Saturday, 13 October 2012

Cecilia's Story

What an awful week. We have diseased staff and animals sharing their germs around like loved-up 60s hippies sharing venereal diseases. We have all be dropping like flies and and we've even lost two kittens (as in died, not disappeared) and I can tell you that we all feel thoroughly despondent.The cattery is officially closed for the foreseeable future, which means no more admissions, cat cuddling or rehomings and a vast amount of hard work for all. Typically our vet bill is around £3k a month and up to the12th October we were on £3.5k. A miracle is surely needed, but rather than shy away from the blog I'm going to share with you a remarkable story and let you ponder for yourself what you think of the ethical dilemma we faced this week and whether we acted correctly or not. This is Cecilia's far.

Cecilia's rescue story sticks in my mind so very much because of the emotional distress she must have experienced. I don't care if this sounds like anthropomorphising but tell me an animal wouldn't feel distress after this experience......

A member of the public found Cecilia in her shed. She called the national RSPCA helpline and RSPCA inspector Heaton was dispatched forthwith and rushed her straight to the RSPCA Animal Hospital for an emergency cesarean. Inspector Heaton later described the scene to me. He said there was blood all over the place along with deformed, dead kittens strewn all over. One kitten was stuck in the birthing canal, dead.

The emergency cesarean saved one kitten still inside, Lana pictured above. But despite the surgical wound Cecilia nursed Lana with apparent ease and the little minx turned into a right bouncy bruiser and went to her new home this week!

About 3 weeks after Cecilia was in her foster home her foster parents kindly took in two hand rears.

We half-heartedly talked about whether Cecilia would take them on and I felt there was minimal harm in trying after a few days. Remarkably Cecilia allowed them to feed off her but didn't assume full 'mum' duties, but that was ok because the foster parents were there to see to the additional care needs.

Before long Theo and Thelma, the two hand-rears, were strapping kittens thanks to the help of Cecilia.  Who never seemed to mind the intrusion and just appeared to accept her duties as her role in life.

With Lana gone and Theo and Thelma doing so well, we found ourselves once again in dire straits with kittens needing to come in. I call it 'juggling' but that is honestly what it feels like sometimes when we have try and work out who can go where so we can help as many as we can. There were 4 fully weaned kittens that were ready for adoption and Cecilia's foster parents were happy to help so they joined the modern family.

Except Pip, Pablo, Pippa and Pepper had different ideas about being fully weaned and decided they fancied a visit or two to the Cecilia milk bar!

It goes without saying we soon put a stop to this but I share because it shows what a remarkable cat Cecilia is!

Last week, you may recall, we admitted 26 cats and kittens. This included Edith and her 4 boys. We had nowhere for them for a few days so they lived in the office. Edith was possibly the most reluctant mother we'd had all year. The only way she would feed her babies was if we locked her in with them. At 3-4 weeks of age their lives really hung in the balance and some of them even ventured to nibble solid food too.

There were no signs of ill health with Edith, we just thought she was a young girl that got caught too young and was an inevitably reluctant mum. The day we moved her into a foster home she rejected her kittens. We worried it was due to a change of environment so moved her back to the office, but she lashed out at them straight away.

By this point the kittens had not fed in 15 hours and wouldn't take a syringe feeds. These poor babies were crying out with hunger and flocking around us to help them. The sense of helplessness was overwhelming.
They were rapidly loosing weight and one was starting to fade. We could think of only one option. Cecilia.

We rushed Edith's boys to the foster home and in an instant Cecilia took them on. We took the older kittens into another foster home and sighed a very big sigh. 

But then the reality dawned. Our actions were surely abusive to give Cecilia a second litter to 'wet nurse'? It was act now and think later situation and this ethical dilemma still rings out loud, but what were we to do? I don't regret our actions but don't know that we can justify saving 4 lives and compromise another in return. Whilst Cecilia just seems to take it all in her stride, we've vowed to keep a close eye on her and definitely give her no more.

Edith's boys are now thriving and have a future thanks to Cecilia. But I'm not proud of our actions. I don't think we necessarily did the right thing but sometimes in this line of work the boundaries of right and wrong get blurred. If it was wrong what we did then I hold my hands up. I don't have a problem admitting mistakes, the important thing is to learn from them, but I'm still not sure what else we could have done.

One of Edith's boys with Theo and Thelma
As for Edith, she turned out to have a viral infection, just like all the other animals we had admitted. The very next day she was very ill and a vet trip revealed a high temperature. She was clearly rejecting her kittens to save herself; nature's way I guess. Edith is slowly getting better but is skin and bone. She'd obviously tried hard to care for her babies and herself and the babies lost out. Edith is happy now and loving a warm lap to snuggle on and so all's well that ends well, for now.

Edith getting lap cuddles in the office today - her absolute favourite.