Sheffield

Tiny tails and stressful tails: the tough part of rescue (1)

It’s been a really stressful couple of weeks here at 8 Lives.

A couple of weeks ago while I was out trying to trap the last of the Norton 4  I had a message from someone over in Doncaster.  They’d found 5 tiny kittens dumped in a garden.  They were so newborn that their placentas were still attached, and no other rescue was responding to their pleas for help.  Horrendous as it is, we can only conclude that these tiny ones had been ripped from their mum before she’d even had chance to clean them and sort out the after birth.  I’m heartbroken and horrified to think what a state mum was left in, but don’t have the resources or authority to try to chase this up.

I thought there was no way we could realistically help but I messaged my rescue friend Fi just in case she might care for them if we offered rescue back up.  To my amazement she said yes immediately.  That’s an amazing and huge commitment for 5 newborn kittens!  Newborns need feeding every couple of hours at least.  With five the chances are you’ll hardly have finished feeding, toileting and cleaning before you need to start the next feed.   Add into that the need to sterilize everything, make up fresh formula, wash endless blankets and you can pretty much guarantee you’ll be meeting yourself coming back by morning.

We got things together to help, the woman who found them did her best to care for them in the interim.  People tend to assume that rescue is our job and aren’t aware that we have employment commitments that run alongside rescue.  Nevertheless we both managed to get away from work a bit early the next day to go over and get them.  It was an awful day for everyone concerned.   Messages coming in through the day as one after another kitten lost its fight.

When we set off we were going for three surviving kits, but by the time we arrived there were just two.

I called our lovely vets the minute we had them in our care and they fitted them into an appointment slot that they didn’t really have.   We dithered at the car, uncertain whether to put them in the carrier with their seat belt on for safety, or hold them on a lap and give them love.  On balance, weighing up the potential risks and rewards, we opted for lap cuddles and warmth.  I doubt the little tabby and white one would have survived the journey without Fi stroking her and rubbing her with a flannel and warming her.

Dr Tim gave them both some fluids as they were obviously both very dehydrated, and an injection of anti biotics since they’d had nothing of mum’s first milk to protect them.   They both perked up a bit and had a feed when we got back to Fi’s.

And then snuggled down for a sleep together.  Fi was all set to sit up all night with them.

I’d not been home long and fed and sorted all the cats here, when I got a message to say that the little tabby had lost her fight.  Really sad but if I’m honest, we’d been surprised that she’d survived long enough to get to the vets.  We had a bit more hope for ginger boy … he’d been more lively and kicking off a bit whilst waiting for his bottle.   A couple of hours later … the dreaded message …. he’d gone to join his sister at Rainbow Bridge.

The more years I spend in rescue the more I despair of people.  Their mum should be been spayed before any of this happened.  She was obviously an ‘owned’ cat to have her kittens flung into someone’s garden.  There are plenty of schemes for free or low cost neutering.  To cause a poor mum cat this distress … and have her possibly/probably go through it all again in a few months time … and leave tiny kittens in this state … is cruel and unnecessary.

The more years I spend in rescue the more amazed I am by people’s kindness.  Someone with no experience of cat rescue went and scooped these poor babies up and did her best.  Fi, who has lots of experience and certainly enough to know what she was letting herself in for, signed up to the task within minutes.  Our vets squeezed them in to a busy day and didn’t charge us.

Their foster parents buried them in the garden and marked the spot with this lovely little headstone.  Only a few hours in our lives but pawprints forever on our hearts.

You meet the best and the worst of people in cat rescue.

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We’re caught in a trap

Two or three weeks ago we had a message about a mum and four kittens in someone’s garden.  Initially we just said sorry we’re full and gave info about other rescues, but then we got on a bit of a roll with rehoming Harold and Isaac & Theo, so got back to the person to ask a bit more info and see if we could help.

When we found that they were in S8 and only a few miles from us we felt we had to at least do something to help. When we started as a rescue the intention was to be a rescue for S8 cats.  In practice it’s proved impractical to offer help based on post code, though we do try to go the extra mile for S8 cats.

