Monday, September 28, 2009

It's OK to Be a Big Baby Now and Then

I don't have any fishing stories to tell and my sister and I sadly haven't spoken for several months (something that needs to wear itself out) so instead I think I'd like to say a few words about being a baby. I don't claim to have any more experience being a baby than anyone else and I've spent many fewer hours, days, and months--years even--caring for babies than my blog-sisters and probably our blog readers as well. But for the past two weeks I've been carefully watching five little baby kittens at very close range and so I hope you'll indulge me as I ruminate aloud about babies.

All of my own cats are "fixed" but since I do as much animal rescue as my personal finances allow I usually end up caring for a litter every year or so. A few weeks ago a very pregnant mama cat was brought to me, and unfortunately that was right about the time the spay clinic I use had to cut back hours because of a change in staff. I tried to take Mama Kitty in the next day, a Friday, but the clinic was closed. In the past the clinic was open five days a week but now has had to cut its hours. Mama Kitty, instead of cooperatively waiting until Monday, had her babies on Saturday. (And for those who cringe at "aborting" kittens—there are millions of animals abandoned and euthanized every year. Always much better to avoid unwanted pregnancies than terminate life but also better to prevent additional unwanted, uncared for, and more unfixed animals.)

End of lecture. Well, of that particular lecture. This next part isn't really a lecture. I hope.

In my last Primary teacher calling, I often found myself planning my lessons as I worked in the garden. So many lessons about life from gardening! This past few weeks I found lessons about life from the baby kittens. Here are a few that come to mind (with apologies for the lack of photos--I'm just not experienced enough at this kind of thing):

1. Sometimes kittens get eye infections, possibly because their mother doesn't keep their eyes clean. So I've been carefully washing their eyes with warm water and a cotton pad (per instructions from a vet last time I cared for kittens--hopefully nothing's changed since then). As you might imagine, the kittens don't like it very well. (Boy they have big mouths when they cry!) Their eyes are just starting to open so they probably don't realize there's much of a difference between having their eyes closed and having them gummed shut, but a blind cat in nature is a very vulnerable cat, so what is causing them discomfort now is really very important for their survival down the road. Any similarities to us? You bet. In fact, a very old lesson about life. We don't always like what's good for us.

2. Baby growth is pretty amazing. These kittens have doubled in size from their birth two weeks ago. Even so, the largest kitten is twice the size of the smallest, the runty guy. But interestingly, it's the runty guy who was the first to climb out of the cardboard box. He's just so determined. The word "scrapper" comes to mind with him. He's little but he's tough. He may not have the advantage of size but he's got determination, and that’s what gets stuff done as much as size and strength any day.

3. As I look at the kittens now, Mama Kitty has fed them and has wandered off for a nap (definitely a lesson there), and the kittens are all piled on each other sleeping. Boy, the sight of a sleeping infant is amazing. I don't have the experience watching kids sleep but I can image there are times (late nights watching TV or sleepovers) when the kids snuggle together, or with parents as well. It's a tender scene. It just reminds me how much we need each other--for warmth and comfort, companionship. When the kittens are nursing, they can get pretty competitive and they're pretty serious about this feeding business--using their little skinny paws to pull their littermates away from the food source. But when their physical needs are met, then it's a different story.

I'm going to enjoy watching these little critters for the next several weeks but will happily "share the wealth" come Christmas when they'll be ready for new homes. So if you hear of anyone looking for a cute little kitten about then, you all know where to find us.


Anna Buttimore said...

Pictures, Val, pictures! I love kittens! Our Medi is now 17 so it's a long time since she was a kitten, and Monty was a rescue cat, so we're overdue for a kitten. Want to ship one over here?

Jennie said...

I love kittens--but I prefer them in the barn and not in my house. I do know someone who might be looking for a kitten. I'll talk to her.

Cheri J. Crane said...

Wonderful observations, Val. And you're right, baby kittens are fun to watch. My s-i-l has five right now that we enjoyed immensely over the weekend. It's looking like we'll be giving two of them a home when they're a little older.