Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Kitten House Of Cards

The most dreaded part of my being a vet is the deluge of unwanted, homeless tiny felines. It begins in early March and continues through October. Even as September descends upon us the kittens still bloom. This last week we had 8, (oddly all black or black and white), kittens arrive without a person to love them. Apparently the admission of having a soft spot in your heart for cats and the helping of those in need of a halfway house leads to the flood gates being flung wide open. The idea that everyone doesn't admire and adore cats of all sizes, shapes, and colors is almost impossible for me to comprehend. At the beginning, middle, and end of every disastrous day is a purring mass of fur and my encompassing arms. I take therapeutic kitten breaks daily. It is the single best part of my job, my workplace, and the life blood of my soul.

Every day there seems to be yet another kitten, from yet another person, that appears to have either manifested "out of thin air," was "dropped off by some transparent being," or came from the "cat-cornucopia-farm across the road that never spays or neuters their barn cats."

Every request is the same, "I can't keep it," or, "I'm not a cat person," (what the hell does that mean?),  "but I heard you guys like cats." All delivered with a tone of expectation and a demeanor of self-assured justified shirking of responsibility.

How do I respond to this? "Umm,,,, Yes, of course I like cats. I'm a vet. But, no, I can't take every cat from every person who asks me to." (Although secretly I do wish I could).

After school visit with the kittens.
Our daily ritual with my nephew.
Any species who can adapt so quickly, so efficiently, and so successfully to as many places and conditions as the domestic house cat has deserves respect and adoration. They are incredibly prolific and reported as being able to produce over 400,000 cats in seven years from one cat. Quite impressive and quite humbling to all of us who dedicate huge amounts of time and resources attempting to spay and neuter our way out of the millions of cats euthanized in the US every year.

Found by a client this kitten was caught in a fan motor.
She lost her front left leg, suffered some facial injuries and is being treated for a crushing,
degloving injury of her back left leg.
We are intensively trying to save her back leg.
Many Thanks to our technician Laura and Dr. Hubbard for caring for her.

We say that a cat has 9 lives because they are impressively hardy, smart, cunning, calculating, and savvy, all characteristics of a survivor. Every single one of us has much to learn from the cat.

When it comes to providing for a kitten there is a short list of needs that must be met.

Kittens are like a house of cards. It takes a few cards to be stacked, a shaky foundation and the whole structure can collapse. Should you ever find a kitten of your own they must be provided the following;
  • Warmth. Every newborn needs to be kept warm. Whether it comes from a cuddling mom, a warming blanket, a heating pad, a heat lamp, or just being kept close to your heart.
  • Keeping them clean and dry in an enclosed place out of the elements.
  • Food. Babies burn calories at an alarming rate. Keep them eating. For a kitten this is about every two hours of an age appropriate food. We have calorie dense wet foods to help, think the kitten version of Ensure.
  • Fleas. The blood sucking, life depleting parasite that is the demise of many a small soul. Remove them with a flea comb and soapy water, nothing else. Those adult flea preventative topicals can kill a weak, compromised baby, avoid them. Be patient and comb.
  • Parasites. The invisible intestinal parasites can, and do, grow to such numbers that they can steal the life from a kitten from the inside out. (Reminder, you will likely NOT see evidence of intestinal parasites in the feces, they are microscopic).
The kitten whole stole my heart,,again, Lucky.
This is Lucky, a two month old feral? (more like homeless) kitten. He came to us almost comatose. He was soo cold that he would not register on the thermometer for almost 30 minutes after aggressive warming was begun. He was emaciated, lifeless, and very pale. He was also covered in fleas, dehydrated, and suffering from an upper respiratory infection.

Within 30 minutes of warming him, removing his fleas, and feeding him he was lifting his head and purring. After 4 hours he was up and cuddling.

He is a miracle of gratitude and the best answer to a long day of not feeling like my life has a deeper meaning. He is the reason veterinarians do what we do.

Lucky was adopted yesterday.

We still have six kittens and four adults looking for a home to fill with a sense of purpose and completion.

Should you find yourself in need of a hug, a warm nose to snuggle, a purr to keep the night from lasting too long, or just the unconditional love of a pet please come by and visit Jarrettsville Vet to see and meet our babies.

Or, ask me a question FREE about how to care for your kids at, or like us on Facebook at Jarrettsville Vet, or Pawbly. You can also follow me on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.


  1. You are very nice to take in all of these kittens. It's a shame that more people don't take the time to spay/neuter their cats. Nearly 7 years ago I was called to rescue a litter of kittens that were running loose. Once I had them safely trapped, I was told by my own rescue group they were too feral for adoption so we vaccinated them and sterilized them. I was supposed to release them back into their neighborhood, but I didn't have the heart to let them fend for themselves. Today Spike, Tiger and Sport and the most loving cats.

    1. Hello,
      I hear this all the time! It is so frustrating that so many people not only don't care about cats enough to spay and neuter them, but for the few who do they don't give them the time and attention that they need. I firmly believe that almost all kittens under 6 months old are able to be tamed with time, patience, and gentle approach. I had my own litter of kittens who everyone else gave up on. It took months but they too became the sweetest most loving cats.
      I will say it until I am blue and drawing my last breathe, "Never underestimate the amazing resiliency and healing powers of a cat."
      Hugs and kisses to the kitties!
      Thanks for reading and commenting,

  2. This blog post furthers my knowledge of welfare in the actual world. Allowing me to see how different aspects of the science can be applied in different scenarios in this case affective states, stress, and at some point helping the kittens feel comfortable enough to express and live as natural as possible by spending time with them. Hopefully people can appreciate that you have the animals best interest, even though you can't keep them all. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hello,
      Many thanks for reading, and for the kind words. I try very hard to maintain a blog that helps educate people and share in the experiences of both my patients and clients. I also try very hard to remain an advocate for the pets.
      Although it frequently crosses my mind that I do want to keep them all!
      Take Care, and please keep reading, or ask me to write about a topic of interest to you.