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Celeste's Journey. Chapter 2. The Longest Day.

Continued from Chapter 1…

Another hour passed. Celeste tried to rest a bit and kept fussing with and licking the kittens. She was clearly going to care for them, which was a great relief. There was always the chance she’d abandon them if I scared her or if she was a young, new mom. I didn’t know if she had delivered the last kitten or not so I paid close attention to the time.

It didn’t take very long before the fifth kitten arrived. At first glance I though the kitten was black, too, but as it was cleaned and dried I saw stripes-a little tabby. Since cats can have multiple partners, it explained the different colors of kittens. I made a joke about her being a slutty.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. The fifth kitten is born.

I so wanted to take delight in this magical experience but I soon realized my fears that something was wrong with #3. He just wasn’t nursing. He was trying but he couldn’t sort it out. I feared I’d have to intervene but I’d never cared for a neonatal kitten. I’d only fed 2-3 week olds and that is much different.

That’s as much detail as I can remember about the births because after that began a 24-hr fight to save #3’s life. Between exhaustion, fear and anger I’m not sure how much I want to remember about what happened next.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. While the first two kittens are dry and looking for a nipple, #3 is still wet and needing care.

#3 was half the size of his siblings. I had to try to feed him, keep him warm but not too warm. To not feed him when he was cold because that would kill him. To make sure the formula wasn’t too cold or too hot. How the HELL does anyone achieve this? On top of it, the little guy wasn’t too keen on being fed and was so tiny it would be easy to harm him.

I reached out to everyone I could. I asked a lot of questions. I took advice. I tried this and that, but I knew I was in over my head. I felt like a moron. Why take this on? Why not just rescue kittens that are already born and not have to go through this. I got some formula into the kitten but I wasn’t sure how much or how often to feed. Every person I asked gave me a different answer. It was infuriating.

A few hours later I had a moment of success. #3 latched onto a nipple. I was so happy. I thought maybe we were out of the woods. I got it on video, but he only latched on for a few seconds. After numerous attempts to get him to latch on throughout the next day, he never did it again.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Screen capture from the vide of #3 nursing. Sadly it was only for a few seconds.

I stayed up with him all night. I put him into my shirt. I’d heard if you put him between “the girls” he would be warmer. It seemed to soothe him. Maybe it was my heartbeat. As I sat in the bathroom with him under my shirt and a blanket over us. I tried to keep the faith as I sat on a cushion leaning my head against the wall, resting my eyes, trying to hang on for his sake. I was so sleepy, but I couldn’t leave him alone. I imagined how he'd look as a full grown cat, white with gray polka dots. Running up to me, his tail held high. I would say to him “Remember when you were born, how sick you were? I can't believe how big you are now.” More than anything, I wanted that day to come. He squirmed and squeaked, then raked his tiny claws against my flesh. Even in such poor condition this newborn still had sharp claws. Maybe it meant he was a fighter?

He would perk up after spending time resting on my chest, then become so limp after being fed his head would flop around. I couldn’t get him stabilized and felt ill equipped to do so. Seeing him so energetic in one moment, fighting me because he couldn't tolerate the phony nipple on the baby bottle, then crash like that set me on edge.

By 3AM I felt it would be ok to take a nap for an hour. I put #3 back with his family, then reached down and took off my necklace. It was a gift from my friend Connie, who also does cat rescue. It’s a cotton thread chain with some beads and a tiny starfish, a symbol rescuers relate to due to the story that goes along with it. The story has taken many forms but is basically that of a person throwing starfish stranded on a beach back into the ocean. The beach is covered with them and this one person can't possibly get them all into the water before they die. Another person asks the rescuer why bother if you can't save them all. What difference would it make? The rescuer replied; “Because it makes a difference to that one I can rescue.”

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. While the other kittens nurse, #3 does not. Though I tried over and over again, he wouldn't take to any of the nipples.

I didn’t feel I deserved the necklace. I wasn’t doing a good enough job. I hung the necklace over the edge of a picture frame in Celeste’s room and turned off the light. I had a bag of dirty litter to bring to the trash so I headed downstairs. I realized I hadn’t eaten and really had to pee. I was half-awake until I took one step into the bathroom into a BIG puddle of cat urine. Nicky had peed on the floor. I wanted to SCREAM, but all I could do was wash my foot and clean up the mess. After all this, my own cats couldn’t cut me some slack. They knew what was going on. I’d discovered three other areas where they’d peed within that single day. It was not normal behavior and I was resigned to just clean it up. I was too tired to care beyond that.

Sam stepped in to help out as he could. He asked me what to do and I replied I didn’t know. I was so brain-dead and scared and angry. I’d asked, pleaded for the vet to just show me I’m feeding the kitten the right away or to let me come there, but they just said to keep him warm and fed. I felt abandoned. I asked so many people for help, offered to pay them to come help, but no one could do a thing. I was on my own and for all the things I do to help to not be able to count on anyone was something that I don’t know I can forgive.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Celeste never gave up on her son.

Around 6 AM I tried to feed #3, but he went limp on me afterwards. Limp like dead breathing...nothing. I furiously rubbed him, as his mother might do with her tongue. I turned him upside down foolishly thinking he’d aspirated the formula. I sat there and cried. I looked at Celeste with her other kittens and said “now we are four.”

I looked down and #3 moved. He was still alive. I put him back into my shirt and after a time he recovered and was wiggling around. I probably did something wrong, but I didn’t know what it was. I put him with his mom. She licked the formula off him. I got her away from the other kittens and put #3 with her all by himself. This is it. No competition. Celeste seemed to understand and sat with him, touching him with her paw, giving him a lick. He wouldn’t latch on. I hoped maybe after a day or two he would get the hang of it, IF he had the time. At that point I was very worried he had any chance to survive.

This story concludes with a final chapter, coming up next.


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Heartbreaking. There are some things, no matter how spiritually attuned we may be, that we will just never know--and I'm thinking this is one of those things. Why so many innocent, blameless and vulnerable lives are taken is a mystery that will always drive many to despair. Another way to see this is to know that #3 knew love and will always be in your heart, and that at his family is in safe haven and loving care.

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