Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Fantastic Four

In this post I will introduce you to my little kitty Thimble. That's not all, though. Thimble has three brothers, all of whom stayed in the family -- my parents have two of Thimble's brothers, and my sister has the other. So, I will use this post to introduce you to Thimble as well as her brothers, since they came as a package deal.

Prepare yourself, there is much cuteness to come. You've been forewarned.

This story began over Memorial Day weekend of this year, 2014. My grandmother called to inform me that her neighbor had found a litter of four kittens under his home, and after a span of close observation it was determined that the kittens' mother had either abandoned them or had disappeared. The kittens were roughly three weeks old at the time. They were tiny, all less than one pound, and they were not yet weaned. My grandmother rescued them and immediately began hand feeding them. My grandma lives in a small town that does not have an animal shelter, and she was unable to keep the kittens.

Let me stop for a moment to admit that, believe it or not, neither me nor anyone in my family had intended on keeping any of the kittens. There was already a geriatric cat (Rosie), a physically handicapped cat (Evan), and an active and playful dog (Astrid) in the family. What would any of us do with a kitten, let alone four of of them?

Back to the story, I told my grandma that I would take the kittens off her hands and that I and my parents and sister would care for them until our local shelter opened after the Memorial Day weekend. We made it through the weekend by bottle feeding the kittens every couple hours, and of course there was plenty of oohing and aahing over the little cuties.

Then, when the holiday weekend was over, my mom and I actually made it into the shelter building with the kittens. There we were told that because of the kittens' especially young age and circumstances they would first have to go through a quarantine, and then they would try to find a foster family to hand raise them until they were of an adoptable age. After my mom and I received and subsequently discussed that option, the kittens were loaded back into the car.

So what then? Well, we told ourselves that we were simply going to care for the kittens until they were of an adoptable age, and then we would adopt them out. So we bottle fed them, going through many, many bottles of kitten milk replacer and feeding them multiple times a day. They were even still so young and dependent that we had to stimulate them to urinate and defecate, just as their mother would have. Their eyes were still blue, and they still wobbled when walking, but they were all four adorable. Here, see for yourselves:

This was one of the first days we cared for the kittens. They enjoyed playing in Astrid's Disney Princess pool.
So, our plan was to rear them to eight weeks of age, and then we told ourselves we would find good homes for them. As they approached that age, we looked into some potential adopters. But guess what? In the end, we decided to keep all four kittens. We had even already named them -- Thimble, Trapper, Talon, and Toby. Because, you know, it's always a good idea to name animals you don't intend on keeping. Honestly, I don't think we ever stood a chance once we met the kittens.

Now, as human momma to ridiculously adorable Thimble, I'll tell you a little more about her. While all of Thimble's brothers were relatively healthy when we acquired them at three weeks of age, Thimble was the runt and had some medical concerns from the get-go.

As the runt, she was very weak when we first acquired the kittens. Her mother had disappeared, and she and the other kittens had been without nutrition for who knows how long. Not long after we took them in, at roughly four weeks of age, Thimble took a turn for the worst. She started developing ocular discharge, to the point where her eyes would crust shut. So she was started on ocular antibiotics, and we were constantly trying to keep her eyes moist and clear. Then her appetite decreased markedly and she began to feel feverish. We were quite honestly concerned she would not make it. But with constant nursing and lots of TLC -- as in, she was almost constantly being held, which neither she nor we minded one bit -- she pulled through.

Thimble at roughly 4 weeks of age. She barely weighed half a pound.
Later, at roughly six weeks of age, Thimble developed a swollen front right leg and would not put any weight on it. Although x-rays on such a tiny body are tricky and often not conclusive, it was determined that she was most likely just suffering from soft tissue swelling, possibly from rough play on her brothers’ part. She was too tiny to be given an anti-inflammatory, but after a couple days of pain medication her leg improved and she was moving around like normal.

After that, at about seven weeks of age, Thimble began straining to urinate and passing bloody mucus, so I took her in for another check-up. Her bladder -- as well as her body in general -- were too small to collect a urine sample at that time, but she was sent home with an antibiotic. She seemed to immediately improve on the antibiotic, and she was quickly back to her normal, perfect self.

Now, at a little over 5 months of age, Thimble is thriving. She is fully vaccinated and spayed. She is still the smallest of the litter, having just finally reached 6 lbs. Despite her size disadvantage, she certainly gives her brothers a run for their money, both during playtime and mealtime. Thimble is a cuddler, although only when it’s not playtime. She is also one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen in my life. I mean, seriously:

Of course, her brothers are adorable as well. See:

Trapper. He is the largest of the litter, weighing in at almost 7.5 lbs.

Talon. He is almost 6.5 lbs.

Toby. He is the second largest, weighing in at just under 7 lbs.
I'm sure you'll be seeing a lot of Thimble and her brothers on this blog. Again, you've been given the impending cuteness warning.

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