Adopting Kittens Helped to Manage Stress and Improve Health
Having a Pet Improves Health and Wellbeing
I didn't intentionally set out to have a cat. In the fall of 2008, I was going through a particularly rough patch in life. My stress level was high, and my moral was low. It was at this time when the first orphaned kitten came into my life. He didn't have his eyes open yet, and only weighed a few ounces. My first thought was that I didn't need yet another responsibility in my life. I had enough stress already!
Kitten about a week old
Should I Try to Help an Orphaned Kitten?
My second thought was that if I didn't at least try to help this little kitten, he would die. Of course, I knew what I had to do.
I took the tiny bundle into my home. Looking back, I believe it really was a miracle that he survived. I didn't know anything about how to raise a kitten. I was having financial problems and needed desperately to make more money. I couldn't afford to take him to a veterinarian. I thought about taking him to an animal rescue shelter, but the nearest one was over 70 miles away and I didn't have enough money to buy the extra gas.
So, the decision was made. I would rescue him myself. The first thing I did for my little kitten was to feed him. I poured some half-n-half into the lid of a cottage cheese container. Since he was so small, I placed both the kitten and the lid containing the half-n-half onto the kitchen counter. As soon as he smelled the food, he promptly inhaled it. It was then that I realized my first big mistake. Because he was so young, the kitten had not learned to lap the milk. Like any baby animal, his instinct was to suck at the liquid. When he did, he actually inhaled it!
Milk came out his nose and mouth, and suddenly he seemed to be drowning. What happened next personifies the expression, "Ignorance is Bliss." I quickly began performing kitten CPR. Working quickly, I began to massage his chest with upward strokes, tipping his head downward. More half-n-half came gushing out his nose and mouth. It was a heart-stopping, pulse-pounding minute or so, but finally he began breathing on his own.
I cleaned him with a warm washcloth, and searched my cupboards for a more appropriate food delivery system. I finally found an abandoned toy syringe, sterilized it with rubbing alcohol, and found that the kitten took to it like a duck takes to water.
With some food in his belly, he promptly went to sleep. Because he was so small, I knew he wouldn't be able to maintain his own body heat, and had to find a way to keep him warm. I worried that a heating pad might burn him, and so I warmed a kitchen towel in the microwave and wrapped him up like a baby.
Forever Friends: Cats in Laundry Basket
A 20-Pound Cat
Despite the misguided beginning, this little orphan kitten survived. I named him Snip, for the white mark on his nose, similar to the marking on a horse that is commonly called a snip. It seems incredible, but this tiny kitten now weighs in at a strapping, muscle-bound 20 pounds!
After about three weeks, when his eyes opened and I was sure he was going to survive, I began to see that he needed a friend to keep him company while I was at work. A neighbor, who lived on a farm, told me about a litter of kittens born to a feral cat who had died. And so it was that another orphan kitten came to live with Snip and I.
This orphan was a little older. Her eyes were already open, and when I first fed her, she demonstrated that she knew how to lap up food.
Snip welcomed Hunter with open paws. He showed her his best kitten tricks, jumping, running, stumbling and doing his sideways arch walk to impress her. It didn't take long for them to form an unusually close bond, which they have maintained for three years now.
Taking in these orphan kittens changed my life. Caring for them gave me something to focus on besides my stress level. Through this process I learned to manage stress differently by investing my energy into something that was productive. My own health improved as I worked to care for the orphan kittens.
Because they brought joy into my life, I found that I was in a more optimistic frame of mind. I began to have a more positive attitude toward life, and found that I worked more systematically at solving my financial problems. After all, I now had two little kitties depending on me.
While not everyone can take on the task of adopting orphaned kittens, the message I leave you with is this: caring for someone or something outside yourself is good medicine for managing stress, improving your health, and healing your soul.
Tune in next time, for more stories about life with Snip and Hunter, my little orphan kittens.
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