Two Ounces of Purring Resilience

Posted on: February 1, 2013
1 comment so far

By Marla Morrow McMullen
Our most humbling lesson in resilience began on August 2nd, 2010 when my husband Bob called from work saying he found a newborn kitten that had been abandoned by its mother.  One of his co-workers was willing to take the kitten but didn’t have the time for the constant attention it would need so Bob and I agreed to raise the kitten until it was old enough to go to his new home.  The army depot where my husband works is teeming with wildlife such as cats, mice, snakes, coyotes and hawks.   Bob couldn’t bear the thought of a newborn kitten being nourishment for a wild animal so he grabbed the kitten and cared for him the rest of the day hoping he would live until he got him to our home.
In the meantime I did some internet research on how to raise a newborn kitten then went to the store to purchase canned kitten milk and a bottle.  Returning home I cleaned a small cat carrier, lined it with a soft towel and potty pad and waited for the newborn to arrive.  I also filled one of Bob’s socks with rice and tied off the end to use as a warming device by heating it in the microwave for 50 seconds to keep the kitten warm.  Bob arrived home and brought in a very tiny kitten asleep in his hat. We were surprised the little guy was still alive because the little kitten was so new it still had its umbilical cord attached.   I gently picked it up and began trying to feed it milk with an eye dropper.  It took a bit of doing but Junior finally started nursing.  I also read that you need to stimulate newborn kittens to urinate and poop so we took him in the bathroom, wet a cotton pad with warm water and started wiping his behind and sure enough he started doing his business.   
The first night with Junior was a long one.  We put the cat carrier in our bedroom so we could get up with him when he cried.  He actually slept most of the night but Bob and I were up and down constantly shining a light into his cage to make sure he was breathing.  This routine went on for several nights until we realized he would sleep all night and that his mewing is loud enough to wake us.  
On the third day of Junior’s life he went on his first trip to the vet.   One of my neighbors was rubbing his head when a hidden and infected wound came open.  He probably injured himself falling out of the wooden pallet where his mother had left him.   Bob and I tried to clean it but the pus kept returning so off to the vet we went.     The vet had little hope that Junior would live because kittens that age have no immune system and get their immunity from mother’s milk.  Thank goodness we have a vet that doesn’t give up. The vet cleaned the wound, put two stitches in his head and told us to use  antibiotic crème since he weighed a mere two ounces and was much too young for antibiotics.
Since I never had kids I wasn’t familiar with the exhaustion of new mothers.  For the first three weeks we had Junior I didn’t sleep more than a couple of hours at a time and couldn’t leave him alone for more than an hour or so.  My husband gets up at 5:00 am to go to work and I would fuss at him “not to wake the baby” so I could get a little more sleep.   Once Junior woke up he started crying loudly for his bottle and it took an hour to feed him, get him to go potty and finally fall back asleep.  I was very happy when he was finally weaned and litter box trained !!
As the days passed Junior continued to grow and his head slowly healed.  He actually grew so fast that the stitches popped.  The next obstacle we faced was trying to get Junior to poop regularly.  He went three days without pooping so once again it was off to the vet.  The vet tried to stimulate his bottom to no avail.  Then she gave him a very tiny enema and things came out just fine. Also, his weight had doubled in five days so that was a promising sign.  
After the worry of the first couple of weeks – Bob and I prayed daily to God and the angels to spare Juniors life – the little yellow ball of fuzz grew about a half an ounce a day.   Each morning I would pull him out of the cat carrier and see a different cat.  He grew so fast that often his body was asymmetrical.  One day half of his face would be bigger than the other half or his paws would be way too big for his legs.   But after a couple of days the rest of his body would catch up and then something else would look odd.  His tail shot out of his body and for a while his tail was longer than his torso. His beautiful orange stripes started showing up and each day became darker and more pronounced.  For a kitten that comes from a long line of completely feral cats he is absolutely beautiful.  
It finally came time to wean Junior off the bottle and to potty train him.  After he was fed we took him into the bathroom, put a potty pad in the sink and rubbed his behind with wet cotton balls to make him go. He didn’t like doing it and cried when we made him go poop.  Eventually all we had to do was wipe him a bit and he would squat and pee (a very large amount) and then poop on his own.  One day we got a small litter box, filled it with litter and put him in it.   He jumped out and we put him back and he eventually figured out what he needed to do.  We had to clean his bottom and tail a few times until he mastered how to keep his tail and behind out of the poop!!   
At the same time we were potty training we were trying to switch him to regular food.  He wasn’t too keen at first since giving up nursing is hard for all creatures both animal and human alike.  We put a bit of his cat milk in with some soft food and spoon fed it to him a few times.  Just when we thought we would never get him weaned he decided he liked the canned cat food and we couldn’t get it to him fast enough!!   He was a growing boy and wanted his food now.  After a couple of days on the wet food we switched him to dry kitten food and he finally forgot all about his bottle.  
Mixed with the pride we felt in weaning and potty training Junior was sadness because we knew it was about time for him to go to his new family.  Our other cats were beginning to accept him and his liveliness and energy was bringing the kitten out of even our older cats.  But we already have seven cats which is more than enough for any household.  One day Junior’s new owner came to get him and we packed his food, cat bed and favorite toys then bid him farewell.   We asked his new owner to leave quickly so he wouldn’t see our tears of both sadness and joy in raising such a wonderful creature and then letting him go.  
Junior is now with his new family.  They renamed him Depot after the army depot where he was found.  We should probably call him Savior as he saved three different families from their troubles and sadness.    I was feeling sorry for myself at not being able to find a job and taking care of Junior gave me a purpose in life.  The same day that Bob brought home Junior our next door neighbors boxer named Breezy suddenly died.  Their eight year old daughter was devastated but she came over every day to see Junior, play with him and give him the love she had once given her dog.  After a while she wasn’t so sad anymore and could see the importance of the cycle of life.  And thirdly, the mother of the family that adopted Junior had suffered a miscarriage and was having a hard time dealing with her grief.   They told us that after a couple of weeks of Junior’s energy, playfulness and love that her grief started to subside and she is slowly came out of her depression.  
Bob and I think about Junior often and remember the lessons he taught us.  First – when you have the love and support of family you can overcome anything, especially fear.  Junior overcame impossible odds being abandoned the day he was born and recovering from an infection without a developed immune system.   Second – the healing power of prayer and faith.  Third – don’t get so wrapped up in something new and cute and forget about all the others you love.  We had shamefully neglected our other cats while focusing on Junior and once he left they let us know about it!
Raising Junior renewed our faith that the possibilities in life are endless and that the answers to most problems are right in front of us.  Sometimes the answers come wrapped in two ounces of purring, furry resilience.   


One Response to “Two Ounces of Purring Resilience”

  1. Pam Schonauer Says:

    I love this story! We received a 4wk old kitten November first and have so enjoyed watching him develop and grow. Thank you for taking such good care of this little fella!

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