Jack and Diane have gone to their forever homes. They are two very lucky kittens. Last night, the temperature was four degrees—that’s 4° Fahrenheit. That’s very cold, and after several days, with snow and ice and a few days without sun, that is often fatal to animals living outdoors, including wildlife, who are accustomed to outdoor life.
Including cats. Especially young kittens. Like Jack and Diane. If they hadn’t been rescued, chances are they may not have survived this weather, either developing a respiratory infection or pneumonia, or succumbing to hypothermia on one of these frigid nights.
Instead they were taken into a warm home. Despite their hissy and combative nature they were spayed and neutered and given vaccines that protect them from common illnesses and given the time to realize that they are domestic cats and that life is better with people.
Someone saw them, worried about them, knew the consequences of them living as they were, either death or a constant struggle for food and survival, and as many kittens as they could produce.
Can you imagine little Diane struggling through four inches of icy snow to get to food? Can you imagine her and Jack curling up at night with their mother in this cold, with frostbite nipping at their ears and tails and paws? Can you imagine silly little Jack learning to dodge cars and people? Can you imagine Diane going into heat next month and producing kittens later this spring? Can you imagine them both with the distance a feral cat puts between self and human, a glare and a warning hiss?
Instead of a happy look and a nose tap and kiss for the human, and an invitation to a belly rub, and hundreds of adorable photos to share of what incredible kittens they are, the above scenario would be their future. And sadly that is the future for thousands of other kittens and cats out there right now. Most of the cat rescuers I know have been out there doing their best to bring them in before this cold, and though I haven’t been out there trapping I’ve been trying to organize the rescue of several cats and kittens, all to get them to a safe and warm place before this cold threatened their life.
Another thing changed their lives, and the lives of many other cats. Someone decided to give them a chance to change their own lives, to learn about living with humans, to give and receive affection, use scratching posts and occupy the bed and eat food and drink water from clean bowls, to give them a chance to be kittens and play with abandon and never worry about whether or not food is available, or having to prowl around to find it, and live in constant danger.
Fostering comes in many forms, from bottle feeding kittens to housing little families with or without their mothers, holding a cat until there is room in a shelter for surrender, and just giving an animal refuge when they have no one to care for them.
Rescued kittens who need socialization are a special part of this fostering. They walk the line between friendly and feral, a brief window in their development when they can form that bond with humans, often dismissed and even put to death because they aren’t apparently friendly happy kittens and need some time to fulfill their destiny. Cats are domestic animals, genetically programmed to live life with humans, and while they fulfill their lives as felines, they can also fulfill their lives shared with us, a success for both species.
I’ve had a great time socializing Jack and Diane, hearing the noise in the bathroom grow louder each day as they play more, seeing their expressions change from frightened to wary to welcoming each time I opened the door, being able to touch and pet and handle them more each day.
I’ve also had a great visual feast of photographing them, and have more photos than I can ever possibly share in the near future, so you can be sure you haven’t seen the last of them.
But don’t forget that if someone hadn’t seen, cared and acted, none of this would have happened. They would be out there freezing and possibly dying in the cold. And, not as important, but I would have missed the inspiration and joy of creation in photographing them, something that gives my life a feeling of fulfillment, and all of us the smiles at sharing their changes and their natures and their beauty, reinforcing how we feel about kittens, and about cats, and by extension the role of animals in our lives. They bring us joy. We bring them joy. We’ve been doing that for each other for millennia. It’s important to honor that bond because that’s how it’s supposed to be. Not for some of them, but for all of them.
So if there is any way you can participate in this cycle of rescue, do it to save lives. Everything from keeping watch for cats and kittens outdoors to helping with the process of rescue and foster, including donations, honors that bond we have with animals, and they with us.
Bon voyage, Jack and Diane, I’m so happy to have been able to play a little part in the little ditty about you two.
Read other Essays and Rescue Stories on The Creative Cat.
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Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!