2015-10-22 / Opinions

Dying kittens unite neighborhood, offer valuable lesson

Kelly Krager Kelly Krager For days, the piercing, unceasing cries disrupted my peace. I couldn’t go lounge in my backyard without being overwhelmed by the nagging, desperate sounds.

My husband told me to ignore it. Pretty soon, he said, it’ll stop.

He was right. Pretty soon, the sounds would stop, and that’s what ate at my conscience every time I ventured outside.

The feral, orange longhair cat that roams my neighborhood had another litter of kittens. It was her third of the summer, and this time she wasn’t properly taking care of them.

They were sick and starving, and although I hadn’t yet seen them up close, I could hear their lives fading as their cries became weaker each day. I knew if someone didn’t help, they would soon be dead.

This presented a serious dilemma for me.

My husband, Brian, though extremely kind in almost every way, feels feral cats should be left alone, no matter how dire their conditions.

These three kittens were dying before I enlisted neighborhood kids to find them. I delivered them to an animal rescue center, where they are now thriving. 
Photo by Kelly Krager These three kittens were dying before I enlisted neighborhood kids to find them. I delivered them to an animal rescue center, where they are now thriving. Photo by Kelly Krager “It’s the circle of life,” he said to me.

All right, he has a point. But, those kittens wouldn’t be starving to death if some human hadn’t made the irresponsible decision to not spay the mama kitty or neuter the male.

Plus, if I’m able to prevent suffering, I feel bound to do so.

Therefore, in defiance of my husband’s wishes, I spent several hours searching for a no-kill shelter for the kittens. After striking out in Huron County, I contacted my aunt, Joann Taylor, president of SOS Animal Rescue in Midland. She said due to the overwhelming number of stray cats, she normally doesn’t have openings for kittens. Fortunately, five had just been adopted, so she could provide my tiny strays with a new home.

Once I had secured a place to take the kittens, my next challenge was to find them. Although the mother clearly wasn’t feeding them enough, she did move them around on a regular basis. So, I enlisted a small army of neighborhood children to search.

The result was awesome. Kids that typically don’t get along worked together to systematically scour the neighborhood looking for the tiny kittens, which had mostly stopped meowing.

Throughout the day, practically every cat in the area was dragged to my house by these children, who apparently couldn’t differentiate between a small adult cat and newborn kittens.

In the end, they found three of the five I knew were in the litter. I assume the other two didn’t last long enough to be rescued.

I called my aunt, and much to the disappointment of both our husbands, we met in Bay City.

When I returned home, the children who helped in the search were anxious to hear about the kittens’ prognosis, and they were extremely proud they had helped save three lives.

Since then, I’ve noticed more friendly play among the kids. Where there used to be bickering or worse, there’s laughter. I believe bringing the kids together for a common, compassionate goal helped them form lasting bonds of friendship.

In my own home, being able to save those kittens did another really great thing. It opened the door for a conversation with my youngest son about doing what you know is right despite pressure from others to do something else.

He knew his dad didn’t want me to rescue the kittens, and it was good for him to see me take a stand that I knew was the right thing.

My son has had a lot of struggles lately because his friends and classmates often bully him into doing things he doesn’t want to do, and this demonstrated to him that he should not go along with demands of others if he knows in his heart they’re wrong.

He rode with me to deliver the kittens to my aunt, and I used the long drive to draw parallels between my decision to help the kittens and the peer pressure he faces.

I know it’s a lesson he’ll remember.

In the end, the “Great Kitten Rescue,” as I called it, did more than save a few kittens. It brought a neighborhood together and was a wonderful example for my child.

This weekend, I spoke with my Aunt Joann. She said the kittens were around four weeks old when I brought them to her. They weighed less than half of what they should have, had extremely bad upper respiratory infections and were literally being eaten alive by fleas.

In the three weeks she’s cared for them, they’ve doubled in weight and are almost completely recovered. She said if I and my hoard of neighborhood children hadn’t stepped in, they would have died within days.

I haven’t had a chance to tell my little helpers yet, but I know they will be overjoyed that their efforts made life possible for three kittens.

I’ll also use the opportunity to tell them about SOS’s policy to not put animals up for adoption until they are spayed or neutered, and I’ll encourage them to talk to their parents about their own family pets.

And, the scenario will give me one more chance to show my son the importance of doing what is right despite what others think.

If I am able, I want to live trap that mother cat, have her spayed, then release her in the neighborhood. She’s proved she’s fine on her own, but she shouldn’t create any more babies to suffer and die.

My husband is rather opposed to the idea, but I’m sure I can find a way to get it done with little risk or cost. I believe taking that action is my only option. Obviously, I don’t want to upset anyone, but I must do what I believe is right.

This personal story also opens the door to another opportunity. While I know some people won’t care about the rescue of kittens, I also know there are some readers who will be inspired by our efforts. We all have life experiences like this. If you believe you can tell your own stories to motivate, teach or entertain others, I invite you to become a regular columnist for the Huron County View. Although the position is unpaid, it is a great way to introduce your perspective to the community. Since the View is a hyperlocal newspaper, we are seeking columnists who live or work in Huron County. 

Please contact me at 989-269-9918 or kkrager@mihomepaper.com if you’re interested.

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