Warning: This post contains some potentially triggering information regarding a pets death. If you suffer from mental illness, or reading about a pets death would be extremely upsetting to you, please read with caution. This gets kind of raw and emotional towards the end but I really feel I need to get it out and get it down in the blog.
Update: I made some small changes that my Mom and Eddie pointed out just to ensure this is as correct and up-to-date as possible.
I mentioned in Pain, Fatigue & Kittens that we were waiting on two kittens Mango and Marmalade. They were born on July 10th, 2020. They were listed on Facebook Marketplace and my Mom, who was looking for a kitten after losing their cat Pumpkin a month before. Mom had become attached to Pumpkin and was missing him and decided another kitten would help. She contacted the guy that had them listed and asked if anywhere still available and he said a few of them were including a pair of orange tabby’s. So Mom said she would like to have the pair when they are old enough to go home.
She then contacted us, let us know she was taking both and wanted to know if we wanted one of the two. We talked it over and decided that we would give it a try. We figured if it did not work out with Max then he could go live with my parents and his brother. They decided they wanted to name their little one Mango, keeping along the same lines as with Pumpkin, since Mango was also ginger as well. Eddie and I decided on the name Marmalade for our little one, keeping with food names (no idea why) and things that were orange.
We have been waiting patiently since July 10th, the day they were born for them they would be ready September 4th. This past Sunday August 23rd, they were 6 weeks, 2 days old and we got a message from the girlfriend of the guy that had posted them on Facebook and who happened to be a co-worker of my husbands, that the littlest of the two who was the runt of the litter (I have always had a soft spot for them, Max was the runt of his litter) was being picked on by the momma cat and the other adult and older cats in the household.
Just going to say here I do not know how many there were, but there were 9 kittens in all, including our two in that litter. They lost one apparently earlier on. Not sure the exact date so that left 8. Not uncommon really, it happens. She never commented on the one they lost, but again being common enough I really didn’t think much of it and Eddie somewhat knew them both through work. So, he was being picked on and she said being 6 weeks he was already weaned and on soft food and water and that her vet via a phone call has suggested sending him on now to his new home as they felt he would thrive more with someone on one care. I went over not convinced it was the right time yet but thought I would check it out.
I arrived after getting some necessities fully expecting to only take the one home and hand-rear him the rest of the way if I felt he was in danger while the second one stayed with mom for another 2 weeks. I was let into the porch area and handed both kittens. I took Marmalade first to hold him and he was literally skin and bones and could not even hold his head up and honestly, I felt he must bare have weighted anything at all. I could tell he was bad but he had his eyes open and he reached out his little paw to me and literally touched my face. Honestly, I knew I could not leave him there, he needed help, which he was obviously not getting from the adults there. I kept my mouth shut but I was fuming.
She then asked me if I wanted to take the second one (as she knew by then that he was going to mom and dads) to keep them together. I asked to see him and she handed him over. He wasn’t much bigger then his brother but he was bright-eyed, alert, playful and had a belly on him as if he had just eaten. She said he was not one of the ones picking on Marmalade and that they were inseparable. I noticed right away that he was covered in fleas.
I guess I could say a tip-off before this point was that she had posted on Facebook about a week before that her house was infested with fleas and asking for tips on getting rid of them. Again. not such a big deal considering we actually had the same issue with Max 2 weeks ago. One day it seemed like he was flea free and next he had a bunch on him. We went to the vet got Advantage 2 and applied it buying three more at the same time. I usually flea treat him for most of the year, giving it a break in the thick of the winter as usually we never see them then.
Mango was small as well, very light but not just skin and bones. I initially said let’s wait and she tried to pull him off me (they were laying on my chest now) and they both started crying. I was concerned about his weight as well and the fleas that were on both of them. Fleas that bad can be extremely dangerous for kittens that young and it seems they were not getting them treated at all. She said the adult cats didn’t have fleas so were not being treated and the other kittens weren’t that bad (contradicting her post on Facebook). Which I know is untrue because it just isn’t possible for the babies to be that bad without some or all of the other kittens and adult cats having fleas as well.
I decided at that moment that they were better off with me and that I was taking them to the vet the next day (again it was Sunday). I got my cat carrier out of the car put them in on some blankets. I had already asked what food she was feeding them and litter she was using and had gotten that and some other supplies (blankets, a little bed, some toys, litter box, litter, food, etc.). I took them home (Eddie was already at work. I made the decision on my own because I was super concerned about them) and got them all cuddled in and started feeding them. They ate but wouldn’t drink and still seemed hungry so I put more food in and added additional water to the food and mixed it in so they would get some water that way.
I looked them over really well and realized it was much worse then I thought. I don’t have much experience with babies that age but even I knew that Marmalade was literally starving. I called a 24-hour veterinarian in the city, explained the situation and she agreed with me that they sounded like they had not been eating for a few days and were starving and that I did the right thing.
I asked if they thought this was an emergency and if I needed to call a local vets emergency line and after talking to me for a few minutes and asking me some questions about alertness etc she said no but to continue feeding them the way I was every 2 hours and try to get some water into them. I told her how I was doing it (google can be a wonderful thing as long as you verify sources and use reputable sites) with the food and she said to keep that up and even try a spoon with a bit of water or a syringe or eyedropper and call my vet first thing in the morning.
We had a long night, I hand-fed them both every 2 hours as the clinic had suggested and after being peed on, pooped on and thrown up on I got them through the night. Marmalade I quickly noticed was having issues eating. His jaw seemed to grind (or his teeth) and he struggled to chew and swallow. He would eat from a spoon a bit but he was really grinding and it killed me to watch. I called the 24-hour vet again, explained what was happening and again was told not an emergency but call first thing in the morning to my local vet, which I was already doing anyway. I did my best and tried everything I could to get them eating and drinking. Mango caught on pretty quick but Marmalade was really struggling to eat and drink, but I just kept trying to get it into him. I googled the crap out of stuff and asked all kinds of questions on Facebook then googled the crap out of that to ensure it was correct.
Finally, when the morning came, I called at 8 am to a local vet who had actually done Max’s neuter surgery 8 years ago and needles and explained the situation. She told me to keep doing what I was doing and bring them in at 1 p.m.earlier if anything changed for the worse (COVID rules they can only do one appointment at a time even though there is two vets at the clinic – the owner from my understanding is only doing overnight on-call shifts so his co-workers still have jobs).
We made out fine until 12 and then got ready to go. I got them into the carrier and Eddie who decided to take the day off because he was seriously concerned for them both came with me and stayed in the car while I brought them in. After a short weight, I brought them in and explained everything to the vet herself and she too Marmalade from me. She frowned as soon as she touched him and asked me again how old he was. I said he was born July 10th and she asked if I was sure and I said yes absolutely. She said he was the size of about a 2 week old and was literally starving to death and dehydrated. She weighed him. 273 grams… that is the size of a two-week-old kitten.
At this point, I was crying while holding Mango and told her to do whatever she felt was best. She said she did not believe it was to the point of euthanasia, however, it would be critical to get them up to weight fast. I told her do whatever she had too. Thank god I have a student loan on the way and we had money in the bank as well. I said just do everything you feel you need to do, don’t worry about money. She said okay. So they gave them fluids, and flea, ear mite and deworming treatment. She got 5 cans of recovery rs food some nutri-cal gel and some syringes and a ton of instructions making me repeat them a few times.
She then told me that though she would not normally advocate removing kittens from their mom at 6 weeks old that I was absolutely right to do it and that I may have just saved their lives. She said Marmalade was literally hours from passing most likely and that there was still a chance it might happen. She said she believe Mango would be okay and she hoped Marmalade would be too and that she thought we caught it in time.
I took them home and for the rest of the day and all night and all the next day, I never left their sides other than to pee. They slept in the carrier right beside me in the bedroom and I got up multiple times a night, when not in bed they were pretty much in my arms the whole time or in their bed that I bought them, covered with a blanket.
