Susie was a pregnant stray cat, due and ready to deliver and was bitten across her spine. She had torn flesh on both sides, above her tail and anus filled with maggots. She was completely paralyzed in her back end, and the vet recommended she be euthanized. (Most vet's probably would have recommended she be euthanized.)
But S.P.A., after careful consideration, thought the right thing to do was to attempt to save her. Yes, this story is longer than usual. But please take the time to read through this particular rescue story. I think you'll agree it's worth the read.
Someone called S.P.A. from Fulton Street here in Fremont, saying that a very pregnant stray cat couldn't walk and that her back end was covered in maggots.
I told them I needed to call the other members of SPA to see if it was alright for us to take another cat in need under our wings. We have been spending far more on helping suffering animals than we can afford to spend.
When I called the girl on Fulton Street back she said she had also called the Humane Society.
The trouble with the Humane Society taking this cat under their wings is that when the vet tells them it is best to euthanize a cat, they listen. Their shelter is always full and it is not an unusual decision with the over-abundance of healthy cats, right?
The cat had been taken to the vet's office by the girl who called S.P.A., so I called and told them to put all charges on S.P.A.'s bill, and to call me with their assessment as soon as possible.
The doctor called and suggested she be euthanized. She was very pregnant, he said, and had been bitten at the base of her spine above and around her anus. There were maggots in the wounds.
I asked if her legs might be broken, and he said, "I can do an x-ray if that helps you sleep tonight."
I told him not to euthanize her until I came in to personally evaluate her condition.
When my husband Terry and I arrived she was lying on a table bright eyed, making bread and purring. But the maggots were crawling around the top of her tail and lower spine, and the gaping hole was disturbing.
I looked at the x-rays, and saw six tiny spines, which only enhanced the voice of moral responsibility that I often hear from deep within. And it wasn't whispering.
The doctor said he was going to give her a Capstar to kill the maggots even though there were no current studies on Captar's effect on unborn kittens.
He said I'd have a couple of days, probably until Thursday, to find a nursing mother. That was a good thing, as my computer had been attacked with over 500 viruses/malware and was at Computer Man being "cleansed". They had been running a program to clean out the viruses for over three days. I was distraught, not being able to get back online to help the animals I was in the middle of rescuing, and now I was unable to search for a nursing mother.
The next morning, Tuesday, the doctor called my cell phone while I was at Computer Man discussing the possibility of purchasing a new computer and making inquiry as to how much it would cost and how long it would be before a new computer could be up and running. Fortunately, they were able to retain all data on my old computer.
She was huge, and couldn't lick her back end where the maggots had multiplied. How terrible that must have felt.
I kept thinking of that mama cat, of the look in her eyes as she looked up at me... it was powerful, filled with expectation, and I felt absolutely certain that we needed to do everything possible to save her life as well as at attempt to save the lives of her unborn kittens.
As I stood there in Computer Man's office, the doctor proceeded to tell me that she had gone into labor, and that nothing was happening.
I asked if he could wait a bit longer, and he said no, that he had the afternoon off, and also mentioned that Memorial Day weekend was approaching. This doctor is a new, young doctor at this veterinary office, an office I have gone to for nearly forty years, since I was seventeen years old.
Her back legs went straight back and were completely paralyzed.
He told me that the other doctors were too busy to do the surgery later in the day, and that he would be removing the kittens C Section in the next hour or so. He also mentioned that the newborns should eat within the first hour after they were born.
I felt a real sense of panic. How could I find a nursing mother who still had cholesterum in her milk that quickly, especially without a computer? It needed to be a mother who had RECENTLY given birth, I was told, not a mother cat who had given birth six weeks before. The kittens needed "fresh" mother's milk. And I didn't have access to my address book of rescue contacts yet.
Then, I received another call from the doctor, and he said, "Well, she had six kittens. One didn't make it, so you'll need to come now and pick up the kittens and the mother cat."
I couldn't believe my ears. We were willing to pay for them to care for this mother and her babies until I was able to find a nursing mother, but I was being told to come and pick them up.
I asked if the techs could please tube feed the newborns, since he said it was necessary they eat within the first hour, and he said, "We are too busy. We might be able to try to fit it in, but as I told you, I have the afternoon off, and we just don't really have the time." Again, he mentioned that Memorial Day Weekend was coming up.
My husband picked up the mother and kittens. I drove separately to wait at Dr. Hirt's office for the kitty family to arrive. I wanted Dr. Hirt to evaluate the mother and kittens before I took them home.
The mother and kittens were all still anesthetized when they arrived. How was I suppose to feed the kittens when they wouldn't wake up? There were two tiny gold kittens, a very tiny gray, a beautiful little tiger and a much larger gray one.
They laid in the box lifeless, not moving.
