Left to right: Mia, Oupa, Percy, Zorro
Written by Martie van der Walt
Photography by Lynda Smith
The four newborn kittens were jumbled together in a field, defenceless, entangled in their own umbilical cords, maggots on their tiny bodies. Their eyes and ears were still closed, their tummies were empty, and their mother was gone.
Fortunately for these black-and-white babies, the field in which they’d been dumped in early March 2017 was close to Pretoria Dog Rescue’s kennels, and they were found by none other than PDR founder Celia van Zyl. Things were about to change for them…
A special journey
I want to share with you my special journey with four courageous kittens that were rescued from a field and brought to me for temporary fostering.
Celia had scooped them up, sorted out the umbilical cords, and bathed them, and then asked me to foster them temporarily. “Temporary” was simply not going to be possible – I immediately fell in love with these very special tiny little things and knew they would stay with me forever.
But it wasn’t easy. Aside from the hard work involved in bottle-feeding newborn kittens, they’d sustained damage from their time in the field. The strangling umbilical cords that had been tangled around them had cut off the blood supply from some of their legs and off the tail of one of them. On day three, they were whisked away into surgery; two of them – Zorro and Oupa – needed hind leg amputations and a section of one’s tail was removed. To be honest, I think it was more traumatic to me than to them; my heart was broken. They, on the other hand, did just fine.
Every two to three hours, I bottle-fed the three brothers and their sister, cleaned them, and ensured that their body temperatures stayed warm and that they were comfortable. Twice a day, I gave these teeny kittens two drops of antibiotics each and carefully cleaned their wounds. I promised to give them my best and to provide them with the best and most comfortable home, because they deserved it.
Her umbilical cord got stuck
On day seventeen, at one o’clock in the morning, disaster struck: Mia’s umbilical cord, which hadn’t yet fallen off completely, got stuck in the baby blanket that I kept them in; it pulled open. A piece of her intestine was hanging out and she was bleeding.
Panic-stricken, I phoned the emergency vet and rushed her to the hospital where they stabilised her, gave her antibiotics and operated on her the same day. But this little fighter wasn’t giving up – two days later, she was back home and on the road to recovery.
They grew stronger by the day and soon started to crawl. I was so stressed when these little kittens began crawling and, later on, walking, especially the ones that had had amputations. But these tough cookies coped so well and soon they were running around.
We made small adjustments for them at our home such as putting old blankets on the tile floor to make it softer, less slippery and warmer to walk on. These four are indoor kitties and my dad kindly built them an enclosure with grass and climbing poles where they can enjoy the outdoors in a safe environment.
All four of them, whether missing a limb or not, jump, run and play just like any normal kitten, although perhaps not as high or fast as the others. They are all very happy.
The kittens – now eight months old – have lots of toys as I try to keep them mentally stimulated. We love to spoil them with special treats and they enjoy being brushed and pampered. All four of them sleep with me on my bed, together with my dogs; they love their canine brothers and sisters. They all have strong personalities.
Mia, with her half-black, half-pink nose, is a real princess – she knows she’s beautiful and adorable and, therefore, expects everybody to admire her. She controls and disciplines her three little brothers, walks with confidence and wants everything her way.
Junior, aka Oupa Junior, is named after his granddaddy with his white little chin just like his oupa’s. Even with only three legs, he is full of humour. He wakes me up at midnight to play and often uses me as a tree that he can climb. When I’m walking, he runs and jumps on my back, then makes himself comfortable on my shoulder, rubs my nose and purrs in my ear.
Percy is my big boy and certainly – not mommy’s baby at all: he wants to be cuddled on his terms and gets so upset when I hug and kiss him. He is strong and powerful, and loves to run around and shows his strength.
Zorro is the apple of my eye. Although I love them all, this brave little black cat with only two front legs has a very soft spot in my heart. He’s a playful, soft-hearted gentleman who always rubs and curls around my legs, asking me in a soft voice to pick him up. He’s very shy and I assure him every day that he is a beautiful kitten. Zorro is aware of his disability, but with his friendly personality, he’s perfect to me – although his little body is not.
Special people for special kittens
We met wonderful people through the four kitties. A lovely lady, Sandra Baumgartner, from The Cat Foundation, is always available with help and advice; she also helped the kittens with additional food and medical care.
We made friends with Nicolet Odendaal and Barbara Kellerman at Animal Worx. They were so touched by these kittens and supported them as well. It’s wonderful to see that there are still people who care for animals in a world of so much cruelty and violence.
I would never have wanted to miss this journey. They encourage me every day by teaching me life skills and lessons. They teach me to be strong and enjoy life as it is. To be alive is special, so make the best of what you have. Don’t compare yourself with anybody else, because you are special just the way you are.
Although their little bodies are not perfect, they are perfect pets to have. They are loveable, playful and beautiful kittens – they certainly deserve the best in life.
They’ve touched my heart and have changed my life. I love you, my brave kittens, and I’m looking forward to walking this very special and encouraging road with you.