The whole next day I cuddled them together and separately, and I should mention throughout all this Eddie was right there by my side getting me things, doing things for me, cleaning up, cooking and holding babies. He let me deal with the feeding as he was scared of making a mistake but otherwise he was right there the whole time. At one point I broke down because I was scared we might end up losing Marmalade no matter what we do. While that was happening he took them both because I felt I was useless and not making a difference and just basically having a mini-meltdown.
In talking to him he quickly got me to realize that no matter what the outcome I had put my whole heart and soul into them in the last 36 hours and that I was giving them the best chance I could. I was exhausted so we bundled them up in the carrier put them right beside me on the floor right where I could see and reach them and both went to sleep. This was about 12. I set the alarm for 2 am, I got up fed them, mixing water with their food. Tried to coax a bit more water into them, gave them time in the litter box, got peed on again by Marmalade who just did not seem to be able to do anything but lay down in the litter box and then settled them down again. Set the alarm for 4. Got up did the same thing over again. Settled them down and set the alarm for 6 am.
We never made it to 6 am. I was woken up about 5:30 am by a loud meow. I looked in the cage and could see Mango looking at me. He meowed again. I thought maybe he had just basically found his voice, up till this point neither of them had really said much. Not even a squeak. I don’t think they had it in them to be honest. Then there were more meows, this time different and not coming from Mango. I yelled for Eddie, took the carrier out in the living room and pulled Marmalade out wrapped him in a blanket lightly and just held him. He was letting out one long meow every 30 seconds or so, he started stiffening and stretching almost like convulsing. I think he was. Eddie came out. I told him I think we were losing Marmalade.
I told him to call the vet. Marmalade continued to cry out. He stumbled a bit because he was upset but we finally got through and Marmalade was getting weaker and weaker and his breathing was slowing. I was crying my eyes out and the vet told me it was too late and that I had done everything I could do but I needed to just hold him in my arms and let him pass. So I did with him on the phone. Stroking his cheek and telling him it was okay. He stopped breathing and I told the vet he stopped. He waited a moment and then said double-check. I did. He was gone. I started to ball. Eddie took over with the vet and I cradled Marmalade balling and apologizing to him. Eddie called Mom and she said she would come right over. In the 20 minutes or so that I waited for her I just sat stroking him, telling him it was okay, apologizing and crying harder then I think I have ever cried in my life.
Mom showed up and sat a bit longer because I think she realized I was not ready to part with him just yet. She took him gently to confirm he was gone and then wrapped him back up and handed him back. I just held him while we talked about everything. We were so mad about the whole situation. Concerned about the other kittens still at their house. I wondered if I had made a mistake, done something wrong, but then I would look at Mango, starting to thrive and told myself no that he was proof that Marmalade was just too far gone to begin with.
I sit right now writing this balling my eyes out at 5:30 am the morning after Marmalade crossed the rainbow bridge while Mango sleeps soundly on my chest and he makes this all worth-while. So does Marmalade. Yes, he passed, but in those 36 hours, he knew more love in his little life than most get in a lifetime. There wasn’t anything I wasn’t willing to do to give them a chance. Still willing to do with Mango. He, I am glad to say seems to be doing well considering.
This morning I called the vet back to let them know even though I spoke to the owner (vet) the night before I wanted to talk to the vet assistant and let her know and thank them and the vet from the morning before. I plan to take them something when I get a chance. A card, some chocolates or something and Mango to cuddle with. Mom gave me Mango. He’s mine now and I am going to continue to fight for him. If he survives this, that will be Marmalade’s gift to me. Mine was to love him. Truly love him and hold him while he passed, as hard as that is, it was a gift in and of itself because I got to easy his passing and show him all the love I could give him. I refuse to look at it any other way.
I wondered if he should have been euthanized at the vets earlier but honestly, I think he did initially have a chance and he did not seem to be in pain at that point. I think he needed those few hours with me to know true love before he passed. To have that time with us, with Mango. I have to look at it that way. Otherwise, I think I would break into pieces. So many people have been here for me, for us, these last few days from Eddie and our families to friends, vets, strangers and even Max who at first was leery of the kittens but now seem somewhat interested, if not a bit scared of Mango.
Mom had taken Marmalage early yesterday morning to their place and we came over a little later. Eddie dug a grave, I found a small box and placed him and his blankie in the box and Eddie buried him beside Pumpkin. Mom is making a gravestone for them both and big enough for any pets we ever have to bury there. They will all rest in peace among the cherry and apple trees that Pumpkin used to love to roam. Now they can roam free together.
We sat with Mom after and talked. We are concerned about the other 6 kittens. We called the SPCA, they said to call the Cruelty Hotline, Mom did. I gave their names and address. I don’t care. Even if this was an “accident” who watches kittens starve to death, and then calls their intended families to come to get them so they don’t die there.
These kittens were starved to death, literally in Marmalade’s case because some humans could not be bothered to pay attention and ensure that momma cat was feeding them. They said that they were weaned, that they were eating soft food and hard food watered down, eating and drinking on their own. They had not eaten or drank in a while. I have no idea how long it takes a kitten to starve. Honestly never thought it would be something I would ever have to deal with. You can’t tell me they didn’t know something was wrong. They could have prevented this. They could have caught it early and treated this. They could have caught it almost too late and treated it, but instead, they called me to come get them and in this case, I am glad I did. Everything in my being said they are too young to be separated but something higher said, they are in danger.
Instead, I brought home two extremely emancipated kittens starving to death and gave it my all only to watch one of them literally die in my arms as I held him and told him it was okay he could go. My depression and anxiety has been through the roof today. I am calling today to see what I can do about it. I took a nap only to wake up in a thunderstorm screaming that it had to stop or he would get wet. I had to take an Ativan and Eddie had to do breathing techniques with me to get me to literally stop howling and scaring the kitten. It won’t happen again but I am not taking any chances. I don’t know if I need more meds, more therapy. I don’t know. Honestly, I would do it all again though. Watching Mango crawl out from under his blanket, eat, climb up the side of the couch to the little makeshift litterbox, pee and crawl back under the blanket again. It’s worth it. So worth it.
I ended up calling the vet again later yesterday to let them know I called the SPCA and that the SPCA said they may need the vet records or depending on the situation even testimonies. The vet clinic was wonderful. She sat on the phone with me for more than 10 minutes while I balled again, telling me over and over this was not my fault, that I did everything I could, she said not many people would go pick up two kittens that were supposed to be given to you in two weeks time when you sense something is wrong take them with you can call a vet first thing, spend hundreds on them over 2 days only to loose one and said you would do it again tomorrow if it meant one of them had a chance.
Most people would walk away and say I don’t have them yet, they are not in my care, they are your issue and walk away. But that is not Eddie and I. He supported me 100% along the way. He cried with me. He raged with me. He cradled a dying kitten with me so it wouldn’t be alone. He’s truly one of a kind and the love of my life. I can’t possibly love the man any more than I already do but somehow I do.
Today is going to be another hard one but each day will get easier. Anyone who says, it’s just a cat better get ready to get a shoe upside the head. It’s so much more than that. It’s ignorance. It’s apathy. Total indifference for a life. This was not an accident. This was so much more.
It’s taught me a lot though. I am tougher then I think. I can fight like the dickens for what I feel is right. I can handle so much more than I ever thought I could. I will come out the other side. Battle scars and wounds aside. I will make it and I am sure Mango will be just fine and if not I know one thing, that I have been giving it my best and I have never felt a real purpose before. I do now. I was meant to be in these little ones’ lives for some reason. The reason will come together and that purpose will become more apparent someday and I will be okay.
Some photos and a video of my little ones:
Max is not in them because he is too scared to get near yet, but I love that little monster so much he’ll always be my first baby.
Update: This one is for you Marmalade. This is your brother Mango thriving and living for you.