Abandoned or homeless kittens due to carelessness
New-born orphaned kittens need special care
Many abandoned kittens are the result of irresponsible pet owners. Please get your cats “fixed” if you are not a registered cat breeder. This Christmas season TEARS has 300 kittens needing new homes. We decided to hand rear a litter of new-born kittens because there were not enough people to help them and more and more cats kept on coming in.
The sudden arrival of 5 kittens in the next door garden
The phone rang at 6:30 am. How rude, I thought, to be woken up for another sales pitch from a call centre. But it was our neighbour. He had found new-born kittens in his front garden and they were crying for their mother. I went to the window upstairs and looked down into his garden. I saw the mother cat outside on the path in front of our housing complex. She was licking herself contentedly. The kittens had been deposited on the gravel underneath some bushes in the front garden next to the palisade fence.
We went over with a box, lined with a blanket and some paper towels. My husband Jim picked up the one black and white kitten that had been abandoned in the middle of the gravel patch and placed it in the box. It looked like a rat, full of sticky Underneath the bushes he found four more kittens, squealing, shivering and screeching on the gravel. We settled them down in the warm box and left some water and food nearby. (This was a mistake because the mother cat does not like other cats to come after food that is too close to her kittens.)
A cozy new box to protect the kittens
We decided not to interfere and hoped the cozy new box would help Mom to be more comfortable. But she did not return and by the late afternoon we began to panic. We bought some special “Kitty Milk” and feeding bottles and syringes from the pet shop and did our best to feed the kittens. They were so tiny, still with umbilical cords and their eyes were closed. By the evening after no more evidence of the mother returning our other neighbours offered to take them inside. We took over the duties the next morning, but noticed that one of the kittens was missing. We did our best to feed and help the remaining 4 cats to do their rear end business. We then decided to return them to the place we found them so they could be reunited with their mother. Maybe she was too frightened to come back, so we had to wait and see.
The nest was gone, destroyed.
So now what do we do?
When we returned after a few hours the nest under the bushes was gone. There was only a patch of bare gravel. The perimeter fence was being repaired by builders who had suddenly arrived and ripped out all the vegetation, including the cat’s temporary hiding place. It was odd that we had intervened; not knowing this would happen. Perhaps the hand of fate had spared these kittens for some reason.
But we lost another one the following day - the little black and white one that the mother had thrown out of the nest. It was very frail and I tried my best to feed it but it seemed to have been injured as there was a wound on its tiny neck. Blood oozed out of its tiny nostrils. I wept all afternoon while trying to prepare for the guests coming dinner. My son in law took it in his hands and gave it some healing energy. I hope it died happy, embraced by all that love.
Life goes on – now the three little kittens have lost their mother and they began to cry. She did not come back until 7 days later. I spotted her in the dunes outside our house and immediately took the kittens outside so she could hear them. I chased the builders away from our area for the day so as not to scare her away. I even left the scent of their urine soaked cotton wool and tissues scattered with their bowel movement outside the fence. She took one hard long look at them and turned away. I waited for many hours, but saw a ginger cat in the distance. It was waiting for her and they slunk off together.
I am not sure if feral or abandoned cats to stay together as companions but these two seem to be an item. A few days later I saw them again, happily prancing around the dunes and bushes. Her ginger and white companion has a huge round face. The mother cat is a tortoise shell sort of grey striped cum tiger brand, with a distinct white undercarriage. She is agile and slim and does not seem to be suffering from any ill effects of curtailed lactation. (We need to find out if these cats belong to residents within our housing complex to arrange for some “family planning” surgery.) She had two black and white kittens that did not survive. Two of the ones we had to hand rear were like little tigers. The female has a very fluffy coat with black and ginger flecks and a white throat. But the third cat has a huge round face. He (or she) is twice the size of his siblings and consumes a lot more kitty milk. When stimulated under the tail with a ball of dampened cotton wool he pees like a fire hydrant and efficiently evacuates his bowels. He sleeps on top of his siblings and bullies them.
I spent hours on the internet getting the best advice I could to look after our new feline guests. New-born kittens are often fed with a special tube when professionally treated. (How nice and easy, I thought.) You Tube provides a lot of material and people from all walks of life are willing to share that they know. I was lucky to have more than one kitten. Although it is three times the work they keep each other warm, entertained and "stimulated".
Stimulate the anus to trigger bowel and bladder evacuation
I have been told by everybody who had ever reared a baby kitten that it is very important to stimulate them but these kittens seem to do it to for each other. Usually, the mother cat licks the anus of the kitten to trigger the reflexes that release the contents of the bladder as well as bowels. I am not sure what the mother does with the piss and poo but my kitties are coaxed to perform on a piece of newspaper. I sprayed a special liquid probiotic formula onto a ball of cotton wool and it worked like a charm. They also have it added to their feeding bottle to establish a good colony of healthy cut flora.
After ten days the kittens’ eyes began to open and they become easier to handle - less fragile and more willing to suck from the bottle. Using a syringe was tedious as was coaxing the cat formula down them when they refuse to open their mouths and spit out more than they swallow. Fortunately they had a good “gagging reflex” and no aspiration took place. (liquid in lungs) One has to be careful not to tilt the head back to prevent this from happening. I persevered and was prepared to feed them every 2 – 3 hours if necessary. Fortunately kitties like a good night’s sleep. If well fed and kept warm I found they could sleep for eight hours for some much-needed beauty sleep all round.
Yindee is our "child", a 6 year old male Siamese cat who is the boss of the household. I shared my fostering duties with him, asking for approval and his feline empathy. He was not hostile towards them, but made it clear that this was only a temporary bail out. I agreed. They can go to good homes as soon as they are independent enough. Yindee's brother Bhumipol ran away after two years and went to live with another family. Two Alpha males in one household is one too many. Yindee plays the keyboard better than I can.
Keep them warm and well fed
We used a far infra-red lamp to keep the kittens warm overnight. During the day a hot water bottle serves as an artificial mother. It needs to be in a box big enough to offer a cooler space so the cats can adjust their own body temperature. Covered in fake fur with a towel or blanket crumpled around the box provides a comfortable place for the kittens. The sides of the box need to be steep enough so that they do not wriggle out of it. We had to run a business and attend a lot of year-end social engagements and yet be able to “service” the kitties every few hours. We could not hire a babysitter so the basket of kitties had to come with us to work. They had to sleep in the car when we drove to town and I could spend the time feeding them as we rode along. Somehow we survived the silly season. Now that the cats are over the fragile phase and their eyes are beginning to open we can let people handle them. There are plenty of willing hands to help out with the social side of their lives. But as every parent knows, behind the scenes a lot of maintenance is required. I feel that there is an eternity between this time and the joyous day they are adopted by their new “parents.” Our Siamese cat Yindee is not keen to share his home with other cats. He tolerates them and plays the role of a cat guardian for the sake of the species. One look from his glassy blue eyes says it all: “enough is enough.” I agree.Credit: Sue Visser
Please do your best to see that all cats are neutered. If left to breed recklessly, we will have thousands more unwanted kittens and that breaks my heart, thousands of times. Support your local anti-cruelty to animal society and try to provide a good home for stray cats.