The situation was a little unclear from the email, partly because the person asking for help was a neighbour of the elderly person who was feeding them.   I went up to take some food, and to get a clearer picture of the situation – age of kits, whether they were feral, whether mum was pregnant etc, and then see if we could get another rescue with more resources to help.

The first kitten I spotted I initially assumed was mum as s/he was bigger than I’d expected.  Much bigger!  It turned out that this was the biggest of 4 kits and that sadly mum seemed to have already moved on.  I fear to have her next litter of kittens and that this story will be repeating itself in a few weeks time.

The other three gradually emerged into my sight, slipping through the hedge and out from under shrubs as the elderly lady came out to feed them.  Very timid and no way they were likely to agree to climb into a cat carrier.

I’m normally quite clear that we don’t have the equipment or time resources to trap cats, or the appropriate accommodation to care for cats who have needed to be trapped.   However, we’d bought a trap a little while ago intended for Stanlie.  Then we’d then taken in Hecate and her kits, and by the time there was space for Stan again he walked in of his own accord.  Although the kits were very skittish they were clearly attached to the lady who had been feeding them, some were going into her kitchen to get food, some licking food off her fingers.  They obviously weren’t feral.

I heard the neighbours’ concerns about the stress the situation was causing for the lady.   After her promises to help, and my disclaimers about limited experience of trapping, can’t promise anything etc I went home to fetch some tuna and the trap.

We’d not had it set up very long when the hungriest kit went in.  I brought her home and took the trap back.

The neighbour set it again a couple of days later at the weekend, and amazingly another kit had trotted in.  I was helping set up tables for our fundraiser at Heeley Institute but the fundraising boss allowed me to go and get her/him 😉

It was lovely to see kit 1 and 2 reunited.  Kit 1 had hidden for a couple of days, terrified, but when s/he heard kit 2 arrive she came running out to see her.

I combined taking the trap back with taking my own neighbour shopping.  There was a vague hope that whilst we went round Aldi another kit would go in the trap and we could pick her/him up on the way home.  It almost happened like that …. except we were home and unpacking my neighbour’s shopping when I got the message that kit 3 was trapped.

Collected Kit 3, brought her/him home and went late to the fundraiser.

 

Kit 4 proved more elusive.  Kit 4 is the biggest one whom I’d initially thought was mum.  Ironically s/he seems the most confident … but that meant they wanted to go into the kitchen rather than the trap to be fed.  Spent Sunday tea time up there trying various strategies.  Kit 4 had the measure of me and was going to do b@gger all that I wanted them to do.

Spent quite a while walking up the road, sitting on walls, looking a big shifty, trying to pretend I wasn’t there to trap 4.  S/he having none of it.  Sitting on wall frantically trying to find help for someone who just messaged me about newborn kits dumped in a garden – but that’s another blog post.

Monday teatime proved more successful.  The neighbour set the trap and deftly caught 4 whilst I was driving home from work, so I was able to pick her/him up on the way.  Seriously hats off to this lady!  I was doubtful at first whether the promised help would be forthcoming .. but she was amazing.  I’m hanging on to her email address.  If we ever need to trap more kittens … she’s going to be our first port of call 😉

Hiding has been the main theme of the week.  So much so that I’ve had to pull the filing cabinet away from the wall as I was worried they’d be totally squished.

As the week as progressed we’ve gradually seen them more out of hiding.   Kit 1’s weakness is chicken, Kit 2 is tempted with toys.  K4 loves food generally and is more confident.  K3 is proving to be the most timid.

They’re of an age where they could do with getting to the vet to be neutered.  In the next week or two we need to either find out genders or just book them in as a box of mixed infants.  K2 is obviously female as she’s tortie.   Thank goodness we have such lovely vets who cope with our odd requests.

 

 

 

 

 

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Stanlie – a long tail

Regular readers will have heard mention of Stanlie, the stray on our doorstep.   He’s been there a while but his story hasn’t been fully told.  In truth it won’t be fully told now either –  As with most stray cats, the first chapters are completely unknown to us.

