She was a scrap of fur and bones, a tiny soul held together by a meow. But when Kim held her up for me to see, she purred.
I knew I was lost, but I tried to defend myself. “I don’t want her.” I said. “No-no-no. Absolutely not.”
We were standing in my doorway, with Kim, our neighbour, ringing my heartstrings with the skill of a campanologist.
“She was running around in the traffic, dodging cars. She has nowhere to go, and my dogs will eat her.”
Our neighbour is mum to my favourite pack of huskies and, although I adore the wolves, I knew she had them sized up just right.
But I tried to stand firm. “You found it; it’s yours.” But the little bit of fluff was locking her eyes on mine, blinking little cat kisses at me while she kept that motor running. She was a right mess, too. Way too thin. With weepy eyes, snottery nose and mucky ears.
Kim sensed weakness. “It’s for one day. I’ll find a foster home.” And then, with a cunning ninja move, she dumped her rescue in my hands.
Of course, I was lost. Speaking to Tom, I pointed out that two cats are enough. That kittens take a lot of work. That Target wouldn’t like it. That Swooner might view her as a snack.
But mostly, the thought that haunted me was that if we took in this little soul, it really meant that Guido was gone.
I still look for him and I know that Tom still can’t move the sock stack. So the emo was simply all over the place.
But when you have a scrap of kitten giving you big eyes, conscious thought evaporates. I was still holding her when she rubbed a bony cheek against my finger, uttering a tiny, “Meep.”
Not meow. Meep.
At this point, Tom was as useful as a chocolate teapot. He took one look and just melted.
As he cradled the kitten, I only half heard his, “Three cats are the same as two” and “She won’t take up much space” because I was watching the little pointy face and big bat ears. She knew what she was doing, all right. Charming the big lunk took less than two seconds.
The kitten was halfway through her first packet of tuna when Target walked in. Normally he’s not fond of other cats. But when he spotted this one, he sniffed her over and then sat next to her.
That’s right. No hissing, no puffing, no flat ears. Just a big brother’s kind care. I was gobsmacked.
Swooner bounced in and went straight over. I’d thought of him as my kitten but standing next to the newcomer, he simply towered over her.
The baby kitten took a step back and addressed Godzilla cat with another “Meep”, at which Swooner gave her a lick. Not an “Ooh, a tasty snack” lick but a brotherly one that says, “You have tuna on your nose. Here, let me help you.”
Clearly, it was a done deal. I was texting Kim, saying, “We’ll keep her.” Time to seal the deal ... less than an hour.
Frankly, I was a little worried because the kitten weighed just over 300g. She was frighteningly thin. Also, we haven’t had a tiny cat liked that since Au moved in some 20 years ago.
Luckily for us, this little fluff settled in instantly. She ate like a horse, used her litter tray like a champion, and picked her favourite place on the sofa. As she’s small and sweet, we named her Tic Tac.
Swooner adored her from the moment she walked in, giving her kisses and playing with her. Target was perfectly fine – until the second day.
The senior cat was sitting on the sofa, sniffing the kitten, when the kitchen cats in the back lane started to fight. As their screams echoed through the house, Target became upset. As he is a bit of a fur brain, he decided Tic Tac was to blame.
Now this kind of thinking is typical cat. Animal behaviourists talk about redirected aggression, a situation where a kitty becomes upset, can’t deal with what is upsetting it directly, and therefore turns its anger elsewhere.
In short, Target growled at Tic Tac, and the little cat hissed right back at him. I was watching, so stepped in instantly. I petted my old boy, rubbed the kitten’s cheek and fed them both a treat.
Target settled down but he was a little jealous. He grumbled a bit when he saw her, and he stomped out of the room a few times. Then Tic Tac pulled his tail, which is a game our old boy is not fond of.
I felt for my pet. “You welcomed her in,” I said to him. “It’s partly your own fault, you know.”
But then, to make sure he felt loved, we put the kitten in with Tom for the morning while Target and I had some one-on-one cuddle time. It’s worked quite well and the two are getting along fine – with the occasional hiss and grumble.
It’s been exactly two weeks since Kim turned up at the door, and our little girl is now 700g in weight. The snotter is almost gone and her eyes are only a little bit weepy. Her face is still a mess, but the fur is growing back. The vet says to just keep pampering her.
She’s also full of the joys of life. Yesterday she played in the garden with Swooner, rolling in a pile of leaves and dirt until they were both mucky. As I’m writing this, they are wrestling under the bed, with the kitten squeaking away and Swooner pretending he’s being savaged.
Between you and me, I still miss my Guido terribly. But giving this kitten a home is a good thing. Also, we did want a friend for Swooner – and Tic Tac is simply perfect for him.
Mind you, the two of them have been eyeing up the curtains. Tic Tac can probably make it to the top but as Swooner is no longer a slimline fluff, I suspect my furnishings will soon be air-cooled, thanks to some artistic rips.
I’ll keep you posted.
Tiny kitten care checklist
In the old days, tiny kittens were adopted out at six weeks. These days, we know that this is too early. Kittens need their mums until they are about two months old. Also, as they are social, you should adopt two kittens, not one.
With kittens less than four weeks old, you need specialist care. Kittens can’t drink cow’s milk; they need special formula. They also need manual stimulation for poohing. And finally, they can’t regulate their own body temperature. In short, if you aren’t an expert, get to the vet or rescue centre immediately and ask for guidance.
A healthy kitten should weigh 1lb or 454g at four weeks, and 1.5lbs or 680g at six weeks. At two months, they should weigh 2lbs or 907g.
They should have clear eyes, clean ears and little white teeth. Also, they should be active and bouncy.
Healthy kittens need an FVRCP vaccination that protects against feline rhinotracheitis, feline calicivirus, and feline panleukopenia at about eight weeks. Then there’s a booster at 12 weeks and 16 weeks. If you’re in a rabies area, ask about that too.
Neutering is at six months or when kittens reach a healthy size and weight. Consult your vet to see what’s what.
Tip: Don’t leave it too long, or you risk behaviour complications.