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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Homer

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,


Last Friday evening my husband and I were on our way home and he suddenly said "there's a kitten back there." "Hit?" I said, bracing myself mentally for his response. He was already braking to turn around. "No, I think it is alive." The highway we were on passes through our local community of Bixby, and is four fast moving and busy lanes of traffic, but with high curbs on each side. We turned around and went back, facing two oncoming lanes of traffic. There was a tiny fluff of orange fur, plastered as tightly as possible against the curb with vehicles whizzing by inches away at 40 mph. I held up my arms and waved at cars to stop, and a nice man in a pickup halted against the curb about 40 feet in back of the quaking little kitten to stop the traffic for me. I scooped the fluff ball up, relieved he hadn't bolted from me into the traffic, because if he had, he would likely have been killed. He was so tiny the curb itself was preventing his escape away from the street.

Standing on the grass behind the curb I looked around me. The kitten was tiny - no way could it have traveled very far on its own, but there were no signs of other kittens, an adult cat, or any likely hiding place around " all flat mowed green grass around a big box store. Satisfying myself there were no more to rescue, I looked my little charge, hoping I wouldn't find a shattered leg or worse, but he seemed okay other than thin and terrified. He burrowed into my shirt trying to hide, and it was heart wrenching to see his fear. At the same time I knew we were intended to find him, otherwise how else would my husband have spotted something smaller than a soda can in the dusk?

So he went home with us, and I set to work crating him in a spare room to prevent contact with our house cats. Stray and feral cats and kittens often carry the inevitably fatal feline leukemia virus, and I could not take the chance this kitten was infected. He got a box with a towel, a litter box, a tiny bit of milk and some canned cat food. I was relieved he was old enough to eat on his own, but was prepared to buy kitten replacement milk and bottle feed him if that was what would have been needed to pull him through.

He accepted me as his new Mom, as it was obvious he wasn't old enough to be on his own. Kittens are naturally clean and he was happy to use the litter box and he ate anything and everything I gave him. At my vet's office the next morning he weighed in at 0.8 of a pound, and she guessed he was about 6 weeks old although he seemed pitifully small to be that old to me. A dose of wormer and we were on our way. We've got a few days yet before he can be FELV tested, but in the meantime he gets snuggle and play time with us, rewarding us with incessant purring and punishing us when we close his door with heartbreaking yowls.

Cats reproduce at high frequency and most communities are overrun with loose, stray and feral cats. Their life expectancies, if unsupported by human friends, are very short, but their high reproductive rates ensure continual overpopulation. If every single cat, owned or not, in the U.S. was spayed or neutered tomorrow, we'd still have enough cats for anyone who wanted one or more for the next 10 years. You probably doubt me, but it's true. There are millions of unwanted cats in the United States right this minute. And as long as people don't alter their animals, that situation will continue forever.

This little guy is one of the extremely lucky ones. He was willing to bond with us, although I suspect he was born to a feral mother, because he was very young and because he was very desperate. We were his only hope, and that was enough to overcome his fear. My husband spotted him, we were able to get him off the highway uninjured, and he was basically healthy. And in the kind of happy ending which is very rare in these situations, my pet sitter, who was here this weekend while we were away, brought his wife over to see the little refugee and she fell in love with him. Linda and Bruce are kind people, and the kitten they have named "Mikey" will having a loving and safe indoor home with them. And before they pick him up for his new forever home, I will be making, and paying for, the reservation to have him neutered.

It's a drop in the bucket, but I refuse to stop trying. And on the way home from the vet I checked the spot where we found him one more time, because I just can't stop wondering what happened to the rest of the litter.


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