despite the success, I hope I do not have to rear premature kittens again for a very long time; it is ten times harder than bottle feeding full-term orphans. There were many problems on the journey that I have not touched on here and many times when I was sure that I was about to lose them. It was without a doubt the hardest thing that I have ever done, rescue-wise, but also the most rewarding. Thank goodness for Royal Canin Baby Milk (it was a Godsend and I don’t think that I could have done it without this milk!).
I look at all the kittens now – knocking the stuffing out of each other – and my heart just about bursts with love for them. They (George, Dexter and Penny as they are now called) must be the three luckiest and most loved kittens in the world.