By the time 1987 rolled around, I’ve had cats for some 25 years. That’s right, 25 years since I owned my first cat at about five years old. My first cat, Babette, a “tuxedo’ cat, that being a black a white cat, was a Christmas present to me from my mother. In those 25 years, a good number of cats had come our way, and yes, sadly many deaths in the “family.” In 1987, my mother and I had a total of six cats, named Jennie, E.T., Tippy, Bobbie, Taffy and Willie. Little did I know I was to have a new arrival. Nearly everyone, especially our neighbors, who knew my mother and me, knew us as the “cat people” while most of our neighbors had dogs.
On June 13, 1987, it was a typical warm summer day. Both my mother and I were home when our doorbell rang. We weren’t expecting anyone but we answered the door anyway. Standing before us were a group of the neighborhood kids, two of the kids I was familiar since they lived down the block and I was friends with their mother, while the four other kids were friends of theirs. Well we invited the kids in and one of the kids was holding a box. When my mother and I peered into the box we were in for a surprise. Inside the box was a litter of six kittens, and not only were they kittens but were newborn kittens: they must have been born that very day, as not only were their eyes shut closed, ears flat against their heads, but all still had their umbilical cords attached. The one son of my friend down the block explained to me that they had all been playing, when all the kids started hearing the unmistakable sounds of the meows of kittens in the garbage area of the apartment building. Upon opening up one garbage cans, the kids were naturally horrified in discovering the boxful of kittens thrown out like so much trash. Since the two sons of my friend knew I had cats, the first person they thought of to take these little newborns was myself.
The two sons and their four friends were all interested in how to take care of such young newborn kittens and asked question after question as some of them wanted to take a kitten home and take care of it. Now first off, when I say “kids” I don’t mean that any of them were in the six to eight year old range, but rather in their early teens, therefore old enough to be responsible. I did actually have some experience in taking care of a very young kitten, when during my high school years some fifteen years prior, some of my friends had come across a young kitten, and yes, as you can guess gave the kitten to me. And while not exactly a newborn kitten, Patchouli, as I was to name her, still needed to be bottle fed until completely weaned. So here I was as I began rattling off about how and what to feed such young kittens by bottle feeding every so hours, and then needing to encourage the young kitten to do it’s business by gently rubbing the bottom of the kitten with a slightly moistened paper towel, which in effect was a similar action to that of the mother cat that licks the baby’s bottom. The two sons took one kitten, while each of their four friends took one of the other kittens in the litter, and I took one of the kittens as well, a black kitten.
After the kids left, I now had to do a lot of scrambling around. First up, I needed to set up something to keep the newborn kitten completely safe from my older cats. I found a medium-sized cardboard container, placed a soft small towel inside the container, then dragged out one of the pet carrier cases I had. I lined the bottom of the pet carrier with a larger towel and placed the cardboard container inside the carrier case with the kitten in it, locked it up, then, since my mother no longer slept on her bed but on the sofa, I placed the entire carrier on my mother’s bed.
I then quickly dashed out to the local pet store to buy a few baby bottles and KMR (Kitten Replacement Milk). I was disappointed however that the pet store, while they had the replacement milk, didn’t have pet baby bottles at the time, so I stopped in another store and bought the type of plastic baby bottle that toy baby dolls have. Yes, sounds silly, but take it from me, in a pinch they will do!
Well the moment I got home, I started warming up the KMR to give the newborn kitten it’s first feeding. Heaven knows how long she and her litter mates had been in that garbage can and if any of the poor newborns even had a chance in having their first taste of their own mother’s milk. Once heated up slightly, I sanitized the baby doll’s bottle with hot water, snipped a bit of the top of the nipple of the bottle and carefully poured in the KMR. With bottle in hand, a slightly moistened paper towel and a small terry-cloth towel, now was time to feed the kitten. Gently taking her out of the pet carrier I wrapped her up into the small towel. There seemed to be no need to try and encourage the newborn to drink the milk, for as you can imagine the kitten was absolutely starving and began sucking on the bottle right away. After her feeding, I began rubbing her bottom to encourage her to make her “business” and placed her back into the cardboard container and then in the pet carrier. When several hours passed by, the routine began all over again. I had to feed her every two hours or so, day and night. Believe me when I say, that taking care of such an infant animal is just as demanding as taking care of an infant human baby. Can we say sleep deprived?
This new routine of mine was to last several weeks to come until the kitten, whom by now I had named Sachiko, was completely weaned. One thing I do have to mention about while I was taking care of Sachiko and when I think of it, was rather comical and just why I did it, eludes me. Newborn kittens have their eyes completely shut, therefore can’t see, they also have their ears flattened down near their heads and aren’t’ able to hear either. However they do have a keen sense of smell. Often, while Sachiko was still in the non-seeing, non-hearing phase, there would be times I would have to go into the bedroom to get something, and here I’d be quietly sneaking in, not making a noise. Why I haven’t a clue since as I said, she couldn’t see or hear me yet, but yes, she had that keen sense of smell and no doubt smelled my scent. She had quickly imprinted the fact that my scent represented “mom” to her; I was her mother, she had known no other. Sachiko was to grow into a healthy, strong and beautiful black cat whom she had just a touch of white on her chest. No doubt due to the fact that I had raised her from such a young infant age, she became what I call a “velcro” cat, meaning she bonded with me rather intensely. Had the experience in raising her from newborn stage been time demanding? Yes it was, but it was also a joy to do and an experience that even after all these years, I’ll never forget.
Sachiko~June 13, 1987~September 7, 1999
(Previously published at Bubblews)
Source: Life Experience