A Miracle For The
While working on the computer at
one of my females ran past me, with what I thought was a
baby's head at
She wasn't due for 4-6 days at least. I grabbed her, my box of delivery supplies and ran for her birthing box in our son's bedroom.
Once there I discovered it was an "old" placenta, the blood obviously having left it some time before. There was the bubble of
an amniotic sac as well.
At the very least, we were looking at
one dead kitten. With luck she would pass it and we might
get the others
to hang on for another
couple of days. I gave her a shot of oxytocin, with no results. Luck wasn't with either of us. We headed for the vet's, after hours on
a Sunday. The bill was the last thing on my mind.
There were very few options open.
and see if we could get her to pass the dead kitten, and
perhaps lose the
others in the meantime,
or go in and section, and hope to find one of the three expected babies, still alive.
A second vet arrived, the clinic
wife was still on hand, and they set to work. At 1:00a.m.
we had the dead
kitten out, a well-formed
boy nowhere near the birth canal. We tried to revive him, knowing there was little hope, but I'm too stubborn to give up.
Next came what can only be described
a purple grape. The first vet put some dopram under its
tongue and rushed
her out to me, then went
back to finish the delivery. She (it turned out to be a female) was covered in muconium, and was smaller than anything I'd ever seen. She wasn't
breathing, but that didn't deter us. Have you ever done CPR on something that is smaller than your little finger? It's not fun. It's not easy. It doesn't
always work. It took ten minutes and then the grape's ribcage heaved. Once. Twice. And she started to turn colour. If not pink, at least she wasn't so dark.
With her now breathing, I was able to
do some cleaning up. What we found made the rush of
bringing her around,
crash back down into despair.
It was like looking at a baby bird that has fallen out of its nest. Those big dark eyes that have hardly any tissue over them…hair on the top of
her head and down her back…skin so translucent you could almost see her organs. The scale wouldn't even register her. We thought perhaps 25g.
Sometime during all of this, we'd
annoyed squeaking from the operating room. There was
another 2 oz. pink
and energetic survivor
.Now we had two, although the chances of having two in the morning didn't look promising. What was I going to do with them? Pretty much
what any other breeder does- out came the delivery kit and the feeding syringe and nipples. Not until later the next day would I
realize how much trouble we were in…again.
Despite our best efforts with
and later mallow root, the mother had no milk. She barely
had any colostrum.
She certainly had no
idea what motherhood was, and had no intention of being part of it. A first time queen, she rejected both kittens. Over the next four days,
I would force her to lie down with them every few hours to let them nurse. They weren't getting much but begrudged comfort, and as
soon as I let her up, Mom was gone. At one point, she picked up the grape by her cord stub. She actually bit the stomach skin of the other
kitten and cut her. Out came the feeding syringe again. On the fourth night, at 4a.m. the "healthy" survivor started to fade. I literally shoved
some kittens being shipped to a show out the door, and ran to call the vet. The survivor, a little female, died before he could even
return the call. We were down to the grape.
I was afraid to name her. What else
you call a grape, but Zinfandel? It soon became shortened
to "Fan", after
in Dickens' Christmas Carol. Once more, I was back to feeding every two hours, bathing, rubbing, and sleeping on the bed with her
in a carrier equipped with fleece, a heating pad and her own beanie baby. Fan loved her It's a Girl beanie. As small as she was, she
could crawl under it, and enjoy the sensation of being surrounded by warmth from the heating pad underneath, and body heat
reflected off the beanie. The beanie moved in when her sister died. It was the closest thing to a "live" roommate we could give her.
We settled in, or so I thought, to
routine of raising a single kitten. The mother who had
rejected her, decided
that she preferred
someone else's kittens, and the next thing we knew, she was happily "nursing" (she had nothing to give), a litter of three month old
kittens whose own mother had turned off the milk bar. She was very content. I tried several times to introduce her to her own kitten
again, but she wanted nothing to do with her. Fan and I were on our own. Although not totally. If it weren't for our vet, and advice
from Dr. Susan Little, we wouldn't have the miracle today.
