A year ago today, on my way home from work, I got a phone call from Mr.Me that would change my life. That probably sound more dramatic than it might should, but it’s true. He called to tell me we had kittens. Probably a weird thing to the rest of the world but interesting at the very least to me. We had a family of feral cats living in the neighbor’s yard and we’d been taking care of them for quite some time. The mama cat was the first group of kittens we’d had some success in taming so it was quite remarkable that she had her babies on our back porch where we could see the squirmy little newborns. The unfortunate part was that Mr.Me arrived home quite literally moments after she’d finished giving birth and spooked her so she ran off, leaving the kittens behind.
We survived a very long and tortured dinner listening to the cries from the helpless little ones, missing their mama, cold and hungry. But we didn’t want to intervene too quickly because we didn’t want to scare mama off with our scent if she did come back. By the time we were half way through dinner and she hadn’t come back, we knew we had to do something. We couldn’t let them freeze or starve to death on the porch, so Mr.Me was off to WalMart (seriously, they sell everything at that store!) for some kitten formula and a couple of eye droppers.
We cleaned the babies up as best we could, again, still hoping mama would come back so we didn’t want to use anything that would make them smell too much like us, so just some warm, damp towels and some food. Little did we suspect at the time that this was the first step on a crazy wild journey.
We cleaned and nursed 6 little ones with no idea what we were doing, just knowing that they needed to eat, but no idea how much or how often. So we offered up the eye dropper full of kitten formula and watched to see how they’d do. Then we left them on the porch as undisturbed as we could and watched for mama to come back. She never did. So we hit the internet for some instruction and to figure out how we would proceed that night. From what we read, the babies would need to eat every 2 hours. Mr.Me had to work in the morning so we decided I’d sleep on the couch and set an alarm to get up and feed them. Which really means there was almost no sleep to be had for me that night. It takes a long time to feed 6 babies one at a time! Oh, and to assist with the pooping and peeing chores as well!
Somewhere round about midnight that first night, a raid by mama and Auntie saw one of the six disappear out into the night. AS it was mid-April, we knew there was little to no chance for that kitten to survive, but there was nothing to be done. By morning, though, we still had 5 hungry little babies alive and staying warm on our porch. Still not really considering what we were getting ourselves into, I planned my day around making sure I could be here to feed the babies and we closed off the porch to the rest of the outdoor cats hoping to keep these little guys alive and well. We figured if mama had come back to eat but not to care for her babies, there was little hope that she would return for them.
Its amazing how quickly these little mewing bundles of fluff worked their way into our hearts. We resisted naming them as everything we’d read cautioned of the extremely high mortality rate for feral kittens, especially those abandoned by their mothers. So we read, we laid in more formula, we bought bottles and we realized that we were going to foster these little guys for better or for worse.
The next several weeks resulted in a lot of lost sleep, a couple of heartaches when two of the kittens passed, and a lot of entertainment raising our little ones. We fell into a routine. The went to work with Mr.Me most days as he was on a job site where he spent several weeks in a row at the same spot every day and could find a quiet place to tuck them away and feed them during his breaks. I handled most of the middle of the night feedings as I coped better with the lack of sleep. We made a lot of trips to the vet, sometimes looking for advice, sometimes because we were concerned about health, sometimes just for shots & regular check ups. And we quickly realized that the three surviving kittens had irrevocably become a part of our lives.
Spike, Bubbles and Lily eventually moved into the house from the back porch. They annoyed big brothers Digit and Tigger while they learned what an adventure things like carpet and linoleum can be. Eventually they figured they could climb furniture in addition to my legs and it wasn’t long before they discovered the bed. They amazed the vet every time she saw them. It turns out she really had no more experience with neonatal kittens than we did, but we learned together. We hauled these three little miracles across three states where they met every feral child at every reenactment we went to last summer. And they became, without a doubt, our “kids”. And I don’t regret a moment of the lost sleep, the thousands of dollars spent (don’t believe what anyone tells you, there is no such thing as FREE kittens!) or all the crazy claw makes on my legs. I love my babies like the kids I’ll never have. They’ve brought much joy and many many laughs to our lives.
Happy birthday Lily, Bubbles & Spike!