A strange thing happened while taking our yard clippings to the local collection site for recycling. Upon arrival, we heard a loud chorus of birds somewhere on the ground around the bins, but they didn’t fly away when we approached. It was more like mournful yowling. Between the sack of grass clippings and under nearby rubble, we squinted to see the face of a small kitten. Then we spied another one. Wait! There was a third. A fourth. We were up to five and still heard sounds coming from the nearby woods. A lone kitten stood in the tall grass, crying. We heard another one, but couldn’t see it. Then, crouching down to peer under some leaves and branches we spotted the last kitten. There were seven frightened crying kittens. Four were softly striped in gray and white. Two others had markings that were more vivid. And number 7 was a two-tone. No mother cat was to be found. They had been abandoned—left to die.
We picked up each kitten and put them safely into a deep box found in the cardboard bin. They seemed momentarily happy to be piled in together, but soon, their hunger became the focus and they began wailing again. So we stopped by our friend’s place to ask for advice. Unfortunately, she was not hopeful since August is the vacation month in Italy, with stores and agencies mostly closed. We knew that we couldn’t keep the kittens, because they needed to be fed and cared for—we didn’t think our 17 year old dachshund could help.
We were feeling a bit desperate since we know little about cats, let alone week-old kittens. We started asking anyone who would talk to us while holding a box of kittens. The local bus driver had no suggestions, nor did the cleaning lady at the nearby hotel. However, there were hints that the vet in the small town of Caldine might be open. But only until one p.m.—the universal lunchtime in Italy. To our relief we found her, but she was not optimistic, either. Shelters for cats are rare in Tuscany and she couldn’t take them. Then WHAT were we to do with them? As a last resort, she flipped through her calendar to find a name and number jotted in the margin, of a woman who might be able to help—but it was a long shot!
All 9 of us went home to think about it.
We had one phone number and one chance. We called. To our surprise, she just happened to have a mother cat that had just finished weaning her litter, and would still be able to nurse. The helpless kittens couldn’t eat on their own, and desperately needed a mother’s milk. She could hear their hungry pleas in the background, and asked us to bring them to her as soon as possible. So into the car we climbed with our box of cats, and drove for 45 minutes to the designated location, where we met the “Cat Woman.” She was very soft-spoken and kind-hearted. Strangely, the kittens stopped crying as soon as we met her.
We hadn’t anticipated any of the events that transpired that day. But sometimes, circumstances require us to change our plans, modify our behaviors, step in when needed. You know how that goes. It was certainly a sobering experience, because if we hadn’t found them, they would not have lived through the night. Nature can be harsh, and there are many night predators around here. Abandonment is a very serious and sad thing, no matter who we are—that moment when all seems lost and one feels utterly alone. But, as it turned out, our story had a happy ending. The kittens are safe, their tummies are full, and they are growing stronger every day. There will be 7 cute little kittens on their way to new homes very soon—hats off to the “Cat Woman.”
By the way . . . we wrote some music about abandonment—not just kittens, but people too. You can listen to the track below.
You might also enjoy several other stories about cats.