But lets start at what might be Chapter 5 of his life.  We took in a couple of adult female cats way back in January this year.  They hadn’t been spayed.  Although we arranged this asap it wasn’t before the hormones went out and there was an almighty cat fight in our front garden.  We went rushing  to see what was happening and try to break it up.  It was raining heavily and two cats were wrestling each other in the mud.  They were so filthy that I can’t be sure … but I think this was our first meeting with Stanlie.

If it wasn’t … Stanlie appeared on my drive a short while after.  He was dirty and limping and very scared of people.   I went out to ask him if he needed anything or would like to stay for tea.   His fear was more or less balanced by his hunger and he stood frozen to the spot trying to decide which was more pressing.  In the end we agreed that I’d put the bowl at the end of the drive and go safely indoors whilst he ate.

Stanlie the stray

We had a few days like this and then he disappeared.  I assumed he’d swiped right and gone off after another potential lady friend.  Then a couple of weeks later my neighbours mentioned a cat that had been in their garden looking a bit shifty and asked if I’d seen it.   He was back.

We did the usual search on social media and lost and found sites.  No one looking for him, and no one answering the “does anyone know this cat?” posts.  He gradually became more of a regular.  Rather than just stopping by every few days for a meal, he’d drop round for tea every evening.   The resident cats would call out when he arrived and I’d nip out to feed him.  Then he got the hang of my changing shift patterns and would be waiting on the drive for me.   Gradually it came to be that he was there for breakfast too. Then he susssed that the residents always had chicken treats a little while after they’d had their tea … so he’d hang around after his tea for ‘pudding’.

recycle box to keep food dry

At first it wasn’t very nice outside to spend time with him, but as the days got warmer it was comfortable to sit outside on the front step and feed him treats and chat.  Then it was possible to confirm what we’d suspected .. no microchip.  As the summer reached its hottest it was lovely to come outside in an evening to chill a bit and spend time with him.   He grew in confidence so he’d eat next to me and take treats from my hands, and let me stroke him and even pick him up.  He learned to trust my neighbours … not naturally cat lovers … but lovely enough to care about him and protect him.  He spent so much time in one spot on their lawn that it went yellow the way pitched tents yellow the grass over a long weekend.

All the time of course we’re thinking what’s best to do.  Obviously he needs neutering but we had nowhere indoors to keep him safe after his op.  Couldn’t just put him outdoors straight away, and what if it scared him and he ran away and then didn’t have anyone feeding him?  Needed space to get him in.  If you’ve followed the blog you’ll know which cats managed to get ahead of him in the endless game of Lifeboat that is cat rescue.

practising coming in and shutting the door

If I’m honest I was also anxious about depriving him of his liberty.  How could I justify it being a better life stuck in a small room when outside it was warm and sunny and we were feeding him?  A good argument would be to stop an unneutered cat going after female cats … but all he was doing was camping in the neighbour’s garden waiting for his next meal.  What if I tried to trap him and didn’t manage it and it just scared him away?

As the weather turned cooler and wetter my guilt about dragging him indoors was replaced by concerns about leaving him out.  I came straight home from taking Harold to his new home, cleaned his bedroom and got Stanlie indoors.

We’d thought it might take a trap to get him.  However we’ve practised coming into the house for chicken treats over a few weeks, and even practised having the door shut.  That’s what happened on Monday … then we scooped him up in the carrier that had come back from Harold’s new home.

I didn’t expect it to be an easy transition.   Stan has usually hissed … out of habit almost … when he first sees me, even though he’s been shouting for me to come to feed him, and is waiting for me to put the food in his bowl.  I was upset to see how put out he was to be indoors.  He hissed and scrowled like I’ve not heard since the big cat fight back in January.   He ate something which was good.  But refused the chicken I offered.  I think he may have vowed never to eat chicken again since that’s what got him into this mess.

refusing chicken

Overnight he sang a long low lament for the damp spot under the hedge where he used to sleep.  Did I say it was a looooong lament?  Did I say it was bl@@dy endless and did I mention that his bedroom is right next to mine?

