Rescuing An Orphan Kitten


Excerpt from my award-winning nonfiction book Shenandoah Watercolors:

“Elise and I found a bedraggled black kitten in a shadowed corner of the old barn huddled beside an ancient water trough. Manure and hay stuck to its fur and its head was slick in places from a calf’s sympathetic tongue. We carried the mewing puffball down to the house and gave it a bath. Being mostly fur, it shrank considerably in the water and nearly disappeared. After drying this soggy specimen of catdom, we bundled it up in an old towel and fed it the formula concocted by a local vet for orphan kittens: one cup whole milk, one teaspoon of vegetable oil, one egg yolk, whisk well, and warm. (Use a tiny pet feeding bottle or syringe)

This baby is old enough to lap and downed the lot I’d poured into a lid. We filled a canning jar with hot water, screwed the lid on tightly and tucked our swaddled charge beside the improvised water bottle back in the small closet in the laundry room. Assorted farm coats, jeans, and shirts hang on hooks up above and brush our heads as we kneel to peer into this den-like place. There’s nothing dogs like better for a bed than a worn coat with that farm smell clinging to it, cozily tucked back into this closet.

Cats prefer sunbeams but will make do. I’ve spent many hours on my knees helping to birth puppies, fuss over their care and tend kittens. Countless kittens and puppies, tiny terriers that could fit in a shoe box, medium size dogs and dogs that have grown too big but are still attached, have called this comforting space home. The narrow walls are gnawed and deeply grooved from the many inhabitants over the years. Every household should have such a place.

Fortunately Mia also likes her dog bed in the dining room because she can’t be trusted to kitten-sit. The formula rapidly dwindles. Not only that, but she’s afraid of kittens. Silly, silly Mia. The kitten does not yet have a name because if you name a creature this implies that it’s staying, which this one very well may be. Sometimes you just need a kitten and Elise is at that time. Perhaps I am too.

Oddly, it would seem Mia always wanted a kitten of her own after all. She follows the minute puff ball around the kitchen and hovers over it with a worried look. Actually, Mia generally looks worried. I suppose from earlier traumas before we took her in. She’s never had a small furry friend and even tries to play with the kitten as it bounds around the kitchen in great excitement, over everything and anything.

My mother made the observation that kittens and other babies can utterly give themselves to play in a way that the rest of us can’t because we’ve had the play smacked out of us by life. Now and then, I think we should all play as unreservedly as possible.”

Since I wrote this piece, Elise and I have gone on to rescue several other kittens.  If it weren’t for the restraint urged by my husband, we would have many more.

***Images of kitten and gosling and Mia as a young dog with our rescue kitten Percy taken by my mom, Pat Churchman

***Our latest rescue kitten Pavel,  Pavel with my niece Cailin, and Grandson Colin holding rescue kitten beside my tiny pom-poo Sadie taken by Elise

11 responses to “Rescuing An Orphan Kitten

  1. How sweet. I just happy ending animal stories. Beautiul pets you have too. I just toke in a 7 month kitty a few months ago. He was skinny, hungry, dirty, and full of fleas. Got him all cleaned up which I am sure he did not like. LOL. Now he is happy, talkative, and healthy. I called Tubby(even though he is not)after my beloved cat I lost many years ago.

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  2. How cute, Beth! Don’t think my dog would be as welcoming of a kitty, though. We encounter many on our daily walks and they freak him out. lol

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  3. Lovely story, and bless your heart! When my daughter was 10 months old, I was taking her to the library with me and I heard this weird sound. I thought it was a bird or something. It sounded like a call for help, and I followed it. I was looking up, but as I got closer to the source of the sound, I realized I needed to look down. There in the curb drainage system – was a tiny kitten. I haven’t a clue how she got there – had someone flushed her down a toilet? Or tried to drown her? I’ll never know, but anyway I got on my stomach and reaching down to save this tiny calico kitten not even six weeks old. We named her G.G. for gutter girl, and she lived with us for the next 15 years. 🙂

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  4. Lovely post. It’s almost impossible to resist a kitten.

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  5. My daughter and I took in a pregnant cat that had been left behind by owners. Almost two years later, she has two and I have three of those kittens. Mother cat and rest of kittens found homes. My dogs tolerates them as they knead her tail and back, and will bark at them if they try to escape to the outside.

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  6. What a sweet story.

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