So, I was going over to see my sweetie Steven, like you do. I arrived right around 3:00 p.m. as planned. As I went up the stairs to the porch, I heard strange noises, a cheeping or meeping or something. Not-happy-critter noises. I went upstairs to see if Steve and Jen were there. They weren't back from the grocery store, yet. I made the fatal mistake of leaving my knitting bag behind, and went back down to the porch to see if I could figure out what the not-happy-critter noises were.
There was a cat sitting on a chair to the extreme right-most end of the porch. She seemed placid, accepted pets, but was not the source of the not-happy-critter noises. She didn't look like Karina's cat. She seemed awfully skinny. I left the porch and followed the sounds around to the side of the house. As I came abreast of where the cat sat on the chair on the porch, the peeping was quite loud. I looked under the porch, saw nothing. Looked in the bushes, didn't see anything, but it didn't quite sound like it was coming from the bushes. I looked a little higher, and a teeny, tiny black kitten came swimming out from underneath the chair where the stray cat sat.
My first thought was, "Well, fuck. This'll be complicated." I got back on the porch, went over to the chair, and picked up the very tiny black kitten, who peeped and squeeped frantically. I looked at the very fine grey cat in the chair, and wondered if she was maybe the mom-cat. I put the kitten on the chair with her, and the kitten started burrowing away, looking for a nipple. Her nipples looked a bit engorged, and the tiny kitten tried several, and was clearly dissatisfied. The adult cat licked the tiny cat a couple of times, in a very desultory way. I called Steven and said, "I'm on your porch with a kitten in distress."
Jen came down, and we decided that the female cat was not giving milk, and that was what was needed. So we called Petco, confirmed that they were open and had queening milk. We gathered up the alleged mom-cat and the very tiny kitten, and piled into my car. The kitten had his eyes open, but there was no particular color in them. His ears were still mostly down, although he could flick them a bit. He is still more in the swimming than crawling stage, and he kept on peeping and peeping and meeping and meeping, with vigor and clear distress. He would stop, occasionally, to try to suckle on Jen's hand, but when that didn't yield milk, he'd go back to crawling around and meeping. He was four, maybe five inches, nose to butt, not including his tale. Very, very light. Maybe four ounces? Maybe six? All black. So very, very cute, and clearly very hungry.
We stopped by my house and picked up a cat carrier to put the alleged mother into. Jen continued to hold the kitten. I was a bit freaked, the last time I heard kittens make noises like that was on the long ride from Iowa City to Ames, where I lost the last two kittens of the litter to feline leukemia. (One died about a half hour into the two hour trip, the other died shortly after we reached the hospital. It was awful.) I babbled a bit on the way to Petco, Jen was a rock of sanity.
We bought various things, including a bottle with nipples and two cans of KMR (Kitten Milk Replacer). Jen's house was closer, so we went there, and locked her cat out of the basement. The alleged mother got out of the carrier and ate a little canned food, did not drink any water, was briefly friendly, and then hid under the bed. The kitten...
Look, kitten, you have one job! One job. Suck. So, first we had to figure out that the nipples were not perforated. So ok, we did that. Still, the kitten would not suckle. The few times we seemed to get a drop or two in his mouth, he looked disappointed and started meeping and peeping again. We tried cutting the tip off the nipple altogether. Still, he would not suckle. Jen said, "I feel I have been lied to. In the books, you find the tiny creature and you give them milk and they love you and become your familiar." I agreed that we had been lied to, and suggested that a dead rat would probably not improve the situation, despite what some novelists might have us believe. Also, we could not squirt milk from the cow directly into the kitten's mouth, nor was there a spider spinning a web that said "Some Kitten." The perfidy of novelists was discussed at length, over the cries and meeps of the very, very tiny kitten.
Jen tried squirting some of the milk into the bowl of her hand, and then re-directing the kitten to it. Some of it seemed to get ingested, although it was awfully hard to tell. Much of it was getting on his fur. And he continued to make truly piteous noises. She tried soaking a rag (well, her shirt) in the milk, but he was very not interested in this. I've raised kittens, two and a half litters, though it's been a while. I was concerned that the kitten had been awake and upset for two hours, at this point. Kittens sleep a lot. A whole hell of a lot. His cries seemed to be a little softer, and we tried rubbing his belly, like you're supposed to to encourage elimination. He did not stop crying, and it seemed like being rubbed might be upsetting him. We, certainly, were upset.