On Tuesday we managed to get an appointment at the vets.  I’d not anticipated it being easy to get him into the carrier.  I’d not quite anticipated this.

impressive but stressful 😉

The thought of having to repeat the process to have him neutered was seriously daunting.  Amazingly they were able to keep him, neuter, chip, start vaccs, health check and pick up an hour later!  They really are awesome.  Hugely relieved to get all that done.  Surprised to learn that the limp he had wasn’t arthritis as we’d suspected.  It seemed to have come and gone and been a bit difficult to pin down over the summer.  I’d wondered if the warm weather was helping it.  It turns out he has dermatitis on his hands and feet.  I’ve never got close enough to see the pads of his feet.  Poor lad.  Must be so sore.  He’s had bloods take to try to find out more about why he’s having this problem.

He spent Tuesday night lamenting the loss of other things.  So another night with no sleep.

And the next couple of nights followed a similar pattern with him sitting in his bedroom loudly accusing me of having ruined his life whilst I laid in bed sleepless and guilty.   When I went in to him he’d sit hiding and looking miserable, refusing to come out for food whilst I was there.

This evening I’ve gone in and offered turkey … I’m tactful enough to not offer chicken again just yet … and things have definitely changed.  He hissed a little but then jumped down from his perch and came to eat more and be stroked and snuggled.

Who knows when we might sleep again.

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In Hartford, Hereford and Hampshire hurricanes hardly happen

I’ve felt like I’m auditioning for My Fair Lady when I’m calling the vets this week for appointments.

We’ve had Hecate, Herbie, Hector, Harvey and Henry booking in for their second vaccs …. and then Harold arrived and got an appointment for a health check and start his vaccs and then hanother to be hneutered and hchipped.

Harold arrived about 10 days ago.  Well … actually he arrived some weeks/months ago and went away again … so let’s start the story from there:

We arrived home one day to find that Stanlie (our regular stray who is waiting a rescue place) had been joined by a very handsome tuxedo cat.  We was very friendly and hungry.  So I went indoors to get some food and the microchip scanner.  No chip and not neutered, but at least he was fed and it was warm and dry outside. We had no space to take anyone in, or Stanlie would have been in.  Set to work checking lost and found ads.

Our local facebook page was very informative

These are just a couple of posts about him … there were more. They also got confused with a friendly cat who does have a home but likes to drink and socialise in the Brothers Arms .. well … who wouldn’t.

Before we could make any serious headway in finding an ‘owner’ Mr handsome Tuxedo had gone from here again. I suspect Stanlie had a quiet word about it being his patch. Over the weeks we’ve seen various posts about him, lots of lovely people caring about him and feeding him but no one saying he was their cat and no one else able to take him in properly and foster while we got him sorted out.

 

If you’re following the thread of the story over the last few weeks  … you’ll know that Hecate moved into a foster home, her kittens moved downstairs, Isaac and Theo moved into the bigger rescue room that The H family had vacated, and we had a space. I contacted some of the lovely people who had been looking out for him, managed to locate him, they got him indoors and I went to pick him up.   I wouldn’t have given him another H name but they’d been calling him Harold and it kind of stuck.

I think there were mixed emotions arriving in rescue. Stressful to suddenly be confined to a smaller space. However for several days he just ate and slept and I’m sure he was glad to be indoors and safe and know he had a regular supply of food.

He’s a very loving, purry boy who enjoys lots of cuddles.

He loves to play too ….

And he was a really good boy at the vets … unless you count the fact that he refused to pose for his photo 😉

We’re working on getting a better photo now to give his adoption ad a bit of a boost.

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a day is a long time in cat rescue

So last Friday we posted blog written but not quite finished on Thursday.  In the 24 hours between writing and posting things had moved on yet again with the H Team.

Just after 4.30 last Friday afternoon I had a message from Bosca’s lovely mum asking if Hecate was still looking for a home.  Yes, she is … and really needs out of rescue because its stressing her.  However she’s very reserved and not sure how she’ll be as a pet.  Wondering how she might be away from the kittens, with a bit more space and 1:1 attention.  Bosca’s mum really missing the company of having a cat around.  [You may remember the lovely Bosca had heart problems and went to Rainbow Bridge a few weeks ago]  Would she be interested in fostering Hecate and seeing how it goes? Yes.  When can they come to meet her?  Now.  OK.   After a brief meeting where Hecate is a bit aloof but puts her tail up whilst being stroked, and leans into a chin rub we have a deal 🙂  I wait while 6pm to set off to take Hecate round there to avoid the worst of the traffic.  Not quite believing that between initial text and landing on their door step has taken less than two hours.

