One very late night in March this year, I received a telephone call from a North West London Council Estate; a cat was giving birth under some bushes. She was discovered at 7 p.m. when the first kitten was born and now, at 11 p.m., she was giving birth to number five. There was no time to lose, because cats will often move the entire litter into a safe place immediately after labour has ended.
A group of youngsters with mobile phones greeted me. They had tried various helplines from the moment the first kitten was born but their efforts were all in vain. One organisation advised them to walk away; “cats like that did not need to be looked after by people, they were used to living like that”. The teenagers were therefore overjoyed when I produced a big white basket from the boot of the minicab. The little mother cat was sheltering with her babies from the ice-cold drizzle under a very low bush. I talked to her gently and received a very positive response. Purring loudly she stretched out her face and a little paw, asking to be stroked. It was very easy to pick up the kittens gently from her stomach and hand them one by one to my young helpers who put them into the top-loading basket, while I distracted the little mother. Then, I lifted her swiftly up by the scruff and reunited them. I asked the children if they knew where this cat lived, “here” they replied, pointing at the bushes. “But where does she go after she has been fed?” I asked, and their reply “nowhere, she is always here.”
As we put the basket into the taxi, a middle-aged man was passing. He seemed quite emotional seeing her go. “I always feed this cat and was looking forward to her having her babies.” I thought he might know where she lived. “Here!” he said, again pointing at the bushes. I thanked him for looking after her and assured him that I was going to care for them in a nice warm place and find them good homes. He calmed down and eventually tottered off quite satisfied.
One of the kittens had been lying apart from the others, it was ice cold and seemed lifeless, but it was still alive and I managed to revive it at home, warming it slowly and stimulating its circulation by rubbing it with a towel. Eventually it was lively enough to suck from the bottle and then to be reunited with its family. They all settled in happily in their special safe mother-and-baby unit and now, only two weeks later, they are rather big for their age. Maybe it was all the good food which various people provided, or maybe they were overdue. Some animals delay the onset of labour if they do not feel they are secure enough. We certainly have bumper kittens.
Looking at the little mother cat’s beautifully delicate face and considering her gentle and modest nature, the name Forget-me-not sprang into my mind, which, on second thoughts, also fits her sad past. She was definitely abandoned. Considering her young age, approximately fifteen months old, she might well have been another desirable Christmas present the year before last. A short-lived ‘toy’, but no more than that. When the novelty wore off some people may not have missed her very much when she found her way into the outside world… and the door was shut.
So often we are dealing with ignorance, which leads to neglect and cruelty. If there are no kind people trying to find a positive solution for an abandoned domestic cat, like our kind youngsters on the estate, a feral cat colony will spring up within months with all the cats living and breeding in misery.
© Elke de Vries – 2015