In Nova Scotia, it is a challenge to find some types of pets, but felines are not one of them. In most areas, there is a serious cat overpopulation.
After our oldest cat, Anna Bee, passed away in early April at the ripe age of 20, we were content to return to our long-standing four-cat limit, which we had established back in 1993 but had broken many times since then.
In Nova Scotia there is a concerted drive to cut back on the feral-cat population. An organization in our area, Friends of Ferals, traps, neuters and releases adult feral cats.
One of our neighbours had for some time been helping the feral cats of Smiths Cove by feeding them. One day she brought over a tiny black male kitten whom she had found in her backyard. He was approximately two weeks old. She thought with our background in farming, we might have some recommendations.
We had bottle-fed many orphans (mainly kid goats), but a kitten was a new one. However, the principle would basically be the same.
Munchkin (Ian almost always names our pets) moved in that day. That first night I fed him Carnation evaporated milk through a syringe. The next morning I ran into the vet’s office and came home with some powdered kitten formula and a nursing bottle designed for kits. Kittens need to be fed every four hours at this age. Munchkin took to the bottle fairly quickly.
Munchkin grew over the next few days. He had a terrible cold (our four adult cats came down with it, too) – gucky eyes, sneezes, snufflings, laryngitis. I kept praying he wouldn’t develop pneumonia. We made a visit to the vet when he appeared to me to be bloated and constipated (“Worried Kitten-Owner Syndrome”). He was given an enema and some wormer. Munchkin seemed basically happy (except for his cold). He went wherever we went in the truck. Sometimes he would go around crying, seemingly for his mother and littermates.
We ended up looking after the feral cats who come around to our neighbours for food while they were away for a couple of days and fell for a small black female kitten, who turned out to be Munchkin’s sister. She had tried to get herself adopted by another mother cat with four kittens who were a couple of weeks younger than she was. It wasn’t really working; like most mothers, this cat knew her own kittens. The small kitten was eating adult cat food, a sure sign that she wasn’t being fed sufficiently. For whatever reason, this little cutie’s (and Munchkin’s) own mother was apparently not very attentive.
Ian named this little cat Sweet Pea. She was quicker than Munchkin to wean but not nearly as reliable with the litter box. They taught each other. She was smaller and weighed 20 ounces less than her big brother, but they were glad to be reunited. Munchkin stopped crying for his mother after Sweet Pea arrived, but Sweet Pea continued to cry off and on. She had the same cold, mainly in her eyes. She didn’t seem quite as content as he did and would look at me with big pleading eyes. I would pick her up to try to comfort her, but although she liked being petted stretched out in a lap, she obviously felt threatened by the process of being picked up and would cry mournfully.
Munchkin and Sweet Pea have reached their eighth-week milestone. Shots, more deworming, neutering, spaying … and a move to a new house … are in their futures. They shouldn’t have their shots while they are already sick with this cold, so it is a dilemma. But hopefully after this bumpy start, both will live as long as Anna Bee did — 20 years plus!
And I guess we will just have to break our four-cat limit one more time.
Very sad update (June 29, 2014): Sweet Pea passed away suddenly this afternoon. She began staggering and couldn’t catch her breath. We believe she died from pneumonia as a result of this virus the cats have been battling. She would have been 9-weeks-old tomorrow. Munchkin continues to struggle with the virus, though mercifully he has had it more in his eyes, nose and throat, while she showed symptoms in only her eyes and chest. We all miss her very much. She was a beautiful little cat.