I very clearly remember arriving on the doorstep almost 4 years ago with Bosca.  Such a lovely little cat … so sweet I almost forgot to rehome her.   She was so very loved and cared for … ….. run free little one x

Hecate struts of out of her carrier, explores a bit and then sits under the same cabinet Bosca initially hid under.  Although she’s hiding, she seems relaxed under there, and has been walking around with her tail in the air and happily checking the place out.

Later in the evening I got a message that she’d found the litter tray and was now settled in the chair.   And by Saturday morning she’d found a nice warm sunny spot on the windowsill.

For a cat who has lived outdoors most of her life, struggling to feed herself and kittens, this must be heaven.

Then it was time to think about how to make progress with the kittens.  You may remember that Henry & Harvey had come downstairs to live with the residents a few weeks ago and were growing in confidence.  Hector & Herbie were still upstairs with mum.

On Saturday morning we decided that the best plan was to bring them downstairs to join their brothers.  As with their previous attempt to come downstairs, there was a lot of hissing and growling.   Despite being brothers and being close for most of their lives they claimed to have never seen each other before.   I don’t know if its just me … but listening to kittens growling and squabbling all day really grates on the nerves.  It took while Tuesday for it to be anything like civilised.  They’ve still been very clearly divided into pairs but gradually less likely to be fighting.  A week on they seem to be back to being a team of 4.

black cat appreciation day

As far as confidence goes … they’ve come on in leaps and bounds this week.  I’m so pleased and excited … and relieved.   Despite their arguing, they do seem to have helped each other.

Here’s Henry demonstrating to Hector how snuggles can be fun …. and Hector looking rather unconvinced …. though he’s been more than persuaded since that photo was taken.

My best ally in this project is our precious Henderson.  He may have been someone’s castoff grubby old tom cat … but he’s my most reliable colleague.  Apart from being just a steady presence for the kits and letting them snuggle up to him, he’s helped them start to enjoy human contact.  He enjoys his snuggles with me and purrs loudly.  The kits trust him … and are used to the sound of loud purrs signalling a happy feed with mum …. so they come running to join him.  He’s gradually building up the number of kittens who are flocking to him.

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It’s hard to get photos when they’re all piled on your lap … hence the photos when they’re beside me.   It’s felt a looooong week in many ways … but brought us to a point right now as I’m finishing this blog, where Hendo is off doing his own thing, and all 4 kittens are on the sofa beside me … purring loudly.   Given their wariness of people to start with this is just awesome.

Once they were downstairs Isaac & Theo were able to move from the small rescue room to the bigger one, so the small one was free again …. for a few hours …..     Check out the next exciting episode to see who arrives in it 🙂

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Yellow & Purple and other complications

Last week we brought you the positive story of Henry & Harvey (previously Green and Pink) moving downstairs and growing in confidence and purrs.  We promised an update on their brothers Yellow & Purple (now Herbie & Hector).   The hope was that they’d play happily with Isaac and his confidence and purriness would rub off on them.

It started well:

Isaac even managed to make a good impression with Hecate and she invited him round for supper

We were full of hope.

However … as happens in cat rescue … it got complicated.

Little Herbie hurt his hand/arm … possibly an insect bite .. and needed to take things a bit steady.  Isaac was too boisterous and Hecate started to object.  Isaac was given a single room, but cried most of the night through loneliness (I know this as my bedroom is next door).

A friend contacted me about a kitten who was being hurt by children in his family and needed out … fast.   I said yes because it was a friend, and a scared kitten.  Brought him home, without a precise plan for where he’d go.  He growled and growled and hissed, and when he went to the vets later they diagnosed him with a nasty case of ear mites and advised he be kept away from the other kits …. for 3 weeks!

