Once upon a time, like last Tuesday, I was outside composting my coffee grounds when I heard a very loud mewing. I went to investigate and found myself walking towards our covered woodpile. I lifted up the tarp and a kitten fell out.
Like, literally. She just fell out.
I picked her up (mistake number one) and took her into the house. A coworker/friend of mine just rehabilitated a kitten and, although that one wasn’t as pathetically tiny as the one in my hand, I called her for suggestions. She suggested another coworker, the one who gave us Pearl, actually, because she works with cat rescue. And that phone call was a lot of PUT THAT BABY BACK RIGHT NOW. And check on her at lunch to see if Mama has come back.
Long story short, Mama did not come back (although mistake number two was checking her on my lunch break and finding her still there … and not waiting longer. I brought her back into the house) and now we have a new baby.
We are not set up for baby anything in this house. I wandered around with her in my hands, wondering what to do next. I found an unused recycling bin, lined it with an old towel, and plopped her in. Next I found a syringe-type thing and got some milk into her. And then found myself typing search queries like “ages of kittens” and “can kittens poop by themselves?” (Tip: WikiHow really WILL show you how to do everything.)
Thanks to the internet, I think our girl is about three weeks old. And thanks to my Facebook friends, I slowly started to feel better about the massive undertaking I’d obliviously walked into — I have a friend who does kitten rescue in North Carolina and she had all kinds of tips (the best one being, kittens have a strong will to live), and other friends shared their own kitten successes.
AND THEN. I tell you what, you guys, I have a really great sister-in-law who was on it. The next morning, Elaine (hi, Elaine!) had me hooked up with not only a kitten bottle, but leftover formula from a friend’s son’s girlfriend. I picked it up from my brother-in-law at 8 a.m. and attempted our first feeding by 8:15.
Let’s just say feeding a kitten a bottle is not the easy part of this story.
Let’s also just say that Elaine then went above and beyond, babysitting our new girl while we were at work and school. And somehow taught that little tiny ball of fur how to take a bottle.
I owe her some jam or something, now that I think about it.
Here’s what I’ve learned about kittens in the past few days: They are incredibly stupid and trusting. They also have no idea what a litter box is.
Thanks to our friend Jewel (hi, Jewel!), I know not to put actual cat litter into the baby’s litter box — Jewel said they’re babies, all right, and will put absolutely anything into their mouths, which means they could eat the litter and it could turn into cement in their little intestines. She didn’t elaborate, but some things you can just sort of picture for yourself.
So our litter box is a Kleenex box cut down on the sides and lined with newspaper. Not that she has any idea what to do with it, but so she gets used to it and eventually will.
Because! Why would you pee or poop somewhere planned when you can just go anywhere? We have all been soiled — some more than others (Abby and I win that distinction) — and that means
I’m doing an incredible amount of laundry, to clean pants and sweatshirts and bedding … and her bedding too. It’s like having a newborn in the house again.
(I am really appreciating what a strong, independent woman our Pearl is, who can feed herself, clean herself and use a litter box. Good job, Pearl!)
So far, this project has been … well, hard, but the baby is adorable, so that helps. Since this is my fault, I’m the one who gets up at night to feed her or clean her when she has an explosive poop. (I’m trying to be grateful she can poop by herself. Apparently when they’re really young, they cannot and you have to help them.) I’m also pretty pleased with how zero waste this has turned out to be. I never would have known where to look for a used kitten bottle, so Elaine helped me there by just being nice. Thankfully I have a lot of rags and old towels, and while the recycling bin is a little bit sad to look at, it does make a rather decent playpen with its high, straight sides.
And Pearl is doing okay, by the way. She hissed at the baby for the first day and a half, and now she just sniffs and runs away. Or just ignores her altogether. We are keeping them separated when we can’t be home to supervise. Pearl has had all her shots, though, so that’s a plus.
P.S. I keep calling the baby “the baby.” Her name is Bear. She began her life as Toast, named by Abby and agreed upon by Johanna, but then Abby decided she really is more of a Bear. And yes, we’re keeping her. Apparently we are supposed to be a two cat household. I wonder what Skilly would have made of all of this?
Okay, you guys, give me your best kitten tips and/or stories.
Next up: Last week really did a number on my soul, so I have decided to take it easy on myself this week. I’ll post again on Friday — not sure on what yet, though. Maybe we’ll plan our zero waste Thanksgiving? Anyway, I’m open to suggestions.