Slava the Hopeful & her newborn kittens
When it comes to animal rescue, time is the utmost importance. But when you’re dealing with a pregnant momma cat or a momma cat who has just given birth outdoors, time is not only important but it’s also critical. A quick response saves lives.
Recently a skinny, malnourished cat arrived on the back step of an elderly woman in Clayton Park. She refused to feed the poor girl yet claimed she “couldn’t get rid of it”.
I just want to stop for a moment and say how much I despise when I hear people say that they need to “get rid of” of an animal. You get rid of trash, you get rid of a old sweater, and you get rid of an annoying plantars wart on your foot. You do not get rid of an animal, a pet, a member of the family. Yes, in some circumstances a person may need to re-home their pet if circumstances arise in one’s life that makes them unable to care for their pet, but a pet is not a piece of trash that you merely toss aside when they seem like a burden to you. They aren’t just possessions. They are living, breathing creatures that feel pain and emotion. /End Rant
So the elderly woman didn’t want to “get rid of the cat” yet she refused to feed her or let her into her home, even after a week of the cat on her property. A neighbour mentioned that she looked like she was probably pregnant, as a bulging belly was pretty obvious on her thin and malnourished frame. Although the cat was friendly during the week, one evening while she was hiding behind a stretch of lattice under the woman’s deck, she hissed at the woman. The woman thought that she was in the process of giving birth so that’s when she emailed us.
When we received the email, our hearts stopped. At this point, minutes mattered. We had a pregnant, undernourished cat about to give birth and darkness was about 30 minutes away. Two of our rescuers, who unfortunately were on each on opposite sides of the city from Clayton Park, rushed to the scene. And it’s a good thing they did, because Slava, the name we gave the mother cat which is Slavic for “hope”, had given birth to 8 tiny kittens on a tiny 6″ strip of ground between the lattice and the house. The space was so small that not only was it not wide enough for Slava to lie down comfortably and nurse, but it wasn’t even wide enough for her to clean the 8 kittens after they were born. All 8 kittens were tangled up in the umbilical cord and Slava could do nothing more than sit on top of the heap of her newborn kittens in an effort to protect them from harm. Unfortunately, regardless of our best efforts, two of the kittens had perished. The battle was just too tough for them to endure.
We did have a saving grace though. The vet clinic that we typically use was open late that night so our volunteers rushed Slava and the 6 surviving kittens there as quickly as possible. Slava was so incredibly friendly, that she didn’t put up a fuss at all. It’s as if she knew that we were there to help both her and her newborn babies and was grateful for the help.
When Slava, the kittens and our volunteers arrived at the clinic, the vet carefully untangled the kittens from their “bundle” and gave each of the kittens some corn syrup to give them a boost of energy as they had not yet been able to nurse from their mother. To the collective relief of everyone, they perked right and immediately set to nursing from their mother, who was by then purring and kneading the air with gratitude. Slava was given food at this point and she quickly started to inhale it. She couldn’t get enough. That’s when the vet noticed something along Slava’s back. Maggots. Without hesitation, yet filled with horror and disgust, the vet carefully combed them all out of her fur, continuing to stroke her gently and reassuring her that she was going to be okay.
At this point, the vet and the vet tech were able to start examining the kittens to make sure they were healthy and doing okay. Five of the six looked like they were in good condition. And then there was a tiny ginger tabby named Boyan. Unfortunately when they were all tangled amongst the umbilical cord, the cord had wrapped so tightly around his tiny back paws, severing blood circulation. The paws had turned a purplish black and had become swollen and if the tissue died, euthanasia unfortunately may have been one of the only humane option for this little guy. We decided to wait and see how he fared through the night and then we would make the tough decision.
Kathleen, the vet tech at the clinic, brought Slava and her kittens home with her that night as they would need constant care to ensure that they all would survive. Chris, Kathleen’s husband, spent the next 24 hours massaging little Boyan’s paws to encourage blood circulation and prevent any tissue from dying.
Boyan means “strong” and he certainly is. By the next day, even little Boyan was nursing from his mother and putting up a good fight against his brothers and sister for a shot at the best teat.
Following these dramatic first few days, we were able to find the best foster home around to take them in. They had a nice, quiet space for Slava and her kittens. The woman’s daughter cried when she saw Slava and her 6 kittens and wanted to sleep with them the first night to be sure they felt safe and protected. They were finally in the cradle of care that they should have received from the start.
The kittens are three weeks old as of yesterday and they are doing fantastic! The vet still isn’t sure if Boyan has permanent nerve damage as his nerves still aren’t fully developed but we’re all optimistic that he’ll live a long and happy life!
To the credit of the elderly woman who had no interest in helping Slava initially, she donated $200 towards her care, saying we were very kind. It only takes one person to save a life. Be that person.