Y’all. April Fool’s was insane this year. I still feel like someone has played a joke on me. Never mind the mutilated tailless raccoon in our yard that morning (eek!), or the weird experience of having a biopsy while lying on a medical bed shoved into an office room stuffed with filing cabinets and boxes. This story is about the kittens. Day-old kittens, to be specific.
About 6pm on Friday evening, one of our neighbors stopped by. They live across the street and a few doors down, and apparently, they’ve been feeding two of the cats we’ve seen sporadically in our yard. WilyKit (top in the next photo) and WilyKat (bottom) are practically twins, only he has a black tail tip and she has a white one, plus a few orange patches on her body. Apparently, they were part of a litter of five born to a calico mom a year ago. The other three siblings left home when they were old enough, but the Wily-twins stuck around. WilyKat, despite being male, was the runt of the litter and apparently doesn’t roam as much. In any case, this answers the question of why these two tend to ignore the food we put out – they’re getting their food** elsewhere.
Apparently, WilyKit was pregnant, and had her own litter of five babies on the 31st, under this neighbor’s deck. By Friday evening, the neighbor hadn’t seen WilyKit for 24 hours, and the babies were screaming. She retrieved them and began to call around for shelter help – except all the shelters are already full from kitten season! So her neighbor told her that we were the cat people (ha!) and she came to us.
The situation was complicated – did she simply not see Mom? Or had Mom actually disappeared/been hurt/abandoned the babies? The neighbor took the five kittens to the vet, who cleared them as healthy but warned that they needed to eat soon. When she returned home, WilyKit had reappeared. I’ve mentioned before, though – WilyKit is extremely skittish, and she ran off immediately. Over the next three hours, she came back, grabbed up a baby, and ran off to relocate them. She did this three times, then never came back for the last two. We had to make a judgement call – had we not waited long enough? Or had we waited too long? Day-old kittens aren’t supposed to go more than three hours max without eating, and by this point, they’d gone at least six or seven hours without food. It was 11pm, the temps were rapidly cooling, and it had been an hour since WilyKit last appeared. So we made the decision to bring them home and bottle-feed them overnight.
Thankfully, they made it through the night and we were able to improve their body temp and activity levels from when we got them home. Throughout the day yesterday, we tried to reunite the babies with their siblings and mom. In the evening, WilyKit came to eat at her normal time. The babies were out where she could investigate them and take them back, but she only sniffed them and went to eat. She spent most of the next hour in the area, eating and bathing herself and soaking in the sun. A couple times, she sniffed at the babies but otherwise completely ignored them, and then left. She came back after we’d brought them back home, and was in no distress, nor looking for her missing kittens. I guess she took the ones she could handle, and left these behind.
So we have bottle babies now. Bottle babies with eyes still closed and umbilical cords still attached. They’ve thankfully learned how to latch onto the bottle fairly well, and we’re checking their weight before/after each feeding. There’s a lot about newborn kittens that is very new to us, like stimulating them to use the bathroom, regulating their temperature, etc. Hopefully we can get some support from one of the local shelters. (They offered support to the neighbor, but she works 10 hours a day so couldn’t be home to bottle-feed.) This is not the adventure I planned to have in April, but I’m really glad J and I are able to help, and no babies will die of starvation out in someone’s yard!
**Everyone in this part of the neighborhood knows about the situation with the hoarding house and the abundance of cats running around. Everyone knows the big dad-cat we call King. These cats have dispersed everywhere they can, but that means that a bunch of different people are all feeding the cats. Like the Wily-twins being fed by this particular neighbor. How many other houses are feeding these community cats? Probably quite a few. That explains why they’re all so fat, heh. So when the bottle-baby situation is dealt with, I need to get on Nextdoor and figure out who all is feeding cats, so I can coordinate to TNR all these babies! There are too many situations like the one this litter is going through, and we need to stop the breeding cycle!