Not So Super
Over the weekend, the DC area thawed out from a week of bitter cold, and people spent more time outdoors. For us it was the opposite: the weekend started off on a positive note, but by Saturday afternoon we were bracing ourselves for tough sledding in the villa.
On Friday night, we hung out in the villa and watched Cricket and Kachina ping-pong off the walls and furniture, while Angel sat with us on the futon and purred.
Saturday morning we took Orrie and Della to an enclosed soccer field nearby for an off-leash play session with Della’s old foster mom and her newly adopted black lab. Big fun. Then we drove them straight to dog-training class less fun, but they need the work.
Shortly after we got home, it was time to say goodbye to Angel. An experienced HT foster mom stopped by to pick her up. While both Angel and Chimay were great moms, Angel went beyond the call of duty by looking after six of her own kittens as well as half-brothers Jayden and Ollie. She definitely earned her name.
An hour later it was time to send Cricket and Kachina home, to a young mom who was meeting them for the first time. After a few minutes in the villa, our girls had closed the deal.
We retreated to the adjacent dining room to handle the paperwork, then pulled Cricket and Kachina out for their graduation photos.
“So much for the fun stuff,” I said to Martha as soon as our last two Lucky 13ers had sailed away. We spent an hour scrubbing the villa and apprehensively awaiting its next inhabitants, who we were scheduled to pick up across the river in Maryland at 4pm.
We’d agreed to take a gorgeous long-haired calico mom-cat from the Prince Georges shelter, along with her four newborn kittens, as soon as the 13ers had gone home. This gang left the shelter on Wednesday and spent four nights at another HT foster parent, who realized almost immediately that mom all four kittens were badly congested with upper respiratory infections.
Mom was eating sporadically, then not eating at all, then nibbling again. The kittens were gaining weight at first, then started losing weight. All were snuffling and snorting. The foster mom tried syringe-feeding them a few times without much luck. They all got Azithromycin, and might have been worse off without it, but it wasn’t enough to get them eating.
So as we drove home with this gang, I was thinking about the Bottle Caps from 2011. They had a horribly congested mom-cat who wasn’t eating (and who needed syringe-feeding for about a week), and three small male kittens who couldn’t breathe through their noses and fought tooth-and-nail against the bottle and syringe.
The fourth Bottle Cap was teflon-kitten Tamara, who nursed away happily without so much as a sneeze as her brothers perished one by one. It took almost ten days for the last brother to die. For most of that span, Martha was in Africa and I was tube-feeding the three (then two, then one) boys.
Fast forward to Sunday afternoon. Not confident they’d live 24 hours, we named the whole gang without asking for suggestions. Mom-cat Nola, orange-and-white bros Dorito, Bud, and Niner (in order of decreasing white fur), and female brown tabby Raven.
We laid out four flavors of wet food for Nola, and later that night she’d eaten maybe a tablespoon of Tuna for Cats. We tried to bottle-feed the kittens at 5pm and 9pm, and each only swallowed a few sips. Overnight, Niner managed to gain a little weight, but his sibs all lost a few tenths of an ounce. None took the bottle successfully at 6am on Monday, and it was clear that Nola hadn’t eaten another bite.
At the 9am feeding I was pawing through the supplements drawer in the villa dresser and Martha noticed an unopened feeding tube. I was skeptical based on past experience, but we gave it a try and got 2cc into each kitten. We were cautious about feeding more because their stomachs might have shriveled up, since their inability to nurse (due to clogged noses) meant they were slowly starving to death.
At 12pm we raised the tube-feeding ration to 3cc, and at 3pm to 6cc. Then we fed them again at 6pm and 9:30pm.
Every six hours, I syringe-fed Nola 30-45 cc of slurry, and was encouraged that she didn’t fight me at all.
By 9pm she was eating fishy canned food and slurry out of a bowl. And while she’s dramatically underweight, she’s also very friendly and pliable. So we have high hopes she’ll survive.
We still don’t know about Nola’s kittens. The tube-feeding is definitely working, and we’ve learned that it’s MUCH easier to do with four hands than two. Working together, we can stop the kitten from pawing the tube during the feed, which can pull it out of the stomach and make them choke on the milk.
This morning, all four had gained back the weight they’d lost since arriving. But they’re all still very weak. Raven is “gator breathing”, our term for opening her jaws wide to inhale, then snapping them shut between breaths. That’s what the Bottle Cap boys started doing before they died.
So we’ll keep tube-feeding our 5-ounce Superbowlers until they recover enough to nurse on their own… or spiral downhill again. We hope at least one of them makes it. Niner has the best chance right now.
filed by: TS