Our Little Orphan Annie

I was hoping for an uneventful weekend. I should have known better.

Yesterday afternoon, my son was helping chase down a neighbor’s dog. Upon following the dog into the alley, he came across an abandoned litter of kittens. There were three of them, and they couldn’t be more than two or three weeks old. They were filthy, surrounded by swarming flies, and one kitten’s eyes were matted shut. It was so sad.

My son is a huge animal lover, and I’m quite fond of them myself. We couldn’t just leave them there, so we gathered them up in a towel, and took them into our utility room. They were barely moving and wouldn’t even take water.

I gave them a quick rinse just to get rid of some of the surface dirt, and found that they were covered in fleas. I’ve had quite a bit of experience in caring for kittens and getting rid of fleas, but never with abandoned kittens in such a fragile state.

I decided to leave them alone in the utility room. All they wanted to do was sleep. I wasn’t sure they would live through the night and figured that, at the very least, we had given them a clean and peaceful resting place to sleep undisturbed until gradually drifting away for good. We would bury them in the morning, and mark the grave. At least they wouldn’t die alone in a disgusting alley, surrounded by garbage and covered in flies.

When I checked on them at around 1:00 this morning, they were all still breathing. It had been eight hours since we found them, and not once had they cried for food or anything else; they just slept.

It was a very sad night for all of us (Mike was on the phone through much of the ordeal). After checking on them at around 1:00 a.m. I resigned myself to the idea that they would die in their sleep, and decided to stop going in there; I would be better able to cope and support my son in the morning if I got some sleep.

I woke up at 8:00 a.m. and, with a feeling of dread, went to check on the kittens. I could scarcely believe what I saw. Not only were they still alive, they were rooting around in the towel as if searching for a nipple to latch on to. They still weren’t making any noise, though.

After giving Mike a quick call, I took a shower, and went to the store for a few supplies. I’m low on funds at the moment, so I was only able to get a can of condensed milk to feed them. I know it’s not the best, and that they can’t survive on it long term, but it will do until I get paid tomorrow.

We fed each kitten a few drops at a time from a thoroughly cleaned Visine bottle. Between the three of them they put away half of it in about five minutes. Not a bad start, and it seemed to rejuvenate them: when we put them back in their box, they started rooting again, this time meowing as well. I thought it would be best to wait a little while before feeding them again; I wanted to make sure they weren’t going to have an adverse reaction to the milk.

So now I’m committed to this. I decided that they needed a real bath, so I started digging through some of our old flea treatments, and lo and behold, I came across a spray that kills fleas, ticks, and lice, and it’s especially formulated to be used on “very young and nursing animals”. What a break!

I sprayed, lathered and rinsed one kitten at a time, using an old soft-bristle toothbrush to brush away the dirt and dead fleas. After I washed the first kitten, my son wrapped him in a towel and gave him another feeding while I started washing the next, and so on until they were all clean and fed, and lying on a heating pad switched on to the lowest setting.

I don’t know what will become of our little furry friends. We’ve taken them in, and we will continue to care for them while exploring options, and trying to find permanent homes for them. I’ll buy a few more supplies, including some proper kitten formula and a bottle. I don’t want to become too attached, but it’s difficult to avoid when something like this happens. And how can I stop my son from falling in love? In fact, it’s already too late for that. He’s sitting in the floor feeding them and cooing as I write this.

Although I bathed them all thoroughly, it’s difficult at this age to identify their sex. I’m almost certain that the smallest one is female, so I’ve named her Annie. I thought it was appropriate given Little Orphan Annie’s rough start in life:

Little Orphan Annie was different; she met do-gooders, crooked politicians, gangsters, and fought the nazis. The strip had elements of the supernatural. There were ghosts, leprechauns, and Mr. Am, who has lived for “millions of years.”

After months of fending for herself, traveling through the small towns of America, “Daddy” showed up for an adventure before disappearing again to allow Annie some adventures on her own.

OK, so our Annie didn’t exactly fight Nazis, but she certainly would have been food for predators had my son not found and rescued her and her siblings. I’d call that a pretty rough start.

By the way, my son has always had high ambitions. He has dreams of becoming a scientist and finding a cure for cancer, as well as a couple of chronic conditions which keep his old mom from doing all the things she’d like to do. He still has plenty of time to plan his future and decide what he wants to do. For now, he’s planning to become a veterinarian so he can work for the ASPCA.

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