I have tube fed newborns many times over the past fifteen years with great success, and have complete understanding regarding the importance of temperature control, frequency of feedings, etc. But I knew this was going to be an even more difficult challenge than usual, because of the complications.... the anesthesia, Capstar, the fact that they were not able to nurse at all from their mother's breast... and, I would not only be dealing with 'round the clock care of five critical kittens but also their incapacitated, injured mother.
Dr. Hirt had on hand the perfect size feeding tube. It had been over two hours since they were born, and still, they would not wake up from the anesthesia.
Finally, the larger gray kitten began quivering and moving just a bit. I quickly tube fed one ml. into her tiny mouth. It's best to start out with small, frequent feedings when dealing with newborns. Dianne, an S.P.A. member, and Sandy, who works with S.P.A., were with me at Dr. Hirt's to help with the life-saving effort to save this kitten family.
When they had all been fed, Terry and I brought them home and set up an intensive care area in our spare bathroom. It was the perfect nursery... a room extra warm from the skylight and the sink was handy to clean supplies etc.
From top to bottom: Violet, Trillium, Silver Moon (with the big head in middle), Apple (tiger right of Moon), and Jasper Sun
The kittens seemed sluggish, still, but I fed them around the clock, every two hours, at first, increasing the amount of milk at each feeding. I regulated the temperature in their box, placing a heating pad under one end and placing a cover over the box to hold in the heat.
They were all peeing fine, and by Wednesday morning, all five had pooped, some more than others.
The tiniest gray kitten began declining, and by that afternoon, she had passed. We had named her Violet, and buried her tiny, frail body in our butterfly garden. We felt such a deep level of grief, especially considering we had known her for less than 24 hours. My heart filled with panic and sadness.
I continued tube feeding all through the night, exactly every two hours, and had peed and pooped each tiny kitten after feeding time was complete.
And mommy cat? She seemed to have a difficult time waking up from the anesthesia, too. Even 24 hours post surgery she remained very sluggish and unresponsive. She would not eat, so I slowly fed her Science Diet AD with a syringe. She was unable to urinate, so I expressed her bladder up to four times a day.
The maggots were completely gone, but the bite tears on each side above her anus became much wider, so I asked Terry to drive to the vet's office to pick up the light blue antiseptic flush used to clean deep wounds like hers. I began inserting a syringe into the gaping holes and flushing three times a day.
Susie's back legs remained totally paralyzed, but I was relatively certain (now that the wounds were completely visible) that it was the bite that had caused her back end to become immobile. I remained hopeful that as the wounds healed, she might regain at least some feeling in her back end.
On Thursday morning, Susie (mommy cat) was much more responsive. I offered her kitten milk, at first, and eventually canned, shredded chicken breast with water, and she lapped it up.
I kept her in a separate box beside her babies box. It was too risky to place the kittens with her unattended as she was out of it for a couple of days, and could not control her back legs to arrange herself properly. But after she ate the ground chicken breast, she pulled herself over to the kittens box that was nestled up against her box and looked down upon her babies. She then looked up at me and I began crying. He eyes were filled with wonderment and appreciation. She looked proud, somehow, as her eyes were open wide again, and seemed to be beaming.
I kept Susie covered up to keep her warm and comfortable, and fed her kitten milk in a little dish, at first.
On Thursday evening, the smallest of the blonde kittens began fading. I placed a blanket on the floor of the bathroom and held his tiny body cupped in my hands as I very lightly stroked his head. I kept whispering to him that the love I felt for him was immeasurable, and that many animals upon this earth are not loved in a lifetime as much as I loved him in a couple of days. I told him that I wasn't certain where he would be going, but that I believed it would be free from the suffering and pain that exists upon this earth. My husband named him Trillium. We wrapped him in a piece of the soft blanket from the kitten's box, and he was buried beside his little gray sister in the butterfly garden.
I wondered how much effect the anesthesia and possibly the Capstar had had on the unborn fetuses. Both were, unfortunately, necessary.
Violet had passed away, but four kittens survives. I made certain that they spent as much time as possible with their mama. I closely monitored how she was doing, and how they were doing. She had not one drop of milk in any of her breasts.
There were three kittens left. The little Tiger was very spunky, and so was the large gray girl. The remaining blonde kitten was smaller than the other two.
I continued round the clock feedings, and at that point had not slept longer than one hour at a time since acquisition of Susie and her kittens, Tuesday afternoon.
Then, all of a sudden, Apple, the little tiger boy, literally began shrinking. Even though he was receiving as much milk as the others, within a few hours he began becoming smaller. I laid on the floor and held him in my hands. I was amazed at how calm he was, and the fact that he was purring and making bread in my hands up to the minute he passed away.
Apple purred and "made bread" until the minute he quit breathing. I tried to control my immense pain, to be there completely, for him in an effort to help him pass knowing he was loved, feeling the warmth of love coming from my touch.
Large pieces of my heart were torn at the loss of each of these tiny lives.
The little gold boy, Jasper Sun, and the largest of all five, Silver Moon, remained.
Susie continued to make marked progress, and was now eating on her own.
All of the kittens had been placed with her for supervised visits, and I am certain that promoted her speedy recovery.
Jasper Sun suddenly became very ill, and bloody water squirted out from his rectum. He passed, too, in the same way that Apple passed. Peacefully, making bread, with a relaxed body. Their transition into the next world made me feel physically ill, but I appreciated the fact that there was no apparent suffering. I had pains in my stomach, and my limbs went to sleep holding their tiny bodies against mine, whispering to them while they made the transition. I selfishly prayed for a miracle. I did not want them to leave.
Then, yesterday (Monday) Silver Moon began bleeding from her anus. Dark pink water shot out of her anus just as it had in Jasper Sun. I tried to prepare myself emotionally for her loss... the loss of Susie's last kitten. I gave her a small bit of amoxicillin, and an hour later, I dripped one drop of Kaopectate on her tongue. Blood was still coming out of her tiny bottom.
I hadn't had more than two hours of sleep at a time for the past six days and we had buried four kittens tiny bodies in the butterfly garden. I was having difficulty understanding why, and asked "why" out loud several time... there was no immediate answer.
Silver Moon. Sole survivor of Susie's kitten family. I continued tube feeding Moon as her swallowing reflex (to swallow the tube) was still working, and I felt safe giving her pre-measured amounts at the appropriate times. I switched her over to Pediolyte for two feedings.
This all happened yesterday afternoon. I prepared myself for this final goodbye, and felt as if I could collapse from the sorrow that filled my heart.
Throughout the night she seemed to slowly improve. The bleeding stopped, and although I am familiar enough with feeding newborns who haven't had the opportunity to nurse from their mothers I felt helpless, and as if I failed each one of them. I was afraid to hope.
Ideally, kittens need to nurse from the mommy cat for at least two days in order to obtain the essential cholesterm found in nursing mother's cat milk. These five didn't have that luxury.
Silver Moon is eating and drinking normally, today. She is spending as much time with mama as possible, and is now back on kitten milk.
She is one week old, today. I have switched her over to a long nipple bottle. She sucked on it immediately as if she were a pro.
I snapped this shot today (Tuesday) just as she was finishing up her 1:30 meal.
Mommy is helpful licking her bottom, to which I apply Vaseline when she is finished. I have monitored her stools, and they are still not formed, but have returned to brownish color.
This morning, Susie was pulling herself around in our bedroom, and when she heard her baby, Silver Moon, crying to be fed in the bathroom she put weight on her paws for the first time in a week! We now have every reason to believe that the paralysis in her back end is/was temporary, and that it will heal completely, with time. Feeling has returned to both of her legs.
A couple people offered their nursing cats, but after discussing what was best with feline experts (and based on fifteen years of personal experience caring for newborn kittens) we decided that keeping the kittens near their mama and tube feeding was their best shot. Only one of the kittens offered as a surrogate nursing mother had just had kittens. The others had had kittens a few weeks ago. Fresh milk contains more of the vital elements required to keep newborn kittens alive.
And as I mentioned, I am experienced at tube feeding newborn kittens. It isn't as if I didn't know what I was doing or how to do it. I did.
I have checked on her periodically as I am typing this update to you.
Mama Susie is lying beside me, and she keeps looking up at me.
After not sleeping for longer than an hour or two at a time (even throughout the night) and losing four of the dearest little kittens who my husband and I dearly loved (as did their mommy cat, Susie) I can assure you that I would not trade this past week of round the clock care for any amount of money.
I can't describe "it" with mere words.
Four babies passed (actually five, as one died at birth)... ...but Silver Moon survives thus far, and Mama Susie is beginning to walk. She was responding to the cry of her baby for more food...that's what caused her back legs to move again...
If I had done what was easiest, they'd all be dead. We did everything in our power to keep them all alive.
Susie and Moon survive. We think that's quite an accomplishment, and are convinced doing what was right not what was easiest... really paid off. Moon is not out of the woods, yet. I'll keep providing round the clock care for her, rest assured of that.
Susie has a long way to go to recover completely, but seeing her back paws rest against the ground, even in the clumsy way walked, is enough assurance to us that we made the right decision.... to do what was right, not what was easiest.
Regularly irrigating the wound with an antiseptic wash has helped in heal very quickly in one weeks time.
We will continue doing everything in our power to keep Silver Moon thriving. She is one week old today.
Anyone wishing to donate towards Susie and Silver Moon's care can donate securely online at: http://www.spaohio.org/donate.php we truly do need your support to continue to help castaway animals like Susie in need. Our donations are way down, and, we are in need. S.P.A. always elects to do what's right, not what's easiest.
At the end of each day ask yourself, "Have I done my best?" Listen carefully to your answer. ~ I.M. Trunk
Please send comments and submittals to the Editor: Linda Beane at [email protected]
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