I wonder how many people lay awake at night thinking about their house and the various doors in it in quite the way that we do.  Endless turning over permutations of space and who has access to where.   Anyway … we came up with a plan.  Theo on his own in the little bedroom, so he keeps his ear mites to himself.  Isaac and Hecate in the back bedroom, as they’ve got along ok.  Then all the H Team kittens downstairs, Herbie & Hector initially in a crate and then just in the extension so Herbie could rest his leg and they gradually gained confidence with more space.

Yes!  The endless turning of maddening puzzle … with a little blue sky thinking …. gives us a solution.  Lots of cleaning, changing litter trays, moving favourite beds around.

The first thing we noticed was that the now divided H team no longer recognised each other and were hissing lots.  I’d probably been a bit optimistic hoping that the residents wouldn’t notice that there were now 4 little black kittens sharing their space rather than 2.   We persisted for a while.  Hissing and growling usually settles after a few days with kittens.  However Theo sobbed his socks off being alone in the little bedroom, Hecate blamed Isaac for her kittens having been taken away and they started scrapping.   Herbie and Hector’s cries downstairs could be heard by Hecate upstairs when all the windows were open (covered with cat safe netting of course) and they howled back and forth to each other.

Struggling with concerns about how rehomeable  Herbie and Hector would be if they spent too much longer with mum’s negative opinions, but heartbroken by the cries between mum and babies, we caved in.   Took the kits back upstairs to mum at which point she claimed that it wasn’t these kittens she wanted, she’d never seen them before and started hissing at them and pushing them away from her.   FFS!  It’s really late at night by this stage and I have to be at work in the morning!  Watched them for a while on CCTV (thank goodness we have that option) decided they’d be ok, though laid awake most of the night listening to check.

Of course Isaac then had to come out of there.   And go where exactly?  A leap of faith and a jump of desperation led to us putting an Advocate on him to protect from ear mites and rooming him with Theo.  After all the growling that was going around it seemed a bit ridiculous to think they might be ok together.  More watching of CCTV.  Amazingly and thankfully these guys have just been happy friends.  They play at prodding and poking each other but it’s just normal kitten games.

isaac & theo

Watch out next week for the next twist in the tail

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Coming downstairs ..

Following on from our previous post, Green & Pink, won (or lost) the lottery and were the two kits who left their mum and siblings and came downstairs to live with the family.

 

By chance we’d got the most confident so far of the group (green) and the most timid (pink).

They don’t look particularly pleased about it on day one.  They were in a large crate in the main living room whilst they acclimatised a bit.

Once they were more settled they started to explore the space a bit.  Spent a lot of time offering treats, playing with toys with them, stroking when possible.   Isaac sort of helped by playing with them and purring lots, though he’s a lot biggerer than them so was a bit scary too.

 

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Quite a bit of the time I’m reminded of playing grandmothers footsteps … though in this version I try to pretend I’m not noticing them as they risk getting a little closer to me.   For a few days I really wondered if I’d done the right thing … although I’m not at all convinced there is “A Right Thing” in this situation.

Then it started to get noticeably better.  I’m not entirely sure what happened first.  I stroked Green and he purred.  First time I’d heard any of the family purr apart from the group purr when mum was feeding them.  Pink was much more wary and would stand at a distance and cry to Green.   Two weeks on, Pink is still more wary, but will also come to me and purr whilst being stroked.

I have to give at least some of the credit to the residents for their improvement.  Jango has helped a little, but Henderson has been a real hero.  Hendo has let them sit with him, and feel safe next to him.  I did see a look of horror on his face when one of them asked about the possibility of a milky supper … but mostly this old chap has given them the reassurance they need in settling into a home.

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The full family gathering for chicken supper was a bit tricky …. but we managed

At the end of two weeks living with the family, these two little ones are definitely more confident than their siblings upstairs with mum.   They’ve had their first vet appointment and started their vaccinations.  They’ve made the transition from being Green and Pink to Henry & Harvey.

In the next exciting episode we bring you ….. what happened with Yellow & Purple!

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Any colour you like … so long as it’s black

We sit in solidarity with Henry Ford right now as we offer cats and kittens in … well … black. We have various sizes .. small timid and cute: adorable medium:  and possibly depressed adult.

Isaac is an adorable live wire, about 4 months old, full of life and hope. He’s not twigged yet that he’s black and will probably wait longer than kits of other colours to find a home. He’s very purry and gorgeous.

