Friday, December 1, 2023
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Rescue Story: Three Little Kittens

orange kitten in pink towle
Good morning!

Sometimes rescuing kittens is a little more complicated than finding a place for mom and the kids to live until they are all ready for adoption—in fact, sometimes finding mom is part of the problem and you have one or more unweaned orphaned kittens on your hands. Add to that the fact that many of the mother cats have had minimal or no veterinary care and are often living in marginal conditions with a fragile immune system for themselves and their kittens and anything from serious injuries to an upper respiratory infection or pneumonia, panleukopenia (distemper) and bacterial infections such as E. coli and salmonella or coccidia, or a parasite such as worms or even fleas can threaten a young kitten’s life unexpectedly. These three kittens were picked up in the past week. Each has its story, and each is surviving and thriving through the work of rescuers.

. . . . . . .


orange kitten in pink towle
Brian just out of surgery.

A report came in of a kitten seen with a rubber band wrapped around its hind leg, cutting off the circulation. The kitten was located at least an hour northeast of Pittsburgh, but as soon as a rescuer headed in that direction to find the kitten she was texted that the kitten had disappeared. The rescuer knew she’d be in that direction the next day.

“I went after work today and it took me two hours to catch him. That was a 3 pm,” she commented on Facebook. “He was a bugger! The other two kittens went right into the trap yesterday. He wouldn’t go in. I cornered him on the porch under a recliner and was able to get him into the trap! I told him I leave nobody behind!!!!!!”

Finding an injured kitten in an unfamiliar area? A miracle in itself since kittens who are ill or injured often simply disappear into the landscape, never to be seen again.

But she knew the kitten’s leg injury was a serious life-threatening condition. “My vet was gone for the day and then I waited for Michelle to find out where I could take him since I knew he needed immediate attention. She got back to me and I met Kim in Harmarville and she got him the rest of the way. I was grateful for Kim helping me out, as it has been a long day!”

cat in carrier
Bryan ready to go home after surgery.

The kitten appeared to have a piece of twine tied around its leg, and at this point the story gets a little graphic, though I will forgo the graphic pictures. The leg had lost circulation and was so badly infected it was filled with maggots and at risk of becoming septic and infecting the kitten’s entire body, effectively killing the kitten. The kitten was also in a huge amount of pain. The leg had to be removed as soon as possible, waiting overnight would probably endanger the kitten’s life.

Kim met Mary Jo and took the kitten to a veterinarian in Pittsburgh who works closely with the rescue group and who volunteers for HCMT’s TNR clinics, just before they closed for the night. The kitten had his leg removed within the hour and was also FeLV/FIV tested and neutered while under, and was recovering in the evening. He was named Bryan for the veterinarian who stayed late to save the kitten’s life and remove the leg and stabilize him.

The next day he was awake and alert and went home with his foster, Robin, where he’s currently chilling with 11-year-old Rusty, who loves kittens. Aside from only having three legs, he’s a totally average kitten.

two orange cats
Bryan with a buddy.

Many thanks to Mary Jo, who would not give up, and to her and Kim for transporting, Michelle for making the arrangements at ARL and the veterinarians who took care of him. He’s doing well at Robin’s home, and Mary Jo found foster homes for the other kittens and the mother.

. . . . . . .


torbie cat
Little Spike.

The shelters have been working with our rescue group when kittens arrive, and when ill or injured cats arrive as well, letting us know so we have the chance to find a foster home to let the kittens come up to age and weight for spay and neuter and be socialized along with their mom. Spike was one of such a litter, three three-week-old kittens picked up with their mom at the shelter for fostering.

They seemed healthy and active, but the little torbie kitten who her son had named Spike was thin enough to sneak between the bars of her cage though she was playful and friendly. She was decidedly not thriving, though, suddenly becoming lethargic and first she was taken to an emergency hospital for supportive care and fluids, her blood sugar didn’t register and her body temperature was low. Everyone did their best to chip in to pay for it, but even with that Spike just had watery diarrhea and was not improving at all.

torbie kitten
Do you like my pink arm?

In the meantime one of Spike’s two siblings suddenly died, and the possibility of distemper was mentioned. Supportive care is the only thing that can be done even in that case, and Lindsay Joyce, a vet tech very experienced in critical care who regularly works at the clinic, started all of the foster home’s cats on supportive care.

torbie kitten
Spike with IV and a little toy

The bill at the emergency hospital was mounting so Spike was then sent home with Lindsay for round-the-clock care. Lindsay made some adjustments to her medications and Spike was hanging in there, but stayed wide awake for nearly two days. Lindsay monitored her all along, setting her and her IV up in a Tupperware container so she could go to work with Lindsay. She could finally take a break when Spike decided to sleep.

kitten sleeping with monitor
Finally, she sleeps.

After another day Spike gained a little energy, stopped with the watery diarrhea and began eating regular food. Lindsay guessed it was coccidia that was the issue, and it never seemed to hit the other kitten or her mother. But little Spike is on the mend, not quite out of the woods, but feeling much better.

Needless to say, the emergency hospital stay was expensive, and we are glad for a skilled veterinary technician like Lindsay who can take the worst of the cases and do her best with them. Unfortunately, kittens who need this level of care are not infrequent.

. . . . . . .


tux kitten in fleece
Little Thor.

Another message came in that a family had found a mom cat with a litter of five young kittens in their yard. They could get to the kittens but also wanted to trap the mother cat so they could socialize the kittens, possibly socialize her and get her spayed.

