“The Foundlings Four”
Someone told me about a sign man in a small town that was about 12 miles from the city. I spoke with him on the phone and made an appointment to bring my cat’s photo and the information that would be printed on a large piece of sign board that I would furnish. In a few days I met with the man who seemed interested, however, he could not give me a definite price. I left the sign maker with a photo of Bentley, my name, and my phone number. My other obstacle was to locate a carpenter who could build a brace for the back of the sign. The brace would stabilize the sign by keeping it upright and in place. I obtained the sign board from the only store in our city that had what I needed.
By late July I had not called the sign maker to tell him I had obtained the sign board. I had begun pondering the possibility that I would never find Bentley because he was most likely dead. My hopes of finding the handsome tabby and white cat were dimming by the day. The Dallas newspaper had stories of neighborhood cats that had met their demise at the hands of evil people. Cats were taken and then mutilated and thrown in the gutter or on the lawns in neighborhoods throughout the city. My husband said that Bentley might have died in that manner. With those words, I believed there was no point in continuing my search even though we lived 100 miles south of Dallas, I felt that no city or countryside was safe from evil people. Too many awful thoughts of what might have happened to my cat dampened my pursuit. I continued to keep the ad in the newspaper. However, I did not bother to call the sign man to let him know that I had abandoned the lost cat project.
The hot and humid days of August were in full swing. The last Friday of August had arrived and it was my day off from a very stressful job. I had completed my list of errands by mid-afternoon and had decided to take a nap. I was in deep sleep when the phone jolted me awake. I answered the call and a man began talking. He told me his name and asked if I had found my cat. I slowly drawled out “no I did not find him. It was a lost cause to begin with.” He then proceeded to say that he had a collection of old cars that were parked near his work shop. I wondered where all of this irrelevant information was going to lead. He said, “I was working in my shop yesterday and heard what sounded like a kitten meowing. I knew I did not have a cat but the meowing continued. I followed the sound and it was coming from under one of the old cars. I looked under the car and there were 4 tiny kittens. Then I remembered that I had seen a dead cat on the road near my house so I suppose those are her kittens meowing because they are hungry. I put them in a box and took them to the house. My daughter tried to feed them but they would not eat.” I then interjected that they could not eat or drink milk because it sounded as if they were too young. I then told him to get some kitten formula from the vet near him but he soon made it clear that his daughter was too busy and that he did not have the time either. “I don’t know any cat person except you and I know you are passionate about cats.” I attempted to persuade the sign man but he continued to say they were really hungry since the mother cat had been dead for more than 24 hours. I reluctantly agreed to take them “off his hands” later in the evening. I knew the routine of feeding orphaned kittens. IT IS DIFFICULT, FRUSTRATING, NERVE WRACKING , AND TIME CONSUMING.
I was thoroughly disgusted with the man since it was evident that he clearly saw me as an idiot who would go to great lengths to help any cat in need. Well, no matter what he thought, I was then committed to rescue the kittens or they would soon be too weak to save if they were not already in a precarious condition.
By 5:30 pm I left a note for my husband that his supper was in the fridge. As I walked outside I heard thunder and saw a huge thunderhead in the northwest. Soon after leaving our house, rain began to splatter the windshield with lightening and thunder accompanying the intensifying rain. I made my way to a vet clinic that also served as an emergency clinic after normal clinic hours, where I purchased some kitten formula. From there I drove to the sign man’s house, honked my horn, and a teenage girl of about 14 or 15 years old exited the house. I called to her, saying that I was there to take the “4 orphans” off their hands. She directed me to the garage and pointed to a cardboard box. She said, “they’re in there. They won’t eat or drink.” She then gestured to a saucer of milk on the floor nearby. I looked at her in exasperation. “The kittens are not old enough to drink milk. Kittens this young are still suckling.” The girl looked at the floor and responded, “oh I didn’t know that and my Dad said he didn’t want to keep them and that he didn’t know what to do with them and then he thought of you.” Without speaking, I picked up the box, opened the back passenger door of my Explorer, and shoved the box across the seat. The kittens did not make any sound. I gave a quick peek and noted that they were huddled in a tight cluster of various shades of fur. I was angry that I was now committed to caring for these tiny creatures. I told the girl, “I’ll do the best that I can to save them” and with a wave of my hand I was out of there. As I drove back home it was still daylight and I saw a rainbow in the distance. I wondered if that was a sign of good luck.