The five others are the H Team – mummy Hecate and her four kittens.

They’re an interesting family.  Poor Hecate is only a youngster but so far as we know this is at least her third litter.  She’s had a rubbish life so far.  As if it wasn’t enough to be neglected and pregnant, she’s seen her previous litters not survive.   Who knows what she made of it when she arrived here with her week old kits some weeks ago.

She was safe and cared for, and had space to bring up her little family this time and see them survive.  She was a little hissy when we were handling her babies while they were tiny … though not nasty and not as they’ve got older and come out the nest.

Most adult cats we’ve had here are either friendly or wary or scratchy.  Hecate is none of these.  She greets me and asks for food, allows me to stroke and groom her, but never purrs and doesn’t seek out affection.  Sometimes she accepts the treats I give her … often to only then drop them and leave them for her kits.  She cares for her kittens, though I think also passes her negative view of people onto them.   For the large part its a silent family.  I know they can all purr because there is a group purr when mummy feeds the kits …. but mostly there’s nothing.

I honestly wonder if Hecate is depressed.  I would be if I’d had her life.  She’s seeing the vet next week so will talk to her about it.  Meanwhile I’m struggling to work out what’s best for her … and her kits.  Is it better for her to keep the kits with her?  or have some space?   And from the flip side … is it better for kittens to have mum around, even though she’s passing negative stuff about people on to them?  Or maybe its hereditary.  Is it nature or nurture that the kits are wary?  They’ve all been safe here since about a week old, but two are noticeably more confident than the other two.

The weekend before last, after Mathilde and Mollie went to their new home, we decided to bring a couple of the kittens downstairs to live as part of the family as M&M had done.   They’d have more contact time with people and with cats who think humans are on the whole a good thing.  It was too much to ask of the resident cats that we brought all 4 kittens down, and felt wrong for Hecate to suddenly lose all her babies, especially given that she’d lost her previous litters.  So splitting into two pairs seemed to make sense, but then the dilemma of who to choose.  It’s the usual ethical dilemma with limited resources do you offer to the most needy, or the ones most likely to benefit? … and what happens to the others?  Having spun the dilemma around my head for a long time and come to no conclusion .. I decided that it would perhaps just be a bit of a lottery.  I took a cat carrier up to their bedroom, opened it, and waited for two to climb in …

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The Big Day

You may have followed our stories of Mathilde and Mollie over the last few months. Mathilde arrived here age about 2 weeks, having been taken away from her mother (complicated and annoying story that we’ll never get to the bottom of). She needed hand rearing of course at that age.

mathilde arrives

Bottle feeding baby animals is often romanticized. It’s certainly very rewarding. It’s also damned hard work. Very young kittens need feeding every 2-3 hours, bottles etc need to be sterilised, formula made up. They need toileting and cleaning ideally before and and after feeds. As with bringing up any species … as one challenge is met and moved on from, another is faced. When we hand reared our last kitten, Rufus, a couple of years ago, we’d never have managed without his aunty Jenny and uncle Rog to share the care.

Mathilde with Rufus

Thankfully they agreed to share the care of Mathilde too. There was the additional bonus of Uncle Oliver, adopted since Rufus was a baby. Uncle Oliver has a serious interest in dirty bottoms. We’re hugely grateful to all of them as we wouldn’t have managed all this and work too, without them.

When little Mollie arrived a few weeks later, also tiny but about the same age as Mathilde, she was just scooped up into the same routine.

I’m very grateful to our resident cats for accommodating them. I know they weren’t pleased at first, but they’ve got on board with it and Henderson particularly has been wonderful. He’s taken it upon himself to be their “go to” mentor. I love him so much for doing this. (I love him stupid amounts anyway.) Despite being our oldest resident and not very well himself with thyroid issues and arthritis, he’s been so kind to them. He gives them what I can’t possibly give, by being a furry purry feline body to snuggle up to.

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Last weekend I did a homecheck for them. I’d struggled to imagine who on earth I’d be able to trust them to after all this. I’d been unable to let go of Rufus (our previous hand rear) but very aware that we can’t hold on to any more cats and still function as a rescue. More or less the moment their potential adoptive mum opened the door at the homecheck I knew it would be ok.

When I say I knew it would be OK, I don’t mean I thought it would be easy. I’m confident she’ll be an awesome cat mummy who will do all she can to make them healthy happy kitties. Nevertheless we’ve had a week of anticipating letting go.

Henderson particularly has found it hard.  They’re his kittens and much as he grumbles about them sometimes, he clearly adores them.   Honey helped by combing their hair and getting them ready this morning.

 

The time came and I took them to their new home. Mollie chased around excitedly exploring everything. Mathilde climbed the biggest cat tree she’d ever imagined and fell asleep at the top of it. I know they’ll have a lovely life. I kissed them bye bye, hugged their mum, and I hope managed to get far enough from the house before I started crying.

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monochrome to colour

Over the years we’ve had a few little rescue families where mum is all black and all her kittens are also all black.

I have to say, black kittens are just THE cutest little teddy bears ever.   However it is a real challenge to know one from t’other.  I remember an adopter spending ages choosing one of Coco’s kittens, only to not be able to pick him out from the crowd later.  Oddly enough, Wilma’s kits, despite being ‘identical’ were quickly easily distinguishable  by their behaviour and expressions on their faces 😉

Now we have Hecate and her 4 kits:

Hecate & kits

You can probably see some of the problem right from the start. Hard to even know which blob of black is mum’s paw and which is a kitten’s head. It doesn’t necessarily get any easier as they get bigger either.

I’ve talked before on the blog about the curious difference it makes not knowing the gender of your kittens, despite all efforts to not be sexist.   A lot of it for me is about being able to name them.  Whilst its true that there are non gender specific names available … it’s our rescue tradition to name kittens starting the the initial letter of mum’s name.  That narrows the choices a little.

The problem is compounded if you can’t distinguish one kit from the next.  It’s not simply that we don’t know the gender of “little X” … we can’t even pick out which is “little X” in the crowd.   On a simple practical level of care this is tricky …. who is weaned?  who is confident?  who can use the litter tray?

There’s another level though where is feels hard to bond with a generic interchangeable black kitten … and that seems to impact on the kittens being able to relate to people.

It might sound a bit trivial …. but names and naming ceremonies are important for humans across time and cultures.  It’s part of identity and being known, and mostly we  transfer this onto our loved other species.  I think of various temporary carers of animals who try to avoid giving a name to them for fear of attachment.  Conversely, I think of our determination to give our cats a name, because “they can’t die with no name”.   We hastily named Henderson whilst stuck in traffic by the old Henderson’s factory, on a desperate dash from picking him up to taking him to his first vet appointment.

henderson

 

He may have just been A N Other dumped cat at the point we picked him up … but by the time he arrived at our vet 30 minutes later he was a purrson with a name and his life mattered.

But anyway … I digress. We have four jet black kittens and a  black mummy. Mum isn’t feral but she’s understandably wary.  As far as we can tell this is her third litter of kittens and she’s had them all outdoors.  The older litters haven’t survived because of the environment they were born in.  She’s had a rough deal from humans and has clearly spoken to her kits about this.  They are following mum in their wariness.  It’s been hard to gauge whether there is one or two kits who are particularly anxious and others more confident, or whether they’re all ok sometimes and not others.  Useless trying to sex them if you’re just randomly picking up one and then another, as you don’t know which is which five minutes later.  And so impossible to name them and know them as individuals.

It’s been quite a dilemma.  I don’t like collars generally, and I particularly don’t like them on kittens, and even more so not on tiny kittens.  I’ve heard too many horror stories.  However, we’ve bought a selection of “whelp collars” and anxiously put them on a couple of days ago.

The kittens are now Green, Pink, Purple & Yellow.  Despite anxious checking of tightness of collars each day (not too tight as they grow, not so loose as to get paws stuck through them or get caught on anything) the difference is incredible.  They’ll shortly get their H names to match mummy Hecate.

It’s only fair to acknowledge that this is our perspective on the situation.  Hecate is no doubt completely aware of who is who and has her own names for and thoughts about her kittens.   

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