By: Robin Desmet – May, 2018
Losing a kitten is one of the most difficult parts of animal rescue. No matter how much time goes by, you never forget the ones you’ve lost. Anyone who fosters or rescues animals for any length of time is bound to face this heartbreaking situation at some point in their career, but knowing this does not make it any easier.
My first brush with heartache came early in my days of volunteering. A fellow volunteer and I went to check on a feral colony of cats in Lawrence that I was working on trapping and neutering. We entered the yard where the cats liked to hang out and immediately saw Trixie sitting on the back staircase.
Trixie was the last cat in the yard that had not yet been spayed or neutered. She had been present in the yard and had watched as I trapped her friends one by one. But try as I might, I could not trap Trixie. She was wise to my games and all the tuna in the world could not convince her to go into the trap. Naturally, she got pregnant.
As the other volunteer approached Trixie to say hello, I walked over to check the shelter I had built for the cats. I removed the cover, looked inside, and immediately saw 3 kittens curled up together. To my horror, all of them were dead. Apparently Trixie had had her kittens the night before, but none of them had survived. It could have been the cold, the inexperience and youth of the mother, or they may have been sick. I will never know. What I do know is that it was utterly heartbreaking.
In the end, I was finally able to trap Trixie and get her spayed. She still resides in Lawrence with the rest of her colony, but I will never forget that sad day.
My latest experience with heartbreak occurred very recently. I was trapping a mother cat and her 5 kittens in Haverhill. This furry family had it good compared to most feral cats.
They had a roomy shed for shelter with soft blankets and were getting fed daily. The pretty yard was quiet and peaceful and seemed relatively safe. On the first day, I was lucky enough to catch 3 of the kittens in the morning and the mother later on that afternoon. The kittens were about 4 weeks old, and all of them were thin and dehydrated and needed medical care. In the evening the homeowner and I searched inside the shed for the other kittens.
The homeowner was the first to spot the kitten and called me over. I edged over slowly and caught a glimpse of the kitten curled up amongst the clutter. I took another step closer and the kitten didn’t move. My heart sank. Feral kittens always run away when you get close to them. This poor little guy did not make it.
The next day while I was at work the homeowners succeeded in rescuing the remaining kitten. Rescuing 4 out of 5 isn’t bad, but it is still heartbreaking to lose one.
These types of experiences are disheartening at best, jarring at worst. But despite the sadness, I think it is important not to let these terrible experiences discourage oneself from the important work of trying to save these animals. I realize that there will always be heartbreak, but the good that is done definitely outweighs the sadness. And so, the work continues.
If you have any questions, please contact me at: Robinjd@comcast.net