Friday, October 3, 2008

Five Kittens in a Box

As long as I can remember, the animals I've had in my life have chosen me. With the exception of my two horses, one dog we got at the shelter and one pup we got from a neighbor, the dogs and cats have shown up, in one way or another, in need of a home.

Six years ago #1 son and his girlfriend (now his wife) were walking out of church after the morning service. There on the front steps of the church they found a cardboard box with five tiny kittens inside. Being the caring soul he is, my son decided to bring the box of kittens home.

Upon being presented with his box of kittens, my response was "why?", as in why he brought them home. I love animals but I also tend to have this instant "whoa" impulse when something is thrust upon me. He told me he couldn't leave them on the steps and no one else wanted to take them home.

The kittens were very tiny. Didn't even have their little eyes open. I told him I'd never raised kittens that small before. He told me he'd take care of them. Well, he was nineteen at the time, attending the local university, not some little boy who just says he'll take care of them so I eased up on my hesitation.

We fixed a large box for the kittens in the upstairs of our garage. It was at the end of summer, the weather was still warm. I fixed soft towels for the kittens to snuggle into. At the time I didn't know there was a kitten formula available through the vet office, so I resorted to buying human baby formula to feed them. As a family, the four of us, Hubby, both sons and me, took turns feeding the tiny kittens. Each kitten fit in the palm of a hand, they were so little.

We used eyedroppers at first. Feeding them every 2-4 hours.We would wipe their little bottoms. We had learned from an internet article mom cats lick the bottoms of their babies to stimulate elimination. It worked like a charm! We also gently stroked and petted the babies after feeding hoping we were able to simulate the affection they might have gotten from their mom.

At one point, after a few days, #1 son asked if I'd taken any pictures of the kittens. I was afraid to take pictures because in all honesty, I wasn't so sure about the final outcome for the little guys and girls. Later, I simply forgot, but now, wish I had taken a moment to snap some photos of them.
Over a period of a couple of weeks the little things thrived. They started crawling around in the box, opening their eyes, all except one tiny little guy, who appeared to be the runt of the litter. He didn't open his eyes like the others. We had to clean his eyes constantly. He had goopy yellow stuff coming out of the tiny slits. We read what was the best way to treat it and for the most part, we used warm water and a saline solution. Don't know if this was right, but it eventually worked. I was sure this little guy would be one of our casualities over the long haul. He remained smaller than the other kittens, but he sure put up a good fight to keep up with everyone!

As the days moved along we played with the kittens and tried to get them used to handling. They were all sweethearts. #1 son wanted to name them, but I resisted. I told him we would need to find homes for them. He requested to keep some. I relented and said we'd keep two of them.
I let him pick out the two he wanted to keep with us. He chose the little runt and the sister who closely resembled him, but was bigger. At that point, I told #1 son he could name his kittens. He decided on Buddy for the little guy, and Jinxy for the sister. Both were gray and white, similar markings, often hard to tell them apart. Jinxy had two small white spots on the tips of her ears and her coat was like the fur of a rabbit. Buddy, was just funny looking at the time. He was actually kind of, well, ugly. His head hadn't grown with his body. He was scrawny though we had moved them to kitten chow and a little bit of can food. I was still uncertain about his future.

We found homes for three of the kittens. Two of them went to a farm and one went to a lady I was working with at the time. I felt fortunate to have found homes for them. That left us with Buddy and Jinxy. Amazingly, over the next few months, Buddy blossomed. He still remained smaller than his sister, but he started filling out. Apparently, a late bloomer.

#1 son spent alot of time with Buddy. He worked out a whistle to call the little guy. To this day, Buddy will respond to a certain whistle in a Pavlov way. His ears perk up, his tail goes up and he walks to #1 son. We've all tried to mimic this whistle but never comes out the same as the way #1 son does it. Buddy will respond to us, but he knows we're not his "buddy".

Jinxy always exhibited delicate girl ways. She sort of became my favorite. She loved to sit on shoulders. Pick her up and she would go right to the shoulder. She was so soft and so sweet! Yes, I had a soft spot for Jinxy. Unfortuately, she died last year from an unknown illness. The vet was never able to determine what took her.

We still have Buddy though. He has grown to a very large cat who I believe, is convinced he's a dog. He acts more like a dog sometimes. He follows us around outside. He's nosey! He has to see what's going on and if it meets his approval. He lays among the dogs as if he's one of them. He and Xena, our German Shepherd who died recently, were close. They would curl up together, though Xena would often look at us as if to say "What? I don't know why he wants to lay here with me." But, she accepted his company.

I don't know what became of the other kittens I found homes for but I can only hope they had good lives. For all I know, Buddy may be the only one still living, if so, he's the lucky one. The runt of the litter and he ends up being the one who portrays "survival of the fittest." I wish I'd had a picture of him when he was a tiny mess!
Twenty little pawprints, forever across my heart!

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