In the afternoon on Friday, June 22nd, the Cole and Marmalade household accepted a new challenge. Four neonatal kittens, only about a week old, were found dumped carelessly in a paper bag on the steps of the local humane society. So young still, you could see a recently detached umbilical cord!
Eyes not even open yet, the mysterious foursome came with no note, no supplies and an unknown beginning to their precious little lives.
Shelter staff usually work with local foster groups or individuals to provide the constant care neonatal babies require. Unfortunately in this case their time was running out.
Our friends at St. Francis Society Animal Rescue scrambled to find a home that could take these kittens. They would need to be bottle fed every 2-3 hours throughout the day and night. Although they take up almost no space in a home, the constant demand of attention and care needed is a daunting task.
Sadly, a once dedicated bottle-baby fosterer was no longer able to offer their services. They had to make the difficult decision to take the kittens to Animal Control if St. Francis couldn’t find a home for them. Devastatingly, during kitten season, an influx of flooded shelters and fosterers means this happens more than we’d like to think about.
Heartbreakingly, many neonatal kittens are euthanized simply due to the round-the-clock care that cannot be provided.
We at the CaM house refused to let this happen. Never having cared for neonatal kittens was an anxious undertaking. While Cole required bottle feeding and bathroom stimulation when he was found, he was about a month old at the time. This only lasted a week though.
Having only about an hour before their fate would end tragically, Chris sped off to meet the transporter and rescue the kittens. Not needing more than a large tub’s worth of space, Jess cleared out a spot in the master bath. This was perfect as there are 2 sets of doors between here and the living area and would keep the kittens away from Cole and Marmalade.
Cole and Marmalade do not hiss and show aggression towards foreign cat smells when we return from feeding ferals, visiting shelters or from previous fosters living in our garage, but we couldn’t risk it with kittens so young. There was also no way of knowing if the kittens came with any infections or diseases. With Marm’s FIV+ immune system, it is NEVER worth risking spreading germs; regardless of how utterly adorable it would be.
Chris returned with a box no larger than 18” x 12” containing the rescues. Opening the top, there is not a soul that wouldn’t fall immediately in love with the miniature fluff balls.
Foster organizer Jen Tate, with St. Francis who originally informed us of the babies plight, brought us all the supplies we needed for the infants. Although we have a feline heating pad that heats up when pressure is put on it, comfy blankets and syringes, there are specifics required we were unprepared for.
Jen’s care package included kitten formula, a heartbeat stimulator toy and the amazing Miracle Nipple for fussy feeders. We added all of these lifesaving items to our Amazon page for others, knowing they’re amazing!
Thankfully the kittens had no fleas or obvious medical issues and all 4 were moving energetically. This means they were possibly born indoors but there was no way of knowing what became of their mother.
We carefully weighed the featherweights who measured in at only a “whopping” 150-160 grams, about 5 ounces. So tiny! We had an informative and nerve-calming pamphlet from Kitten Lady so we were confident we were getting the best advice and preparation.
Gently lifting the kittens, we each took a bottle and were blessed with babies that didn’t take TOO much coaxing to latch on. The biggest hurdle was keeping track of which one was which as they all looked almost identical! We planned to team up on the feedings until Chris went to bed, usually around 11:00 pm and then Jess “the night-owl” would go solo first. Chris is an early riser, however his alarm set for 3:30 am was a bit earlier than usual! Nothing would deter us though.
Feedings and bathroom successes went very well throughout the overnight hours. As other neonatal fosterers know, the excitement when there is defecation from a overly full kitten belly is hilariously relieving…for all parties!
Jen was working behind the scenes since the discovery of the babies and had finally arranged a foster home with an experienced human that has been helping neonates for over 20 years. Although we were happy to help out and keep the babies that had won our hearts already, we knew it was better that they receive the best possible care with someone like her.
We cherished each feeding and bonding experience through the next day, knowing they’d be leaving us that night. At around 8:30 pm, their new temporary mom arrived and confirmed we had been at least doing everything right. Whew! =)
Saying our goodbyes to the tiny heart-stealers, we loaded up their belongings, washing out the food supplies one last time. We were sure to keep a few supplies on hand for any future rescues we can provide assistance with.
Their foster mom assured us she would send lots of updates and fortunately lives close so we can hopefully visit the babies as they grow into beautiful cats.
The world of fostering may be short lived, but knowing that we helped give the felines a chance at life makes it worth every stressful second and sleepless night.