Neonatal Kitten Rescue: The Ugly Truth

This post was written and submitted by Adam Majid.

I have been involved in animal rescue for more than a decade. It’s not something that I generally talk about, because I work mostly with cats, and I do a lot of Kitten Rescues. With newborn or neonatal kittens, let me be honest: there are few happy endings. I’m going to tell the story of three such kittens named Romanov, Cally and Muffin. I am going to answer a question that I’ve been asked over and over again:

“Why do you do it? When you KNOW that it’s not going to end well?”

The best place to start is with Romanov, Cally and Muffin which began on 07/04/2018. Somehow, a very pregnant cat made its way underneath a stage at a rented venue and gave birth.

1.From left to right - Cally, Romanov, and Muffin.jpgLeft to right: Cally, Romanov and Muffin

On 08/04/2018, humans arrived, to do their own thing. The mother cat, I think, panicked, and fled in fear, abandoning her kittens: – Cally, Muffin and Romanov. Humans heard their cries for food and warmth, and I was called. I grabbed my gear, notified my vet and hit the road.

The trio, were physically cold, weak, prematurely born, and underweight. Without their feline mother to care for them, they only had two humans (me and my girlfriend) to care for them. Already their chance of survival was incredibly low. It’s a sad fact that only ONE in TEN such kittens will survive the initial, critical first 14 days.

Romanov was already fading from life. No reflex response. Poor respiration. Severe dehydration. She could not even take kitten formula or warm water from a syringe at the vet. After careful consideration, I authorized euthanasia. Not even one day old. Romanov lived for all of eight or nine hours. I sang her a lullaby she could not hear, the anesthetics were administered, and she slept away the last few moments of her life peacefully. Perhaps the only peace she had known in her short brutal life where she had spent most of it cold, and crying for food that she never received. Time of death was 13:58pm.

2. Left - Muffin and Cally asleep after a feeding and burping. Right - Waiting for the dynamic duo to digest their milk before burping.PNGLeft: Muffin and Cally, asleep after a feeding and burping. Right: Waiting for the dynamic duo to digest their milk before burping.

Newborn kittens need round the clock care. Cally and Muffin require feeding and “burping” – helping them pass urine and feces – after each feeding. When you spend so much time caring for them, you form an emotional attachment to those innocent kittens that depend on you for everything.  

I fought with every tool and trick in my arsenal. In vain: – Cally and Muffin passed away, within six hours of each on 10/04/18. Cally was fed and burped at 04:00am. When I woke up at 05:45, I checked in on them. Cally, while still warm to the touch, but had no pulse, breathing, or heartbeat. The only thing that kept me from bawling my eyes out like a baby was that Muffin needed me.

I am fortunate that my boss is a compassionate individual. He allowed me to bring Muffin to work, so I could care for her, feed her, and burp her every two hours. It was after her feeding at 09:00am that her condition began to deteriorate. I rushed her to the vet. There, we found signs of an internal bleeding, consistent with systemic organ failure. By 12:30pm, Muffin slipped in to a coma, and she would not wake again, and passed away at 13:32pm.

3. They lived together, they died together. They are buried together . Rest in Peace my kittens. There’s only happiness and peace across the Rainbow Bridge..jpg
They lived together, they died together. They are buried together. Rest in peace, my kittens. There’s only happiness and peace across the Rainbow Bridge.

Is there a place worse than hell? Yes. There is. I’ve been living there for the past few days. As I write this on 11/04/2018, it’s only been a day since I lost all of them.

I came home that evening (on the 10th). I could not sleep. I cursed. I cried. I KNOW that I did nothing wrong. I KNOW that. I know that because of what I did, Cally and Muffin spent their entirely, too-short lives in comfort, safe, warm and well-fed. Romanov had at least been spared the agony of a slow death by starvation. I raised a glass in memory of three kittens that had fought and lost their battle for life, and cursed that I had not been able to do more to save them. So, “Why do you do it? When you KNOW that it’s not going to end well?”

I’ve given this a lot of thought, to try and put it in to words. This is the best I can do:  

Welcome to the harsh reality of neonatal kitten and kitten rescue. Death is a part of it, the ugly part. There are few happy endings.

Cally and Muffin lived a total of two days. They were warm, they were loved. They showed no signs of distress and passed with heartbreaking suddenness. Their sibling Romanov did not even get that much: – she did not live to turn one day old.

The ugliest part of neonatal kitten rescue? It is essentially preventable suffering. There are so many more kittens like them that die on the streets. Die in animal shelters. That is why I do this, over and over, even knowing that I will nearly almost always lose these kittens. I believe that every kitten deserves a chance, no matter how slim it may be. That is why I do this. Every time I get the call, I grab my rescue kit, I call my vet, and I head out the door.

I won’t ask anyone to do what I do, for these kittens. It’s not fair for me to ask that of anyone. What I can ask you to do is this: – If you have pets, spay and/or neuter them. Volunteer at an animal shelter. Join or setup a Trap Neuter Release program. Foster older kittens and cats and help them find a forever home. Make a donation to support legitimate animal shelters and sanctuaries. Consider adopting a cat or kitten. Help by preventing this kind of suffering. Don’t be just a Cat Lover: – Be a Cat Advocate.

For Cally. For Muffin. For Romanov.

For all those kittens that never had chance. Do it. For them.

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