One of the dumpster kitties looks exactly like Nellie did when we first got her (that was about 10 pounds ago). For that reason, and because she is a total sweetheart, she is one of my favorites. At the end of February, I had an opportunity to get a free spay/neuter through Spay Day USA so I was hoping to trap her because she is one of the few females I haven’t fixed. Well I had an awful time trapping anybody the night I was supposed to get one and when a male walked into the trap I thought I should just take what I could get. Sure enough, just a few days later, the Nellie-cat starting showing a bulge. She was growing kittens. I didn’t quite feel the same dread as when I used to see the perpetual pregnant cat sporting a belly. I was almost a little excited for her to be a mom. Weird, huh? Part of that I think was because Nellie was a mom, too. She had two kittens with her when she was rescued as a stray and I sometimes wonder what kind of a mom she was. I know that’s silly, they go on pure instinct and they probably all act the same or close to it.
I watched the “Dumpster Nellie” get bigger until one day she was scrawny again. I had hopes of getting her kittens out of the woods and into foster care to be adopted, but I wasn’t terribly worried about it. I figured given her size she couldn’t have had more than one or two, which would be a couple more mouths to feed but not a catastrophe. Things are pretty well under control at this point.
Monday night when I went to feed (just a little later than usual), I saw her babies. There were four of them, all lying in a kitten pile on an abandoned cushion sort of in the woods. THEY. WERE. CUTE. About 4-5 weeks old and not yet taught to be scared of humans. I called Heather, my feral cat consultant, who was hot on getting them out of there as soon as possible. Now with two weeks to go before leaving for the whole summer, I am up to my eyeballs in finishing up experiments, brushing up on magnetism theory so my new boss doesn’t think I’m an idiot and getting ready to be away from home for three months. I wasn’t thrilled with the notion of finding a place for these kittens to be. Then Heather told me that if the raccoons find the litter, they might eat them. That got me riled the hell up. I went back out that night with a cardboard box but they were already hiding. I hardly slept a wink Monday night worrying that the raccoons would get Dumpster Nellie’s kittens.
The next morning I went to feed and after a minimal amount of poking around, I looked under a thatch and found four pairs of eyes staring back at me. I called Heather back and before work she came over and helped me rescue the kittens from their nest. The thatch was actually covering a metal grating, with a hole the right size for kittens to get in and out of, but not a good size for human hands to reach in and get them. We had to carefully maneuver their wriggling bodies out without scraping up against the rusty metal. They cried and tried hissing at us, which absolutely broke my heart. What broke my heart even more was seeing the mama watch us take her kittens. My mom always says that the right thing to do is rarely the easiest thing to do. I still feel like the scum of the Earth taking her kittens from her. I have to just have faith that if she could understand she would approve. She doesn’t seem especially mad at me, and she recognizes me as the lady who feeds her, so maybe she does know that they’re safe. It definitely must be easier on her to watch someone she trusts even a little bit to take her kittens than to see a raccoon get at them. This is what I have to keep telling myself three days later.
At that point the kittens were in my care. It was and I had a meeting at and I had no idea how long I would be held up. At that age, it is always a worry whether or not the kittens can eat on their own, and I figured if I didn’t see them eat within a couple of hours I would have to take them to the emergency room. So me, the four kittens and two cans of kitten food piled into the car went to the lab. It actually went over pretty well. They ate enough for me to relax and though the temptation was strong to blow off my experiments and snuggle them all day, I had a ridiculous amount of work to do. They pretty much resumed the kitten pile position and slept all morning anyway.
In the afternoon, a lady Heather had told about my kittens called me up and told me that if I got the kittens tested for feline leukemia (FLEUK) and feline HIV (FIV) and they turned out healthy, she would find a foster home that would take them. I was a little relieved since having young ones in my care made me nervous. They were, however, much older than the kitten I briefly had a few months back. The lady who offered to help happens to be in charge of the Campus Cat fund at my university. They pay to have the feral cats on campus fixed, vaccinated and fed. She said since I was a student living right across the street from campus the fund would pay for the testing, which can run about $20/cat.
After I got most of my stuff done, around , I loaded the car back up and took the kittens to the vet the Campus Cat lady had referred to me. That’s when the crisis and the chaos ensued. I thought the testing would consist of blood drawn from the kittens, and then I’d take them back to my place and drop them off in time for Dean and I to go to the Twins game at the Trop. The nurse at the vet’s wanted to keep them. I told her I wasn’t aware this was the plan and that I thought I was going to take the kittens until the test results came in. If the tests were all negative, THEN Campus Cats will find them a foster home. I assumed if they tested positive, the next step was Cat Call, an organization that will adopt out both healthy and FLEUK/FIV positive kittens. That apparently was not how they did things. They would take the kittens and if they tested negative they would hold them until Campus Cats found a foster home. If they tested positive, that was the end of the road for them. I did not find that policy acceptable. It wasn’t an option for me, who was already attached to the kittens, and even more attached to their mama. I simply was not willing to do that. So I told the lady she could keep the kittens over night for testing but she was to call me as soon as there were results. If the results were bad, I would come get the kittens and figure something else out. She jotted down my name and phone number in the file and said they’d call in the morning.
At that point is when the paranoia started. I called Heather practically in tears at the very notion of my kittens being euthanized. I know the nurse said she’d call me back, but could I believe her? Heather said she had no idea that’s what would happen and that she too thought the kittens were just going in for testing then coming back to my place. She called the Campus Cat lady again and said there was a mix up and that I would need to have the kittens back if they tested positive rather than the usual policy of euthanizing. The lady was a little annoyed but agreed to make a concession for my case, since I pleaded ignorance at being relatively new to this. I called the clinic once again to make SURE the nurse was going to call me with the results, at which point I offered to pay out of pocket for the testing if it was a matter of going against Campus Cat policy. She tersely said it wasn’t necessary and again told me she’d call in the morning.
So I had another sleepless worrying about the kittens. This time not a raccoon getting them but a mean kitten-killing nurse.
I called first thing in the morning to make sure the kittens were okay. They hadn’t been tested but were playing and eating well. The notion of them playing made me feel better about taking them from mama. I don’t know that feral cats can do a whole lot of playing without worrying about food and predators. Already things were looking up for them.
At after an obscene amount of anxiety and emailing/calling back and forth between Heather, Campus Cat lady and me, the vet called to tell me my kittens were healthy. They are still a little young to be away from each other but are going to an adoption fair on Saturday for “pre-adoption”. I know they’ll be the cutest ones there!
She also said she’d email me pictures. I will definitely upload the cuteness when it comes.