Who knows how nine kittens, all apparently the same age of just a few weeks, came to be found behind a restaurant on Butler Street in Lawrenceville in Pittsburgh, but there they were, crying for food in a pile of rubble.
Wednesday, May 9, working on a patio behind the Round Corner Cantina, a man named Ben happened to see at first ten very young kittens clustered in a pile of rubble at the bottom of a fence.
He wondered where the mother cat was and observed them all day as he worked. Near the end of the day the mom hadn’t shown up, and his wife Aubrey posted a message on Facebook knowing the kittens couldn’t stay where they were overnight, unprotected and unfed. Ben and Aubrey already had four cats but more importantly would be going away and asked if anyone could foster the kittens.
Elizabeth Bashur messaged back that she could take them into her studio, so Ben and his son Axel went with a box to collect the kittens, only finding nine.
Since then, “I’ve pretty much been feeding and bathing and caring for the kittens almost non-stop,” Elizabeth laughed. A lifetime pet owner, she’s never fostered neo-natal kittens before, and her first rescue experience is no fewer than nine hungry kittens!
Elizabeth, founder and owner of the all-ages studio and school Little House Big Art in Polish Hill, understood that in the middle of kitten season, all the local shelters needed was one more huge litter of kittens needing to be bottle-fed every two hours. She would take them into her studio, feed them, vet them and find homes for them.
“Ben and Ax were wonderful with them,” she said. “Ben’s a big guy, muscular, over six feet, tattoos, but he was so tender and gentle with these tiny, tiny kittens,” she added, “and it was so funny that he’d just played in a benefit for feral cats over the weekend.” A local musician, Ben had just been part of the “Big Hair Bash for Cats” on Saturday, May 12 at the 31st Street Pub in Lawrenceville where local punk and metal bands come as their favorite 80s band in a benefit for stray and feral cats, so he was a natural to see this litter of helpless kittens.
Taking care of that many kittens
Not sure of their age, Elizabeth said their eyes were crusted shut when they were found, “But as soon as we washed the goop from their eyes, they fully opened their eyes and they’ve been clear ever since,” she said. “They are very active, a little wobbly now and then, but they have been playing and trying to climb,” she added.
“When we got them last Wednesday, the runt was 6.5 oz., the biggest was 10 oz.,” she said. “Three of the kittens are all black, the rest are a mix of white with brown or black stripes, or black spots,” she described, trying to puzzle out the mystery of ten kittens all the same age.
She’s been calling local veterinarians, shelters and prowling the internet for advice on how to care for kittens at this age. The kittens unfortunately have fleas too, so they’ve been getting baths in plain water or Dawn every few days and their bedding is constantly laundered to help keep the flea populations to a minimum.
“But it’s all I can do to feed them and then get a break long enough to do laundry and mix more formula before they are ready to eat again!” she said. “I’m so glad for the people who stop in and have been helping—friends, neighbors, the kids, I explain how to hold the kittens and feed them and they’ve been wonderful, I couldn’t take care of this many kittens without them!” Elizabeth continued.
But one thing isn’t going as well as it should. “The last four days all we’ve thought about was getting these kittens to poop,” she said, laughing. “A few of them have gone since last Wednesday, and they do pee, but I’m wondering where all the food is going!” She’s been stimulating them as instructed by veterinarians and in neo-natal care instructions she’s found, but it hasn’t produced much. She’s also tried several different remedies including pumpkin in the form of squash baby food. With nine of them it’s hard to tell who has gone and who has not.
Eventually, Elizabeth hopes to find homes for all the kittens, and intends to get them appropriate veterinary care and even get them spayed and neutered before they are adopted if that’s possible.
Help with expenses
“It’s expensive, though,” she said as she explained that even with a “litter rate” the services come to $630 just to be seen and vaccinated. Kitten milk replacement costs about $20 every 2 to 3 days. Other incidentals like cotton balls, ointment, laundry soap (we wash their bedding over and over to try to get rid of the fleas) adds up too.
A pet owner all her life, Elizabeth has had pets since infancy. “My mother had two great danes and two cats when she was pregnant and people told her to get rid of the cats, she said ‘no way!’” Elizabeth recalls. She’s had cats her whole life though right now she only has one cat. Two others who live in memory—Meaty, an orange cat who was “the best pet in the universe,” and Fable who just passed away after suffering a blood clot at the age of three.
About Little House Big Art
Originally moving to Pittsburgh from Detroit to attend the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Elizabeth has just founded and opened Little House Big Art after working for 15 years as a graphic designer. “I taught in a kids’ summer camp in the Adirondacks and decided I’d like to do that all the time, she said. She opened her business this past March with the money in her pocket and her own supplies plus donations. It offers four projects anyone can walk in and do which she calls “Anytime Art” which includes paint-your-own-pottery, make a button, paint a pet and shrink art, plus structured classes and simply open studio space and materials for ceramics, jewelry, sewing and general crafts.
In addition to drop-ins, “I’ve had birthday parties here, and I had a bridal shower where all the guests made shrinky-dinks,” she said, “and I have Crafty Hours focused toward adults where they can brink a bottle of wine and relax while they make things.”
“It’s just one room, and it’s just me,” she said. “I hope to have the kittens in homes before I have to leave to teach camp this summer and find someone else to be here while I’m away.”
Help with these kittens
Since Elizabeth is running a newly-opened small business, she needs to be careful of her expenses and time. It’s easy for an entire day to go by taking care of kittens this young, and as they grow veterinary expenses mount and even the cost of food can be overwhelming. If you can help Elizabeth with a donation toward the kittens’ care, use the ChipIn widget below.
And don’t forget, if you’re local, stop in for a shift of kitten petting and feeding, and also have some fun and make some art and patronize her business! Little House Big Art is located at 3028 Brereton St., Pittsburgh (Polish Hill), PA 15219, but mail should be addressed to 938 Haslage Ave. Pittsburgh Pa, 15212; telephone number is (412) 444-5278, e-mail is [email protected].
Update! May 16: One kitten is spoken for! That little tuxie will be going home with someone when he’s ready!
Also, an overnight update that they had learned to POUNCE!
The images used in this article were provided by Elizabeth Bashur.
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