4, 3, 2…
Rex and the Knights spent most of the weekend on view at PetMAC in Washington, DC, where they strutted their stuff in a spacious store-front enclosure with cool cat-furniture and a floor-to-ceiling window. They're fat and happy, and looking forward to finding new homes, but this entry isn't about them.
It's about a tortie mom-cat named Georgia Ann and her four long-haired, 10-day-old kittens. Even though Martha's in Africa for ten days, I agreed to take them from a rescue organization we hear from occasionally, because the mom and kittens had developed URI symptoms after being transported from a shelter in West Virginia. I drove to a vet clinic in Leesburg on Thursday afternoon to pick them up. The doctor told me that Georgia Ann wasn't eating, and her two identical-looking orange kittens Alex and Ovi had stopped nursing. I was given canned food, milk formula, Viralys, eye meds, and injectable antibiotics for mom.
I drove home and set them up in the bunkhouse, and it quickly became apparent that only one kitten a cute gray tabby named Samara was nursing.
We've already had a Samara (what are the odds?), so I renamed this girl Tamara. The fourth kitten was a long-haired black male named Nick.
So three out of four names dictated that this group be christened the Caps (the Washington Capitals hockey team features Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom.) Since they're bottle-babies, I decided they could be the Bottle Caps. So far, so good.
The Caps only weighed 7-8 ounces, so the plan was to bottle-feed them every three hours. Tamara was clearly nursing successfully, so I didn't worry about her. But the three boys resisted bottle-feeding, and their breathing was audible. Uh oh.
I switched to syringe feeding, and with each meal Alex, Ovi, and Nick put up increasing resistance, even as they stagnated or lost weight. Alex and Nick both had eyes I needed to pry open, and Ovi's were red-rimmed. With the notable exception of Tamara, they began to remind me of last year's nightmare litter, Les Miz.
I managed to get a neonate-sized feeding tube from a helpful nearby clinic, but the tech who could have showed me how to use it had to leave for an emergency. I contacted a Homeward Trails fosterer who had recently learned how to tube-feed tiny kittens of her own, then drove to her house, where she demonstrated how to do it. It was simpler than I thought.
Back at 50K, I started tube-feeding Alex, Ovi, and Nick every three hours beginning Friday afternoon. It's much quicker, but as you try to insert the tube, they use their paws to try to remove it, so it becomes a bit of a race… can you depress the plunger on the 3-cc syringe before they disgorge the tube? Having three hands (one to scruff the kitten, one to hold the tube in place, and one to plunge the syringe) would solve the problem.
Nick started mouth-breathing late Friday afternoon, opening his jaws wide and lunging for each breath. He seemed weak at the 9pm feeding. At the midnight feeding I found him dead.
With only two non-nursing kittens, I switched back to syringe feeding on Saturday, since I thought it would be less stressful. Ovi started mouth-breathing (though less dramatically than Nick) early Saturday afternoon. He died between 3 and 5pm.
Alex, whose eyes were horribly stuck together, had been on the same glide path as Ovi. Then for some reason, he seemed more energetic at midnight on Saturday. Sunday morning his eyes stayed open and I saw him trying to nurse. I started feeding him 6cc by syringe (up from 5cc by tube), then 7, 8 and finally 9cc. I continued giving him Clavamox, which all the kittens were getting. At midnight last night, I wrote my contacts at the rescue group to say I thought Alex was turning the corner, and I was now cautiously optimistic about his chances.
That optimism ended at the 4am feeding, when he cried a little after each sip from the syringe. He felt floppier than he had since his arrival. When I put him back in the nest after his meal, I noticed his chest retracting visibly as his mouth opened a bit for each breath. I went back to bed feeling horrible and convinced he was doomed.
As I write, Alex is still alive, but he's weaker and floppier than he was last night. It's a challenge for him to swallow even 4cc by syringe. When he rests in the nest, he can breathe without opening his mouth, but he lunges for each breath and his breathing is audible. I'm checking on him frequently to watch for signs that he's suffering like wailing or wandering beyond the nest. For as long as he remains stable, I'll keep the food and meds coming every few hours, and hope he slips away peacefully.
When that happens, Georgia Ann and Tamara will have the bunkhouse to themselves. GA is badly congested and not eating, but she's not drooling or listless. She seems alert, and doesn't fight me very much when I feed her. She should be able to recover.
And Tamara continues to skate along and gain weight, with zero help from me (aside from meds, which she probably doesn't need.) Pretty incredible, and reminiscent of sole-survivor Sonny. Let's hope her story unfolds as happily as his did.
filed by: TS