While Jen continued to try to feed the teeny, tiny, kitten and we continued to discuss the ways in which we had been lied to by fictioneers, I tried to use my phone to find useful resources. I called Josh and he had some suggestions. Most places were closed, and we were pretty sure that most shelters that are kill-shelters would not take a kitten that needs round-the-clock care. I decided that we really needed the experts, so we decamped to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Hospital, with attached emergency clinic.
We got there around six p.m. We explained the situation, including the fact that we were utterly unsure that the alleged mother was the alleged mother. They took the kitten and the cat away. We waited.
I called Scott to let him know that I had to skip the Mnstf Board meeting tonight on account of kitten. My phone doesn't hold much of a charge.
I got a phone call from a very close friend very legitimately upset. I was not able to spend nearly as much time with her as I wanted to because I was badly distracted, and because my phone doesn't hold much of a charge.
I got a call from Ann Totusek, who said that she was willing to foster the kitten, and understood what was involved, provided we could get an indication that the kitten was likely to, you know, live out the night. I was incredibly grateful. Between the two of us, Jen and I had figured out maybe 36 hours of kitten care. But kittens that young need to be fed every two to three hours. While I don't begrudge the sleep, I have a job to which I cannot take a kitten, and Jen had the same problem. I was thinking of maybe dragooning Pamela until we could contact a no-kill shelter, which would hopefully find a foster, but that would probably take time, and probably nobody answering their phones until Tuesday what with the holiday. I fell upon Ann with cries of glee, wished her luck at the Board meeting.
Jen had had almost nothing to eat, and I hadn't eaten since ten-thirty that morning. We got progressively more faded and wan. We talked about various things, mostly me rattling on about Puppygate. There was a loop of funny animal videos on the monitor in the waiting room. The baby goats were very funny.
Around nine, I asked at the desk if they had any news. I was told that the alleged mother (whom I'd begun to call Lady Jane Grey, because she was a lady,and grey) and kitten were resting comfortably. I said, "The kitten's going to live?" The said yes, and explained that the doctor hadn't been able to get to the kitten right away because of an emergency.
We waited some more.
A bunch of people rushed out, with a rolling cart. They rushed back in with a dog in the cart, who had blood on his face.
A very nice resident (or whatever they call baby vets) came out. The kitten was doing well, they'd managed to get him to eat. The alleged mother was probably not the alleged mother. When they tried to introduce the kitten to her, she'd growled. Also, she was running a fever. 105.6, about 2 and a half degrees above norma. I had thought she felt a bit hot. If this was a beloved pet, they'd advise hospitalization. However, that would start at $1200.
Discussion ensued. I do like Lady Jane Grey quite a bit, but this is a lot of money to spend on a cat that may not live. I elected to have sub-q fluids, since she was dehydrated. I called home to confirm that she could live in the cat-free zone for now.
We waited some more.
I paid the very nice people $333, and drove to Blaisdell Poly, where we showed the very tiny kitten (whom Jen named Bucky Barnes, once she knew he was going to live) to Pamela, and offered Lady Jane more food and water. She ate some food, and then retreated.
We decamped to the Courts of Chaos. Steven had cooked up the tacos which we had planned to eat around five. It was, um, well after ten, I think. Bucky was mostly asleep. Jen was cuddling and stroking him. She managed to properly rub his belly and buttonhole such that he both peed and pooped. There was much rejoicing, and then some washing of hands. Ann showed up and cooed and ooed and we admired the very small Bucky Barnes, whom Ann is planning on renaming. She is also planning on rehoming him. Yep, we'll see how that goes. When Bucky twitched his ear, she made adorable cooing noises. We sent Bucky off with Ann, had some gin, and then Steven and Jen retired to sleep, and I came home, because I am working tonight and it was too early to go to bed.
I managed to coax Lady Jane Grey from underneath the folding chairs in the sunroom. I picked her up and set her down on my lap. She felt hot to the touch, and didn't stay long. Her eyes are bright, her ears are intact and clear. She moves well, has no visible wounds or scars. She's clearly socialized to humans, and seems very sweet. I set out some kibble for her, since some cats don't like wet food. I hung around for a while, but my allergies got the better of me, and I retreated. It's been a hard day for Lady Jane. I'm hoping it gets better soon.
I do still need to get Lady Jane Grey into my vet's on Tuesday, to be tested for various scary diseases. If she doesn't have anything terminal, we can feed her up and possibly foist her off on Steven. If she does...I don't want to think about that. At the moment, I'm still worried about getting her to the vet, since I hope to be asleep that day in preparation for working that night.
Not very good picture of the teeny, tiny kitten currently known as Bucky Barnes: