Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Kitten rescue June 4, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:48 AM
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A SHORT TRIP TO THE COUNTRY to shoot photos for a volunteer project turned into an animal rescue earlier this week.

My husband and I never expect this, even though the “Free Cats” sign at the end of our friends’ driveway should have served as a warning.

My friends placed a sign at the end of their long country driveway offering free cats to passing motorists.

“We’d like a cat,” I tell Delores when she opens the door to her house.

“We don’t have any cats left, only kittens,” she answers.

“I’m just kidding,” I say, as I step inside. I have no interest in owning a cat, or a kitten.

Later, after I’ve finishing taking photos for my project, I ask to see the kittens. Delores’ 13-year-old granddaughter Anna, who is staying for the week with her grandparents, leaps from the couch. I follow her outside to a sprawling poleshed where four kittens jostle inside a wire cage.

Not wanting to traumatize the kittens by using the flash on my camera, I shot with natural light. This kitten comes from the older litter of three.

Anna has been caring for the kittens all week, feeding them milk with an eye-dropper.

“What happened to the mother cat?” I ask.

“We gave her away,” Delores answers. Remember that “Free Cats” sign? I’m pretty certain my friend didn’t know about the kittens before she gave away their mother.

Now she has four hungry kittens to feed. Make that five. In the back room of the poleshed we hear another kitten mewing. In a matter of seconds, we determine that the kitten is trapped inside a wagon. And that wagon is topped with mounds of wood, garbage bags filled with aluminum cans and lots more. Rescuing this baby will be no easy feat.

With a flashlight, a mewing Anna and hands ready to grab, the kitten is eventually coaxed to the front of the wagon, snatched and carried to the cage.

One of the kittens rescued from the wagon, where the mother either gave birth or later hid her litter of three.

“How long has it been without milk?” I ask.

“Three or four days,” Delores says. Already this seems a miracle.

Two kittens were coaxed from the back of this wagon to the front. See that narrow opening near the blue tarp? They were grabbed through that opening.

And then we hear another faint mew coming from the trailer. We start all over again, this time adding a garden hoe to our rescue equipment.

“Come on baby,” Anna encourages, then mews, then encourages some more.

Finally, the kitten is close enough for my husband to gently hook with the hoe and guide into Anna’s welcoming hands.

Now six hungry, mewing kittens are crammed into the cage. Based on size, we quickly determine that these babies are from two different litters. Anna separates them, moving the bigger three into a portable kennel.

We say our goodbyes then as Delores and adoptive mom Anna hurry toward the house. They are on a mission to get milk for the hungry stowaways.

The next evening I call Delores. “How are the kittens?” I ask.

“One died,” she says. “The black one.” It is the first of the two we rescued.

“How is Anna doing?” I ask.

“She called her mom,” Delores answers.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling