Life in the Time of Coronavirus: kittens!

The search to adopt a kitten was long and arduous. We filled out endless application forms with rescue organizations yet never heard a word. We learned that, due to COVID-19, the county animal shelters would only allow pets to be adopted by residents of that county because they did home delivery. Weeks went by. In early May I got a tip from a friend to check Craig’s list. On May 4, I found there an add for three kittens in Roxboro, about an hour away. The add had a photo of three adorable fur-balls curled up together and a phone number. I called immediately and talked to a man who told me they had found these kittens abandoned, presumably the offspring of a female cat whose body they had found, perhaps killed by a car, they weren’t sure. Anyway, they took them home and nursed them for several weeks. He thought they were 8 weeks old and ready to be adopted. We made arrangements to drive to his house in two days to see them.

Dave and I wondered if it would be smart to take two of them. He said he had always done so in the past and found they could take out their energy on each other. I quickly warmed to the idea and texted the man that evening to say we might want two. OK he replied.

Ah, how exciting! We relished the distraction from the endless stream of depressing pandemic news. Everything was being politicized. Right-wing groups were having protests of the stay-at-home orders in many places. The Congress was fighting over rescue bills and allowing big corporations to receive more help than small businesses. People were losing jobs and, consequently, losing health insurance. The PBS News Hour profiled the stories of those who had died and interviewed medical professionals about the heart-breaking experiences they were having. Many spent long days caring for hospitalized patients only to come home and live in the basement to avoid infecting their small children. Testing was not widely available nor were there enough ventilators or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The President was more focused on the November election than on what the public health experts were advising. We felt grateful that our governor here in North Carolina was paying deep attention to our head of public health, Dr. Mandy Cohen, who said we must follow the numbers as we decide how much and when to open back up. I paid enough attention to the news to be reasonably informed from quarantine at home, but most of it I could do little about. I felt eager to find something I could do something about.

Give me kittens, please!

Before we drove to Roxboro, we amassed a few supplies in preparation. We got cans of kitten food, food bowls, a mat, some toys, a litter box, some litter to fill it. Just the basics. We got ready.

The day before the kitten visit, I had a follow-up tele-medicine appointment with my doctor. I asked her advice about appropriate precautions. Her first advice was “don’t get kittens now” but added “you must decide the level of risk you are willing to take” and “wear a mask and do not go inside anyone’s house.” Dave and I discussed what to do to stay safe. I texted the kitten man. He assured me his wife would bring the kittens outside. We felt relieved and decided to proceed.

We donned our masks and left with plenty of time to find their home out in the country, our cat carrier in hand. When we arrived, a woman and her middle-school aged son came out properly masked carrying three kittens. There were two gray tabby females and one black and white male. She handed us one of the gray tabby kittens and the black and white saying they were buddies while the other gray tabby was kind of a loner. We quickly decided to take these two and snuggled them into the cat carrier. She gave us some bags of food and some toys and even a kitchen towel they had slept with to give them something familiar to go with them. The exchange took about 5-10 minutes. We applied hand sanitizer and left. I sat in the back seat with the cat carrier full of kittens.

On the way home I called our veterinarian so see if they could work us in earlier than the first appointment we had scheduled six days hence. They were able to see us the next day. At home we brought them to the guest room we had turned into the “Kitty Palace.” It had a double bed, dresser and book shelves and plenty of room for a litter box and kitten bowls. We put a baby gate in the doorway to prevent Paddy, our 4 year old black lab mix, from helping himself to kitten food. Paddy kept watch outside that door at all times as we went in and out.

The vet visit followed strict pandemic protocols. We called upon arrival. The masked vet tech came out to interview us and take the cat carrier of kittens inside. We were free to wait or run errands for the hour or so it would take. The vet called to report the results of her exam. The kittens each weighed 2 lbs which meant they could get their first shots. They would need antibiotic eye ointment for 10 days to treat conjunctivitis from upper respiratory infections common in wild kittens. They were tested for feline leukemia and other diseases (the next day we learned the tests were negative). The vet agreed that they were not only healthy but adorable.

Three weeks later, Fiona and Galloway have taken over our house and our hearts. Paddy keeps a close but respectful eye on them. We are all becoming good friends. Because Dave and I married late in life, this is our chance to be parents together. We love our babies and marvel as they gallop around the house, stalk and wrestle each other, and find cozy spots to curl up and rest. They have learned what “dinner” means and come running when I call them. They have found every crevice we didn’t know we had to hide in. They are a joy.

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