Last week was one in which things just didn’t go as planned. I thought everything was going well. I spun exactly one ton of yarn for the baby blanket I am knitting. I was on top of the infections the mommy cat and her kittens had. I started bottle feeding at the first sign of weight loss. I spiked the formula with Lysine and probiotics to help warn off the URI that mommy cat had. It all just… failed.

The blanket:

As I spun the yarn, I was pleased with the thought that I was making so much I could not possibly fall short of what I needed for a baby blanket. I mean, come on, baby blankets are small, and I spun pounds of yarn (I think maybe 2 pounds?). I began the pattern I selected on Ravelry, knitting happily away with the green yarn. I moved on to the blue, a little concerned about the amount I had of that color – I had to dispose of a significant amount of yarn due to a chewing incident that Serra and Duck perpetrated. No big deal, it was just one color, and maybe I could make it up with another color of yarn.

Then I got to the undyed yarn. I knit the first section using the suggested number of stitches and rows, thinking nothing about it. When I bound off, I noticed that the ball of yarn was a lot smaller than it should be. I weighed the yarn, and it turned out that I had used exactly half of what I had spun. Half?! Really? I had two more sections to do, and they were to be larger than the first. Oh, crap.

It was at this point that I decided two things. First, I decided that the pattern is just a suggestion. I would place the color blocks in the same places (roughly) that the pattern called for, but they might have fewer rows than suggested. Additionally, the blanket might turn out a little smaller than I intended. My friend Julie pointed out that the new blanket size would be absolutely perfect as a nursing cover up and as a place to just put the baby on the floor. Julie is a doula, so I believe anything she says about human babies. She could tell me they were born with horns and I would believe it. Not going to find out, myself. The second thing I decided is that I would spin more of the undyed fiber, since I have quite a bit of that.

I might also have to cook Serra and Duck for dinner. I keep threatening to eat them when they destroy my yarn.

The kittens:

At the beginning of the week, Charge finally started to feel better. I was able to stop giving her fluids, then I was able to stop hand-feeding her. The babies were still on the bottle, though, because their poor, sick mother dried up. The little ones also developed an eye infection – Quark in both eyes, Neutrino in just one.

I jumped on everything. I started the boys on the bottle at the first sign of weight loss. I started them on eye drops the moment the eyes got infected. I added Lysine and probiotics to their formula when Quark showed signs of their mother’s cold. I thought that if I stayed ahead of everything, it would all come out fine.

When the kittens’ eyes didn’t improve on the eye meds I had, I took them to the vet. They were given stronger meds and some Clavamox to fight the first signs of mommy’s cold. Two days later, it all went down hill. Quark couldn’t sleep because he couldn’t breathe. Around every 30 minutes, he woke up screaming. I offered him the bottle, but he lost the will to suckle. When I tried to give him fluids, he would panic and back into the needle causing himself to bleed. It all broke my heart. I spent two days holding Quark in the steam from the humidifier until his nose cleared enough to eat and sleep. He loved that – he would hang is head over my hand (I kept my hand in the steam to make sure it wasn’t too hot) to sniff the moist air. I fed him twice as often as his brother, but he still kept losing weight. On the last day, Michael and I took turns holding him, keeping him warm so he could sleep an hour at a time. We even offered Quark to Duck for the grooming his mother couldn’t give and I couldn’t manage because it would involve wetting and chilling him to dangerous levels.

Duck is such a good mommy for a baby boy-cat.

By the next morning, I knew Quark was finished. He clamped his jaw closed and refused his beloved bottle. He could not be consoled no matter what I did. Neutrino was gaining weight and getting chubby, and in comparison, Quark just looked so small. He was also cool to the touch. I called the shelter and asked that he be put down. I’ve gotten better with this. It’s such a bad feeling, wondering if you gave up too soon, but I have had that worry so many times at this stage and it never ends well. My opinion is always seconded by the vets at the shelter, so it’s not even a unilateral decision. I know I did the painful, but right thing. I have to keep reminding myself of this.

Within two days of Quark’s end, I noticed that Neutrino wasn’t taking the bottle so well for me. I also noticed that when I stimulated him to go to the bathroom, there was usually nothing coming out. I was concerned, until I reached under his mother and rubbed her tummy. Imagine my surprise when I discovered she was full of milk! Now that Charge was feeling better, she went right back to caring for her baby. By the end of that day, Charge was so full of milk that she sat in the kitten room howling with discomfort.

I then got a brilliant idea. I called the shelter in the morning to give them the status update on my kitty family. I also suggested that if they had kittens who needed a surrogate mother, Charge might be a good candidate. It turns out that I couldn’t have called at a better time. Another mom cat came in to the shelter with six newborn kittens. The problem is, the mom was very defensive of her kittens, and the babies had nasty eye infections. The shelter staff couldn’t get enough access to the babies to give them regular treatment to clean up the eyes. I brought Charge to the shelter to see if she would take in some new kittens. It could not have gone better – the first thing Charge did when she saw one of the new guys was bathe, then potty him. I gave her the 3 sickest kittens (one had so much pus coming out of his eye that I thought the eye had exploded) and took them home. By that evening, the babies had gained weight, so I knew mommy was caring for them. Charge just seemed so happy, so relived to have more babies to care for.

Meet Butterscotch, Fudge, and Marmalade. Yes, the umbilical cord is still attached to these kittens.

Neutrino is great with the new siblings. The day after they arrived, he started eating wet food like a big boy, so he isn’t really competing for milk. He snuggles the babies as if they were his litter mates, despite the disparity in size. The only problem is that Neutrino’s eye didn’t heal all that well – he probably got an ulcer – and he seems to have bad vision in that eye (he falls down a lot, always the same way, on the side with the bad eye). The little guys’ eyes are clear, but it was just too tough for Neutrino.

(I know I look rough here – I’ve been a little unwell, but I’ve started getting tested for everything). Neutrino’s right eye might be like this permanently. It’s just so cloudy and misshapen. If you compare him to the kittens above, you can see he doesn’t fit in my hand as well anymore. He’s big, and getting bigger every day! I feel good about his future, despite the eye.

So, the whole kitten thing may not have gone as well as I had hoped. On the other hand, if I hadn’t lost Quark, I may not have been able to save these other babies. I do still have Neutrino, and I’ve given his mother another chance to be the great mother she started out being. While nothing this week has gone like I planned, with a little improvisation, I still managed to get something good.


One thought on “Improvising

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