Things went along much as you would hope
for almost three weeks. Then we hit the first hurdle. Like
babies, a kitten's digestive
system isn't properly developed and they can't always handle formula. At three weeks we had to resort to an enema before she developed
megacolon. Over the next five days, the only thing that passed was time, despite added water to her diet, Vitalax dissolved in the formula, and corn
syrup as well. Back to the vet for another enema. Things were getting kind of serious at this point. Not quite four weeks old, and only 7 oz.
It was recommended to get her on solid food. But she was too small to handle a plate, or even small saucer/dish. We pureed kitten
food in the blender with lots of water, and what went in by syringe, eventually came out. Over the hump? Not by a long shot.
Just to complicate things, I
pneumonia. That meant I "slept", propped up in a corner,
better to see into her carrier at night. In late
September, not quite five weeks old, she started vomiting early on a Friday morning. Diarrhea soon followed. Despite what measures we could
take at home, it worsened, and the heat of her little body pretty much told it all. We were at the vet's at 6:00a.m.
With sub-Q fluids and meds, she
to improve. A few hours later she was ready to eat again.
But the diarrhea
didn't abate. It eventually
became nothing but liquid, and acquired a yeasty odour which we never could explain. Still, she seemed bright, wasn't dehydrating, and was
eating well. Which was more than I could do. We both went to bed. She ate at 1:00a.m. and settled down with her back to me in the carrier.
Three hours later, unable to sleep and just a bit jealous that she could, I picked Fan up to feed her.
There are a lot of well-worn clichés
like "time stood still", or "my heart leapt to my mouth"…
none of them really filled the bill here. Fan was
comatose. Her eyes were open and appeared to be drying. She was breathing but unresponsive. We were at the vet's by 5:30a.m.
for the second morning running. Maybe for the last time.
I am fortunate to have a vet that
ask if this is really an emergency. He also isn't
afraid to ask
for advice, or help. That morning he did
everything humanly possible. Fan was so full of sub-Q fluids she looked like a water balloon. We tubed dextrose down her. Yes… a risky
thing but what did we have to lose? Polyflex, aniphen, and other things went into her. Three hours later she was still comatose. The vet slipped
out to get dressed for a full day at work. There was nothing else we could do.
When he returned a half hour later,
stumbled across her bedding and bit me. I should have had
a photo of the
vet's face, because as he later
admitted, he hadn't expected to see her alive when he came back.
What happened to her? We really don't
know. She had been on antibiotics that would have
influenced any testing
for bacteria. What may, or may
not have saved her, was flushing her system out so thoroughly with fluids
and replacing the sugars and salts that she had lost.
I'd like to say that it was all
sailing after that. Boy, would I like to. But I can't. A
is always going to fight an
uphill battle, although these days they are small skirmishes compared to her first few weeks. We have gone from pureed food in a syringe to
feeding from a spoon, to eating off a saucer. Her appetite is very small, and so is she…a little two pound wonder at 12 weeks.
But she is a fighter. She's happy,
healthy, and as far as she can, she's thriving. The vet
his miracle kitten. We figure she used about
four of her lives, and some of ours in the bargain.
As breeders we are often asked for
cats so someone's children can witness the "miracle of
Without opening that particular can of worms,
I'd have to say that like me, those people are missing the point. Because the real miracle is not in the life as it comes into the world, but as it's
lived after. I had come full circle again, to wondering why a kitten so deprived, sick, and struggling to survive, can still purr and take comfort
in just being held. But like non-breeders, I was putting onto an animal, a human's emotional reaction. Cats don't think about God cheating them
of a mother. They don't realize their mother has rejected them. They don't take it as a personal insult, and then take that insult out on everyone
around them. Instead, they purr. Because they are getting the most basic things in life- food, warmth, care for their bodily needs. They're happy
with that. Perhaps some humans could benefit from living life on the level of a kitten with nothing going for it, who has everything they need.
I have been asked many times, why I
go to the lengths I did, to save either of these babies.
After all, I wasn't
get my "money back". Not everyone will understand when you say "because they wanted to live, and I owed them that
chance." Nor do they always understand the concept of a miracle. But if they're lucky, someday they will.
"Fan" attended her one and only
show in March of 2003, taking six finals in a two day
ACFA show, and
finishing the season as the Fourth Best
Allbreed Kitten in Eastern Canada. She is shown here, at 11 months of age.
Fan, April 2003
AAAAnd this is Fan on her 12th
birthday, Aug.19, 2014.