The first six weeks of a kitten’s life are critical and a time when they are heavily reliant on their mum to ensure their survival. So when we hear new born kittens are on their way into one of our centres, we cross our fingers and hope mum will be coming with them or following very closely behind.
We know that there really is no substitute for a mother’s care, but sadly there will be occasions when very young baby kittens are found abandoned with no mum in sight. In those instances, our first contingency plan is to check whether we have a new mama cat already in our care, who might agree to mother a few more kittens.
Our last resort is to intervene ourselves, which becomes a necessity to keep the kittens alive.
Laura, an animal carer at our HULA centre, recalls the last litter that arrived:
“I received a call to say a litter of kittens had been left at the local vet surgery after a member of the public found them abandoned at the side of the road.
The kittens were just a few days’ old, very weak and wouldn’t survive without our help, so I immediately went to collect them.
I arrived to five very cute but very young bundles of fluff, and immediately knew we’d have a tough job on our hands to keep all these little babies alive without a mother.”
Without a mother to feed from or keep them warm, new-born kittens require round-the-clock care. It is imperative that they feed every two hours, which means hand-rearing kittens requires many sleepless nights. Something that Laura remembers all too well:
“It’s not just the feeding you need to think of, but also the less glamorous task of toileting. Kittens so young need a little encouragement in that area, so with five kittens to feed and toilet every two hours, you find it’s almost time to start again with the first kitten the minute you finish with the last!
Thankfully the kittens were so cute that a night of no sleep was soon forgotten about with a little cuddle from an adorable little fur ball.
The really difficult thing about hand rearing kittens is the close bond you build with them and the immense pressure that can build on you to ensure they survive. Sleep becomes the last thing on your mind because you find yourself in a constant state of anxiety, hoping they’ll pull through without their mother who is so imperative to a new born kitten.”
Unfortunately, these kittens were very unwell, having been abandoned so young, and often became unresponsive, leaving Laura heading back and forth to emergency vet appointments day and night.
Despite every effort to help them, one kitten, Storm, did sadly lose his battle and passed away one evening on the way to yet another emergency vet appointment. Laura recalls the heart-breaking moment:
“As anyone who has cared for a sick pet will know, it’s so frustrating that they can’t tell you what’s wrong or how to fix it.
Whilst it’s not that unusual for one kitten in a litter to pass away, particularly when they’ve been left without mum very early on, you still can’t prepare yourself for the feelings of sadness and defeat.
The vets were great and tried everything they could to help save all these little kittens but poor Storm simply ran out of fight.”
Thankfully, the rest of the kittens slowly pulled through with continued overnight care and attention. They spent 3 months with Laura, gradually getting stronger and healthier until they were ready to head off in pairs to happy homes.
Ariel, Troilus, Mikha and Dorieto all now have a full bill of health and are busy causing all kinds of mischief in their loving homes! Just like we’d expect happy, healthy kittens to be.
Will you sponsor an animal carer like Laura for kittens like Storm, Ariel, Troilus, Mikha and Dorieto?
By giving £5 today, you can give a sick and abandoned kitten a companion who will never give up on them.
Please help the animals still waiting.