The other day I got an urgent call from my neighbor.
I found a bunch of kittens in my garage! What do I do?! Get over here!”
I ran across the street like the house was on fire. Not because I actually had any clue what to do with newborn kittens - I just thought “KITTENS!!!!!” and ran. It was a reflex - like a shoe sale at Neiman’s.
Where I grew up in the suburbs of Philly, there were always baby squirrels, baby rabbits, kittens and puppies popping up all over the place. Unfortunately, when I was about 6, my neighbor’s cat had kittens and while I was holding one, I dropped it. I wasn’t allowed to hold a baby animal for, like, 10 years after that – so that’s probably why every time I see kittens I have to hold them. Proof that I’ve overcome my clumsiness. That probably also explains the solid representation of Nature’s food chain that’s lived under my roof.
Frankly, I wasn’t even a cat person until about a year ago. I grew up with dogs. I never questioned that dogs were the way to go. Dogs ruled. Anyone who loved a cat was crazy and divorced (of which I’m both…so there you go, I guess).
Then we found Atti (short for “Atticus Emerson Maizes Burn Grand Duke of Hamsterchestershire”). Livi and I were in a nearby pet food store that occassionally has cats up for adoption from a local rescue (Pet Rescue Foundation in Los Angeles). Atti got one look at Livi – strolled over to the side of the cage and meowed. The next thing I know the pet guy put Atti in her arms. I normally wouldn’t have caved on a spontaneous adoption, but as I contemplated whether I was ready or not to be perceived as ‘crazy’ as well as ‘divorced,’ Atti put his paw on Livi’s cheek – “I choose you” he seemed to say, stroking her face. Well, who am I to question love.
So why do I tell you all of this? Well apparently, owning a cat (and having it survive) for almost a year makes me the ‘cat expert’ on my street.
When I got to her house she had three of the tiniest, cutest kittens I had EVER seen in a box. Oh my God. I picked one up (And I didn’t drop it (see mom?!)
Turns out the mom had given birth to them in an old car seat (thank you, Britax) on the shelf. My neighbor went into the garage for the first time in a month and as she turned on the light she saw this tiny fluffy thing dangling from the wooden shelf. She grabbed a plastic bin and caught it JUST before it dropped! And then she heard more ‘meowing’ and found the kittens in the seat. They were SO tiny and one had a bad eye :(. They looked hungry.
All the kids in the neighborhood gathered at her house. We had a full-on ‘village’ taking care of them. Scott got them a bowl of Atti’s kibble and plunked it on the ground as I stared at him, hands on hips, stating authoritatively “kittens do not eat kibble! Suddenly, I was the expert. Look at me. Sarah Maizes. Cat expert. Maybe I shouldn’t be so proud of that. Anyway, my neighbor and I piled into the car and drove to a nearby pet rescue that was open and they had some extra kitten formula and eye medicine for the baby with a funky eye. The whole transaction felt like a drug deal – we were in a dark driveway, there was white powder in a baggie… cash changed hands.
We brought our stash home and put drops in their eyes, cleaned their little faces with wet cotton balls, and nursed them late into the evening (did you know kitten ears quake when they eat? I didn’t. Omg. It’s ridiculous.). We cleared the garage for long stints of time hoping the mom would come back. The kids on the street had a neighborhood watch going for the mom – all of the kids taking turns peeking out their windows at night to see if any stray cats went by – or into our friend’s garage that night. We all hoped the mama would show up and take them away in the middle of the night. Nobody wanted to be responsible for what we’d have to do if she didn’t. At least if she came for them they’d be together. We could be happy about that. But nothing. No sign. And in the morning, the kittens were starving again.
So we fed them and put out word to everyone we know to PLEASE take a kitten!!!! I wanted to take one SO BADLY but my landlady was firm “No way.” (I hate renting).
Then a friend answered the call! We took the kitty to the vet for her, had her de-fleaed, checked for worms, and given a full work-up. She was deemed healthy and ready for a home.
Nobody would take the others. We called foster homes, pet rescues and shelters. EVERY pet rescue in the city was over-flowing! It’s kitten season apparently. (Did you know there’s a kitten season? I didn’t.) So, no room at the inn for these two little boys. Anywhere. We finally found a shelter that would give them a chance at life (Los Angeles Animal Shelter). They said the vet would look them over and if they were healthy (which we knew they were – Mr. Funky Eye had already improved with the drops) they’d be put up for adoption the next day.
Good news, I suppose. But listen, I know the potential truth. I am just avoiding it. How do I do anything else? What do you do when you find these amazing little creatures and you can’t take them home (landlords), and you can’t leave them out (coyotes), and you just want them to be safe? My stomach is churning as I sit here.
But I have to say “thank God” to my friend who adopted. Even better, she lives down the street and I get to watch them turn into crazy cat people too.
As much as I loved finding the kittens, I’m also so sorry I did. I tried to save them all. I wanted to save them all. All I can even think to say is PLEASE people, spay and neuter your pets unless you’re in a position to take care of the babies and find them good homes. The shelters are overflowing. Foster Families are tapped out. And even more importantly, there are so many animals in need of good homes. So many animals waiting to be adopted!
Next time you think about bringing a pet home, please consider adoption and save an animal’s life! This difference you’re making is “life-altering” – seriously! Now let’s hope this little girl’s brothers find loving homes too.
So without any further ado, I give you Mittens. Seems pretty happy to have a home, right??!
P.S. And here’s Atticus helping me write my new book. He’s not impressed.