Someone brought a box to the SPCA on Monday morning, Oct. 31 and left it outside the door. As a result of the SPCA being closed for cleaning that day, it took a few hours before staff at the facility found the box and no one knows how long it had been sitting out there.
Inside the box was a litter of four kittens aged three to four weeks old. In addition, inside the same box there was another litter of five kittens who were only hours old. The box was open when staff discovered it so no one knows if the mother of the newborns was with them in the box and escaped or if she was never there to begin with.
The temperature had dropped to about -6C overnight and only rose to approximately 9C during the day – far too cold for young kittens and deadly for the newborns.
The four older kittens were able to be placed with a nursing mother cat in foster care but she rejected the newborns. Staff immediately started warming the babies and slowly began to hand feed them small amounts every hour.
Placed into foster care later that day, they have been kept warm, bottle fed and cleaned every two hours around the clock. After 24 hours they started losing weight. After 48 hours they became more and more lethargic and listless – their cries and movements losing strength and their caregivers watching helplessly as each kitten became weaker by the minute, knowing there was little more they could do. Early on Friday morning the first kitten died.
A second kitten died on Saturday evening cradled in the hands of its foster mom. Realizing the end was near, the foster mom gently held the kitten in a warm soft blanket and watched as it took its last breaths. Diarrhea struck the remaining three babies – yet another serious development. The third and fourth kittens died early on Sunday morning and the last remaining kitten struggled until finally succumbing just after noon.
The tragedy here is all of this is entirely preventable.
Responsible cat owners spay and neuter their pets to prevent unwanted litters and to them we are enormously grateful. And responsible cat owners would never dream of leaving young or newborn kittens in a box on anyone’s doorstep in the cold.
There are many, many responsible cat owners who love and treat their pets as though they are their own children. And then there are the irresponsible cat owners who commit the premeditated act of abandoning these small and fragile creatures – not only at the door of the SPCA but also at the doors of many veterinarian offices.
This is not an isolated event – although kittens can be born at any time of the year, kitten season runs from April to October – and the SPCA, veterinary offices and cat and kitten rescue groups are flooded with unwanted kittens every year.
These incidences threaten to overshadow all the success stories at the SPCA and place unnecessary stress on the staff and volunteers who give so tirelessly and generously from their hearts. There are many more kittens born each year than there are homes for. Pets are not disposable – they are living breathing animals who feel love and pain – just like you.
And just like yours – their lives deserve to be respected.
Foster mom for the SPCA