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Celeste's Journey. Chapter 1. The First Day.

A blanket of fog settles in the yard causing the newly blossoming leaves to almost glow-green. It’s early. I can’t hear any birds singing. The only sound is the hum of my computer and my cat Spencer who sits beside me, grooming himself. Lick. Lick. Lick.

I’m glad the sun isn’t out today. This is the perfect gloom to match my sad heart. It would have been unfair if the sun shone brightly because Mother Nature owes us something back for taking a precious life away…but when things like this happen, there is NO fairness.

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©2014 Maryann Chiomak. My first look at Celeste.

Celeste was someone’s cat. She got dumped in an affluent neighborhood at least a few weeks ago. Maybe the person who did it thought she’d get help or maybe they just wanted to abandon their cat where someone wouldn't know them. Celeste is a seal point Siamese with crystal blue eyes and dainty little paws. How was she supposed to survive on her own? Being friendly with strangers told us she’d known love from humans, but why would a usually easy to place cat be left to fend for herself?

Maryann is the neighborhood cat lady. She traps the feral cats and gets them vetted. She does what she can while working a full time job far from her home. When Celeste showed up at her door, Maryann was right there to help, leaving her food, then doing some detective work to find out if this was a lost cat or one who lost her home with a family searching for her.


Celeste was a bit chubby, but also seemed thin. Maryann realized Celeste was pregnant on top of being on her own. Her fur was dirty and patchy. After offering her some food, Celeste quickly ate every bite and wanted more. How long Celeste was on her own we’ll never know. There are many aspects of her story that will be only hers to tell and for us to imagine.


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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Lovely Celeste two days before giving birth.

Meanwhile, I’d been thinking about taking on a pregnant cat. Our foster mom, Moe already had Mia and her five kittens. My friend Katherine took in 5 cats to her rescue, discovering later that 4 were pregnant (and have since given birth). Maybe it was my own (very) delayed need for motherhood or the fact that Mother’s Day was coming soon, but I felt ready to take on the responsibility of fostering a pregnant cat and experiencing the birth of her kittens.

I’d taken a number of neonatal kitten classes. I’d fostered kittens (with their mom) who were a few days old. I thought I could handle what might come.

I knew it was a risk. I knew the fact that 30-40% of the kittens in a litter won’t live, but out of all the cats I’d known who recently gave birth, only one kitten didn’t make it. I could do this. Part of doing rescue is challenging yourself to take on more difficult cases.

Years ago the idea of fostering six kittens was more than I could fathom. These days I’m responsible for four times that many.


When I had to medicate nine very sick kittens multiple times a day with multiple medications I thought I would lose my mind. I made Sam crazy. I couldn’t manage my own fears that I’d kill the kittens by taking on too much, but they lived.

Even with all that I did for Fred last year. I never gave up. I never fought so hard to save a cat’s life and I would do it all again. I just didn’t expect it to be so soon.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Our first kitten is born.

Celeste arrived on Mother’s Day. The timing was perfect. Maryann had the vet x-ray Celeste and said he’d seen 4-5 kitten spines. I was so excited I began doing research online about genetics. Could I hope for a litter of Siamese kittens? It was unlikely since their genes are recessive so unless Celeste was bred with another Siamese we’d most likely be getting a mixed colored litter. I joked to some of my rescue friends that they’d probably all be black because we still find adopting out black cats to be more difficult. If she did have all black kittens, they wouldn’t be loved any less by me, but it was enjoyable to imagine what was to come next.

The vet felt she would deliver in about a week. I was glad because it would give me time to get a few extra supplies and to get some good food into Celeste. I couldn’t find a bulb syringe, which vexed me very much. I thought I had more time, but I was wrong.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. First two kittens arrive.

Two days later I happened to look at my phone. I was running our SqueeTV Dropcam application on it and could watch Celeste while I was working in my office downstairs. I thought I saw her belly contract. I couldn’t believe it. She’d eaten breakfast, sat in my lap just hours before, wasn’t “restless” as I’d read. She’d eaten some lunch, but not a lot. I thought she didn’t like the food.


I continued to watch and I saw another contraction. THIS WAS IT!


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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Two black and white kittens. Okay, what is going on here.

I furiously posted the news online, called out to Sam, then headed upstairs. I tried to calm my breathing so Celeste wouldn’t be frightened. She’d only just started to get to know me and I wanted her to trust me. As I entered the room I smelled a somewhat dank odor. I found her furiously licking at her behind, but she was turned away so I couldn’t see what it was, then I heard it, the sharp cry of a kitten. I moved to get a better look and sure enough was a little black and white kitten still wet from being born.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. #3 is born.

I got down on my knees to lean on the edge of the bathtub where Celeste was giving birth.

I felt like crying. It was magical to see this new life arrive. I whispered, “Happy Birthday” through tear-filled eyes.

I knew Celeste should handle things on her own, but I stayed close by partly out of the need to be there for her and to jump in if she needed help. Help? What could I do? I called Katherine. I asked her what to expect. She told me not to worry, so I tried to pay attention to how long it took before each kitten arrived. Two hours between births was a sign of trouble. One was here, 3 or 4 more to go.


The second kitten was born shortly afterwards. Celeste let out a loud cry. Stood up. Walked around. Cried again and again, then…a contraction and again another black and white kitten was born. From what I could tell the markings on both kittens were quite curious. I couldn’t wait to get a better look at them. I glanced down at my phone to see the time, making a mental note that the next kitten would be here soon. It was mid-afternoon. The newborns were wiggling and squeaking. Celeste was furiously licking at them, cutting the umbilical cord, followed by delivering the placenta then eating that right up. It was a bit disturbing to see, but I knew she needed the fuel to keep going.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. First two kittens are drying off, but mama isn't doing a great job getting #3 cleaned and I start to worry.

Seemingly no time later kitten number three was born, but I quickly realized something was wrong. Celeste wasn’t attending to this kitten as much as she had the first two. I thought maybe she was tired. She cleaned the kitten a little bit. It was alive but still very wet. I urged her to clean the poor thing off. I wore gloves so I could safely touch the newborn. I gave it a tug and realized the cord was still attached inside of Celeste. It made Celeste fuss with the kitten but she was very slow to pass the placenta or get the kitten as clean and dry as she had the others. I was very worried but it was moving around and crying. At first he looked black and white, like his siblings, but quickly realized he was white with grey spots that I found charming. I thought he just needed a bit more time. I didn’t realize that the runt of the litter doesn’t mean it’s delivered last. Delivery order isn’t something I understood or thought mattered. It’s another thing to learn about later, but maybe this one was the runt.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. The little guy with his Siamese-skinny-long tail, just like mama.

The first two kittens looked good and were starting to search for a nipple but #3 didn’t. Again I thought it was too early and to give it more time. Another cry arrived, then a scream and big push and just like that a big black kitten was born. Celeste quickly cleaned him off, cut the cord and got him ready to go. That kitten was so big I couldn’t imagine he’d have any trouble. I had a sinking feeling #3 wasn’t going to be as lucky.

This is a 3-part post. Next up: Chapter 2. The Longest Day.


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Beautiful pictures and a very moving account.  I want to pray for the best, but by the title, I'm prepared for something other, as much as one can ever be "prepared".

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