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When you hear someone say they saved a kitten with breast milk, without a doubt the first thing you think is, "Wait, whaaat?" It's just not something you mention out to lunch with your friends or casually when talking about the events of your week. Not until faced with the decision would I have ever thought I would have to give a kitten breast milk in place of cat's milk. But I did!
It all started a few short weeks ago when I took in my cat Phoebe. Phoebe is an adorable orange black and white street cat that pretty much adopted me. I named her Phoebe in honor of one of my favorite episodes of "Friends" where Phoebe finds a dumpster cat, names it Smelly Cat, and goes on to write a song about it.
Our first time meeting was when I was startled to find her sitting outside my kitchen window at 6am one rainy Friday morning. At the time she didn't look so cute or adorable. In fact she looked rather sinister. She must have sat out there on the window for at least 3 hours watching me make breakfast, wash dishes and clean the refrigerator. I enjoyed her quiet company and that earned her some leftover food I would have otherwise just thrown in the trash. She meowed her thank you and came over for me to pet her. We were instantly in love.
After that she started coming to my house two or three times a day for meals. One morning I was in the shower with my bathroom window opened to let out the steam and right while I was in the middle of my morning in-house shower performance, I saw something leap right through the window and make a dash for the kitchen.
I ran out in a towel to find that it was the cat just strutting around like she owned the place. I was amused, once I caught my breath, and was actually more than happy to accommodate her -- however, I have two small children and a Pomeranian. I needed to be sure she was free of fleas, ticks, and anything else she might have picked up in the streets. Later that night I ran to the supermarket to get a “kitty rescue kit.”
I pretty much just tossed together a bunch of items I thought would get her started (brush, litter box and litter, cat food, flea and tick spray and spray shampoo). She absolutely hated being “treated” and prepared for her new life as a domestic kitty. Once I was done chasing her around the house and rubbing her down with Hartz products, I solidified our union with an adorable pink collar that had a little bell attached.
Finally, I introduced her to my lil ones. My son Dante who is 4 and my daughter Jordan who is 1 both loved her on sight. My dog Bowser (7 years old) was less than thrilled about sharing his castle. It took 3 days of them being in separate rooms before he warmed up to her being the new kid.
Shortly after taking her in I noticed that she was a little pudgy in the belly and soon I could feel the kittens moving with my hand. I did some researching and Googling to try and get an idea of how far along she might be and realized she was in her last days. At this point I was very excited but also unsure of what I could do to make my cat more comfortable, so I went into my own little nesting period and cleaned an area for her and made her a soft little birthing suite out of sheets and put it under a table in my bedroom.
I soon learned (while watching her give birth on a bunch of my shirts) that she knew better than me how all this works. Nature took its course and she gave birth in my closet. Phoebe had four adorable kittens and I was already set to name them and add them to my collection. What I wasn't prepared for was for 3 of her 4 kittens to all die within the first 2 days of life. They were all very weak and not feeding. It was heartbreaking. Unlike dogs, who eat their weak pups, cats simply reject them and refuse to feed them.
When Phoebe was down to her last baby, I was determined to save her. This last kitten was so weak she couldn't hold her neck up. Nothing could make this kitten eat -- she was even too weak to suckle from her mother, just barely moving. Finally, again I did some swift Googling and came across someone asking if breast milk from humans could be fed to a kitten who was ill.
There were many opposing responses, some pointing out that breast milk was species-specific while others mentioned the fact that humans drink cows milk.
I didn't care how crazy the idea was -- I figured it was worth a try. So I started pumping away just as I pump for my 1-year-old daughter. I pumped just enough milk to fit in a tiny dropper and started to feed the kitten from it. Almost immediately the kitten started to move and she was eating from the dropper like she was starving!
I was so relieved to see her actually eating and showing signs of hope. From that point on, I started pumping and storing milk for her and feeding her every hour like clock work.
After 3 days she was looking healthy, moving and even making small kitty sounds and crying when she was hungry. On the 4th day I thought I would try to get her back to her mama who was still somewhat rejecting her. I started by just squeezing a little milk from Phoebe's nipple and putting her baby to it so that she could feel and taste the milk, after a few tries and some coaxing I am proud to say that it worked. A week later, her eyes finally opened and she's been nursing from her mother ever since.
The baby kitten will be one month on the 22nd of July and she's as healthy as ever and happy with her mom. This is without a doubt the strangest breast milk story I personally have to tell -- but I must admit, I now have a whole new respect for the power of breast milk.