Mom cat was not at all friendly. They had the kittens in a box and another rescuer came by to set a trap using the kittens as a lure, hoping the mother would enter the trap by trying to get to her kittens. The mother cat did come by, but unfortunately she moved them all out of the box except for one, and that kitten, of course, became Thor.

It’s best for kittens to stay with their mother for as long as possible, so they bottle fed Thor, then wrapped him up to keep him warm and put him out as bait for mom. No luck. After another few feedings and most of a day they concluded it was now better to take the kitten into foster and if they did catch the mother they could reunite them. The persons who lived where the cat had been living did not feel confident about feeding him, but they would definitely adopt him when he was old enough to eat on his own, and it was they who named him Thor—a good strong name.

Little Thor went to Debby Nicola, who had never bottle fed kittens but was willing to learn, but Thor wasn’t the best student of bottle feeding. She had met me at the Pet Fair on Saturday carrying Thor and attempted to feed him there, and a veterinarian who was there answered a few questions saying the little peanut was dehydrated and might also be constipated.

We all gave her suggestions for alternate feeding methods but hours went by and he simply would not eat. On Sunday she found a wet nurse and took him to another rescuer who had taken in a nursing mother cat.

kittens nursing
Thor nursing from his foster mother.

The cat had four kittens of her own already plus another slightly older foster who was nursing from her, but Thor fit right in immediately. The mom cat bathed him thoroughly and he began nursing and napping with the other kittens as if he’d always been there. Some kittens just need a cat mom.

pile of kittens
Thor with his adopted family.

The rest of the litter were caught and taken to a foster home, and the mother has since been caught as well. Below is a totally gratuitous photo of Thor and Demo being the cutest tiny snuggle buddies ever.

two spotted kittens
Thor with his kitten buddy Demo.

. . . . . . .

So far, so good with these three, but each of them took hours of time in rescue alone, a few hundred miles on several cars, and bills at veterinarians plus the time and expertise of rescuers, and lots of KMR. And this is only three kittens out of hundreds we’ll rescue over the summer, and no doubt a few more will need this sort of critical care. But no one questions the effort and all are glad to help make the difference, whether we are out there in the field rescuing the kittens, helping others who aren’t as skilled at trapping mother cats and kittens, or working with shelters to take high-maintenance mother cats and kittens off their hands to save their lives, raise and socialize them and give them a better chance at adoption.

. . . . . . .

How you can help the cats and the rescuers

These rescuers go far out of their way to get cats to safety and we all work hard to keep them healthy and find them loving forever homes through the Animal Rescue League, FosterCat, Frankie’s Friends and on our own. Obviously it takes money to do this and many rescuers pay out of their own pockets for food and veterinary care. Here are two ways you can contribute directly to helping these cats.

Our Amazon Wish List

amazon wish list for kittens
The Amazon Wish List for our group’s foster kittens.

Rescuer Margo set up this Amazon Wish List

We may have dozens of kittens in over a dozen foster homes, many of them being treated for serious infections, but we also have adults like Kennedy who need critical care. The season has only just begun. Part of the mission with TNR is to not return the kittens and any friendly cats—once we’ve rescued them we socialize them and put them up for adoption through the ARL Foster Finder program or through FosterCat or Frankie’s Friends.

Many rescuers pay out of pocket for veterinary care and food but the costs of raising even the average litter of four healthy kittens is more than many people have, and many rescues have greater needs, like the kittens in this story. If you can help with just one purchase from the kitten wish list on you’d make some kittens and a rescuer very happy.

Support the Homeless Cat Management Team!
Support the Homeless Cat Management Team!

Tee Shirts Show Your Support of Spaying and Neutering Your Pets

Rescuer Tarra designed this shirt and set up the sales page.

Only until June 28!

Homeless Cat Management Team needs your help! Without donations, we simply cannot provide low-cost/free spay and neuter clinics to homeless cats in Pittsburgh and the surrounding 9 counties at the rate in which we need them to help control the cat population.

You have until the end of June to buy a shirt and support Homeless Cat Management Team.

Click here to find out how you can help homeless cats and get a gift certificate!

Treats For Homeless Cats And Caretakers

Can’t adopt? Foster! Can’t foster? Donate or volunteer.

There are so many ways you can help cats who need homes and care. You may not have room to adopt another cat, but can foster a cat or kitten for a few weeks. If not that, you can volunteer at a shelter or with a rescue, or donate. You do this because you love your cat, and by doing so you help all cats. No matter which of these actions you take, you help to save a life, and make life better for all cats.

  • Adopt one of the cats I’ve posted here, or from any shelter or rescue near you, or from Petfinder, to open up a space for another cat to be rescued and fostered.
  • Offer to foster cats or kittens for a shelter or rescue near you.
  • Volunteer at a shelter or rescue.
  • Find a group of volunteers who work with homeless cats and help them with their efforts.
  • Donate to a shelter or rescue near you.

If you can foster kittens or adults cats to help prepare them for a forever home, please run to your nearest shelter and find a cat who needs you! Anyone can help with this effort at any level, even if all you do is donate to a shelter or rescue so they can help to pay for the food or medications needed for their foster, or the spay/neuter/veterinary care during a clinic.

Need to know more? Read Fostering for Your Shelter and Fostering Saves Lives

Read more stories in my weekly Rescue Stories series.

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From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

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