Earlier this year my household got a call. A kitten was in need. Of course she arrived, wide-eyed in her carrier. I named her Molly.
She was suspicious of people, refused to eat, and shrank away from everything, terrified. She had been dumped in a bin with her siblings. Luckily, all were rescued but were in a bad shape, physically and psychologically.
After being nursed through the crucial first period, this is how Molly came to be living in a crate in my bedroom for two weeks, learning to forget her fear of humans. After being too tense to eat for so long, she was scrawny for her age and in danger of never finding a home. In some shelters she would have been put down as a difficult case.
That was her first Friday afternoon at my house. Eventually, she appreciated the security of the crate, and began to drool and purr when spoken to. By Sunday I could put my hand in the crate and get cuddles. Her appetite returned and she started toileting. By the middle of the first week she was enjoying play time. She could run loose in my room to shake out her growing pent-up energy.
Molly developed an attachment to a cat toy and played with it. She became more curious but after the first week remained too skittish to be picked up, or handled properly, let alone be adopted. Outside of her crate she remained suspicious at sudden human movements and holding her was dangerous for me. Vet nurses still recall their first, bloody, encounter with her and I didn’t want to be a casualty.
During her second week she became more comfortable with the television and household goings on. She spent more time out of the crate and I could get closer to her. Literally, Molly’s future depended upon her becoming used to being patted and held. This was in addition to getting accustomed to the kitchen, the radio, and visitors. I will never forget the look of affront when being threatened with a kiss. But I digress. Firstly, she had to get used to me.
She shouldn’t have been this scared but humans let her down. As they let down countless animals they take on, or refuse to take responsibility for, as pets. After the second week, her brother joined her and she was safe to stay in the spare (now dubbed kitten) room with him. After two months of daily cuddles and other interactions, as well as good food and fun, they were both at normal weight. Molly learned to rub her head against me, and began to sit on my lap for cuddles after breakfast, if she could get to it before her brother Dusty.
Molly, especially, had come a long way. But both Molly and her brother had a bit further to go yet. You see, as much as I wanted to keep both of them (but especially the gloriously floofy Dusty of my heart) they had to find their permanent homes.
Despite my tears and doubts, I am happy to say both Molly and Dusty were adopted. Because of their amazing resilience and ability to overcome the fears they (rightly) held they have homes. They are now enjoying the kind of loving and happy lives they deserved from the start.
If it takes months of careful attention for kittens to recover from premature separation from their mother and being dumped as refuse in a bin, imagine what it takes for human beings to recover from trauma? Humans mostly pay lip service to the idea that life is sacred. But nothing is sacred or respected if some lives are punished just for being. I think of US border policies, but also of families on Manus and Nauru. I think of the Rohingya girl who cannot smile because she witnessed her family being murdered before being shot as she fled her home. I think of bloodied Syrian children bombed and gassed. I have scant hope petitions I sign can save any of them. My outrage is pointless, and most days, I can barely save myself.
It might not be much, but in helping foster kittens, and especially these two, perhaps I have reduced the sum total of unhappiness in the world by a tiny fraction.
What I have realised in writing this is saving kittens is an optimistic task, no matter how angering or saddening their mistreatment. Not because kittens become glorious bundles of gleeful play with tiny, razor-sharp claws. No. In saving kittens, it means I must trust there are kind people who will adopt and look after these two and all the others for the rest of their lives.
And the thing is, there are. I have met some of them. Today that is enough.