I arrived home at dusk. The rain had stopped. The air felt like a wet blanket: hot and humid from the rain. I placed the box of kittens on the floor of a spare room. I then prepared a hot water bottle which I wrapped with a large towel. I placed several layers of newspaper in the bottom of the box, added an old towel, and then the hot water bottle that I had wrapped in a towel. I then went outside to look for a framed piece of wire mesh which I had stored that would fit over the top of a medium size box. I then put another old towel over the lid. This set-up would keep out drafts of air. Well so far so good. I had placed the kittens in a shoe box while I assembled a new home for them. I was working quickly so that I could get some formula in their very empty stomachs. As I placed each one on the warm pad, I noticed that they made very little movement but each one managed a weak hiss: still remants of being born feral. I prepared the formula per directions in warm water, got an unused syringe (without the needle of course) from my pet supply cabinet, sat down in a chair, reached inside for a kitten, pried the little mouth open and pushed in just a tad of formula. In a matter of seconds the kitten grabbed the syringe with its front paws and drank 3 ml. I then reloaded the syringe and fed the other kittens. All four of them took the formula with an amazing gusto. After feeding each kitten I dipped a cotton ball in a small clean stainless steel cup of warm water. Young puppies and kittens that are orphaned require cleansing of the genital area which imitates the care that the mother gives to her young. This routine must be done EACH AND EVERY time the kittens are fed. During the wiping of the genital area the kitten will urinate and sometimes defecate during the wiping process. IF THE GENITAL AREA is not stimulated the kitten, if very young will not urinate or defecate. This routine is a necessity as well as burping the kitten since they are taking in air as they suckle. Burping the kittens is done in this manner. Hold the kitten in one hand in an upward position and with the free hand, gently pat the kitten on the back until you can usually hear a faint burp. This also is of VITAL IMPORTANCE.
Several problems arose while raising these kittens. Constipation, diarrhea, and bloating (due to the kitten not burping) were all encountered. Feeding time is the most important aspect of raising a kitten or puppy. This is the time you evaluate the stool for the proper consistency. Also I had to watch for bloating of the stomach and lack of appetite. My veterinarian instructed me to give a teeny dose of Pepto Bismol for a bloated stomach. At least twice the kittens were put on antibiotics to knock out an intestinal bacteria. I made at least three trips to my veterinarian when one or more had either diarrhea, constipation or bloat. A round of Amoxicillin, subcu fluids, or Pepto Biz fixed the problem each time. All of this seemed to be a never ending chore but I was determined that I WOULD successfully raise the four kittens.
I worked the evening shift at a local facility and fed the kittens as soon as I got home and then would feed them again at about 2:30am and begin feeding them again by 8 or 9am. I managed to give the kittens 5 feedings in 24 hours which is not ideal but they were thriving. In an ideal situation, the kittens should have been fed about every 3-4 hours but I could not take them with me to work and I did not have anyone that could come in to feed them while I was gone.
After they were about two and one half months old, the critical stage for the kittens had passed. By then I was becoming attached to them- Each one had their own distinct personality. By three months of age I decided on names for them. The Siamese mix female who was more demanding of food and loved being held was named Carley. The gray long haired female for obvious reasons became Grayley. Two males were left without names and I finally chose the name Frankie for the handsome long hired tabby and finally there was the short haired blue gray tabby who I named Beasley. I have no idea how or why I chose those names but the names seemed to fit each kitten.
Ten years later and the four foundlings are a prominent part of my life. Each time I go to sleep generally all of them are beside me with one sleeping near my head. These four cats are the most affectionate of all my cats and I am thankful that I have them in my life. I have often believed that Bentley was lost so that these cats could become part of my life. Of course, all of this is purely hogwash but maybe there really is something such as fate and destiny.