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Treading Water

Thursday
9/9/2010

Since Monday morning we've been living a three-hour version of Groundhog Day. When the alarm goes off at 3am, we stumble downstairs and syringe-feed milk formula to our two new sick kittens. We're back in bed by 3:30, then up again at 6am for more of the same. Work out, walk the dogs, eat breakfast, then Martha walks to work while I feed again at 9.

Wash, rinse, repeat at noon, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm, and midnight – with daily meds, weigh-in, nebulizing (30 min), and the occasional kitten-bath thrown in – and you can understand why we've been walking around like zombies this week. I never left the house yesterday (and still didn't get much real work done) and Martha went 24 hours without even seeing the five healthy kittens hanging out in the 50K villa. Luckily the Campers are all on rails, and it takes very little time to feed, weigh, and clean up after them.

Fostering two intensive-care kittens is fifty times harder than fostering a healthy litter. And if these two (who we're calling the Divers, because it sounds like they're breathing through scuba gear) don't survive, there's a psychic cost for us as well. We still get depressed remembering Les Miserables, and sometimes think we extended their suffering by not taking them in for euthanization until they'd reached their final hours. But we'd also feel remorse about Les Miz if we hadn't given them every opportunity to recover. How can you say definitively that "this kitten has no chance?"

So it comes down to assessing suffering. The Divers don't have an easy time breathing, but they also aren't exhibiting the symptoms we associate with pain and dying: occasional piercing howls, restless and agitated wandering, loss of bowel control, and reduced body temperature. That's the progression we still fear awaits them.

Even though the Divers aren't growing and their breathing isn't improving, they're not declining yet either. They're treading water. We're still able to feed them (though they fight our efforts a bit more than they did earlier this week, probably because they're a bit stronger now) and pry open their swollen, glued-shut eyes.

We've dragged our feet on naming them because we didn't think they would last more than a day or two. Now we'll probably have to make that additional pyschic investment in Orange Guy and Gray Girl, and hope that they can start swimming toward shore.

filed by: TS

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