Poli four weeks old!

Four weeks ago my neighbor found kittens on his job site. I was shocked to see how young they were. Without much thought, I offered to care for them. The first day we lost the weaker of the two. It was devastating. That same day, I was involved with a rescue of an injured female cat in the Beach 91st Street Community Garden. My neighbor Todd and I found the young cat and brought her to Rockaway Beach Veterinary Services (92-02 Rockaway Beach Blvd). The cat, Lil Smoke, had severe complications due to a pregnancy. The decision was made to put her to sleep. Between that and the loss of the kitten, I felt thoroughly defeated. That day was an abrupt reminder – all life is so fragile.

The next day I woke up still heavy-hearted. “I need to do everything in my power to make sure the second kitten survives,” I thought. I would be crushed otherwise. I knew the survival rate for kittens separated from their mother at one week old were not good, but I became determined.

With the help from my friend and co-founder of BushwickStreetCats.com Chris Glazier, Dr. Ruggiero of Rockaway Beach Veterinary Services, my husband and online literature, I began my journey rearing a one week old kitten.

Her name, Polliwog. Meaning, tadpole.

Kittens are born blind and deaf. I learned that three weeks or younger they’re incapable of regulating their body temperature and can easily catch pneumonia. Dr. Ruggiero recommended I put a heating pad covered with a towel in Polliwog’s enclosure. She instructed me to fill two water bottles with warm water, wrap them in hand towels, and place them in a V shape in her pen. The kitten would feel safe and warm in that space. My friend Chris advised me to wash my hands every time I handled her and mentioned the importance of keeping her pen clean. Neonates are susceptible to infections because their immune systems are not fully developed. Additionally, orphaned kittens are not receiving their mother’s milk containing colostrum. Similar to humans, this milk passes vital antibodies to the newborn protecting against illness.

My husband picked up PetAg KMR Kitten Milk Replacer Powder and a bottle. We set our alarms for every three hours.

Getting her to take the bottle at first was challenging, but we got the hang of it. I read online that after feedings, you need to gently stimulate the area under the kitten’s tail with a damp cotton ball to encourage her to use the bathroom. Between her mealtimes, I would pop my head in her room just to make sure she was breathing. Poliwog was so frail.

About 12 days in, we had a scare. She stopped eating. I texted my Friend Chris Glazier and he said she needed microdoses of antibiotics and that we should bring her to the vet asap.  My husband took off work to bring her to Dr. Ruggiero. Poli was prescribed antibiotics which we had to administer twice a day with an eye dropper. Her little body responded quickly and she was back on the bottle after just 24 hours with the medication!

The third week was a turning point.  She gained weight, her eyes were open, and her ears popped out. Poliwog started to look like a real baby cat and less like a tadpole. She was suckling vigorously. It was time to start her on gruel (formula and kitten food mixture). The gruel made her a poop machine. She was a mess. I read that you can give kittens baths so that’s what I did. After her bath she would go to “the salon” for a blow dry*. A wet kitten is a sad kitten!

Poli’s a fighter and I believe it’s safe to say she’s going to make it! She’s eating solid food and using the litter box. She’s learned how to meow to get my attention. Some of Poli’s favorite activities include sitting on my laptop, climbing on pillows and scratching cardboard boxes. This little creature has taught me so much about kitten care, being determined and most importantly, she’s taught me to take a step back and enjoy the simple things. Watching her learn to eat, to play, and witnessing Poli explore her new world has been a privilege.

Poli will be ready for adoption in another few weeks. I’m pretty attached to this little puffball but we have four cats already so I can’t keep her. Moreover, if I’m going to undertake rescue work, I have to learn to let go (sad face). If you’re interested in spoiling this kitten rotten and making her part of your family forever, contact me  please!

*Using the hair dryer must be done with care. Keep the setting on low and hold the dryer 6 inches away from the kitten. Don’t point the dryer at her face.

tagged in cats, cats of rockaway