April 22nd 2018 was a very memorable day for two female cats. Chloe, a 5-year-old feral gave birth to her last litter ever. This included tiny Tortie Aura, born with a cleft palate and an immeasurable will to survive.
The story starts with Chloe, one of the last fertile females in a feral colony of over 200 cats to be trapped by TinyKittens in British Columbia, Canada.
This colony, named The Happy Cat Forest is what started their project in 2015 and has staggering numbers attached: 242 cats are in the colony, 8 are currently in TinyKittens care, 114 have been adopted out and a whopping 91% have been sterilized! Nice work; it’s not an easy task!
At Chloe’s age, the team at TinyKittens estimates that she could have been pregnant up to 15 times!!!
When Chloe was finally caught, she was pregnant again and they discovered that sadly, she has kidney disease. Left untreated in the wild and continuously giving birth, she would have repeated the cycle until her kidney’s failed and she passed away. This would leave any of her offspring to fend for themselves against the unknown dangers of feral living.
But she was fortunate. Rescuers tended to the feral mama who eventually even started to enjoy belly rubs. Her loving personality began to show and quickly earned the love and attention from staff and volunteers.
So under the attentive watch of her new caregivers, Chloe gave birth for the last time to 5 darling little kittens.
When the babies were about 6 hours old, they noticed that one was a bit different. Little Aura was having trouble latching onto mama to feed and had LOST weight in the short time, very worrisome for neonates!
This video is bittersweet, as it shows a still-wet Aura (on the left, in Chloe's armpit) following her instinct to latch on at the milkbar and nurse when she was just minutes old. She stopped trying to nurse pretty quickly because her cleft palate prevented her from forming suction and made nursing impossible. Six hours after she was born, I discovered she had lost weight while her siblings had all gained. I checked her palate right away, and saw what was going on. That's when I started tube feeding her, not knowing if she would even survive her first 24 hours.
Posted by Auradorable on Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Examining her more closely, they discovered the cleft palate within her mouth. She had large holes between the top of her mouth and her nasal passage making it impossible for her to latch onto Chloe and nurse.
Without the ability to eat, she would not survive through the night. Newborns can’t open their eyes for about 10 days so the little baby cried as she couldn’t see and was very hungry; poor girl.
The team lept into action and began to administer food through a feeding tube. This can be very dangerous and they spent the entire evening on high alert, praying for Aura to pull through.
With the rising sun came a huge sigh of relief.
Aura had proven that she has the fighting spirit to conquer obstacles even at less than a day old!
Her fight was not over though.
With a newborn kitten, it is very important that they gain weight regularly and get the proper nutrients. To provide Aura with this, she had to be tube fed by hand every 2-3 hours! After a bit of a fuss initially, she began happily accepting the meals without opposition or complication.
When she is older and her adult teeth come in around 4-6 months of age, she will have surgery to repair the cleft palate. Until then, she will require special care.
Fortunately, her amazing will to live has gained her quite a following on social media. She now has her very own Facebook page, is a regular on the TinyKittens Instagram feed and a YouTube playlist that focuses just on her!
TinyKittens is happy to share her milestones and even some honest hardships as the story of Aura, who they’ve dubbed “Auradorable”, progresses.
The glorious moment Dr. Gorodetsky endoscopically removed 4.5 inches of feeding tube from Aura’s stomach, which she had bit off and swallowed the night before. Aura is banned from tube feeding now that she knows how to thwart the tube, so I have been hand-feeding her babycat kibbles and syringing water to help her learn how eating is supposed to work. I am hoping in a few days she will start eating on her own. The specialist who will be doing her surgery in a few months wants her to eat kibble, because it is too big to get through her cleft (hole in the roof of her mouth) but small enough for her to swallow whole. This will reduce her risk of aspiration pneumonia, which happens when food or other substances get into her nasal passages and are then inhaled into the lungs, causing infection. So far, so good, except we want her to eat about 229 kibbles per day, which is a lot of hand-feeding! ? Watch her LIVE 24/7 at TinyKittens.com/live
On June 21st they were excited to announce that Aura had FINALLY eaten kibble on her own, which is a huge step for her.
At 2 months old, they were also able to get Aura to drink using a rabbit water bottle the day prior. Due to her condition, they explain this will “greatly reduces her nasal passages being flooded when she drinks water, like they do when she tries to drink water from a bowl.“
Aura is a loving and playful kitten now learning how to “cat” from some other helpful…and famous…felines at the shelter. You may remember the story of Grandpa Mason; the senior cat with a terminal kidney disease who lives to help foster kittens? Well he is right there alongside Aura showing her the (sisal) ropes!
She does have to visit the vet quite often to ensure she continues to thrive, but doesn’t seem to mind the trip since she was able to book a window seat!
The happy mama and baby are loving the indoor life now where they can be safe and showered with cuddles, from humans and other rescues alike. You can even view their furbulous new lives on the live cameras that TinyKitten has set up yourself!
Aura hit a big milestone today – 150 tube feedings! This is worthy of celebration because we didn't know if she would survive her first 24 hours, let alone three whole weeks and 150 tube feedings. 😀 Fall in love with our small-but-mighty cleft palate kitten and her family on our 24/7 livestream at TinyKittens.com/live Her prognosis remains guarded due to the severity of her cleft palate, but she has lived a very worthwhile three weeks and is doing much better than expected. We know this could change at any time, but we are appreciating every great day she has! The plan is to get her as big as possible so she can have surgery with a specialist to repair her palate. If possible, we will wait until her adult teeth come in to give her the best chance for a successful surgery. She will be old enough to try weaning in another week or two, and we are really hoping she will be able to manage kibble and water ok so we can stop the tube feedings. We don't have any way to predict how things will go, but we will make sure we continue to do everything in our power to give her the best possible care so she can have the best possible life. <3
Posted by Tinykittens on Sunday, May 13, 2018
As with many animal rescue organizations, TinyKittens is a non-profit run by fosters and volunteers that always need our support. If you are interested in donating to their cause, please visit their website here to learn more information.