Anne leaned forward over the minute kitten in her lap. She was trying to get it to open its mouth to suckle on the nipple of a doll-sized bottle. A silky curtain of her blond hair slid forward, obscuring my view. After a moment, my sixteen-year-old granddaughter leaned back and I saw the small calico kitten that she cradled avidly sucking on the nipple.
I asked, “Have you given the kitten a name yet?”
My granddaughter’s blue eyes glanced up at me as she answered, “Ah…no, not yet. We just call it, Baby Kitty.”
I thought, “It’s just as well that they not name it right away. The chance of this small feline surviving is very slim.” Nodding approval, I said to her, “When you do name it, think about ‘Lucky’.”
While I was at the farm cleaning out my childhood home the day before, I had seen a very skinny young gray and white cat in the yard. In the nearby tall grass I spotted two dead gray and white kittens. Jake, the new owner of the farm was near me. I pointed them out and said, “The mother didn’t pick a proper hiding place to have her litter as cats usually do.”
Jake nodded and said, “She ate her first kitten when it was born this morning.”
Taking a few steps closer, I heard loud plaintive cries. Then I saw a small wet, gray, white and orange kitten blindly crawling around in the grass looking for its mother. Sitting on a pot of German ivy next to the milk house, the mother cat watched with an air of detachment. I shook my head and said, “How sad. That kitten won’t survive, either.”
My daughter Niki and her children stopped at the farm later that afternoon to see how my work was coming along and to help me. Ben, Luke and Jake found the kitten. One scooped it up and all approached my daughter clamoring, “Mom, let us keep this kitten! Please? Please?”
I gave Niki a meaningful look and discouraged, “Its going to die, you know.”
The begging continued until Niki reached over to rub the kittens little head. She gave in, “Ok, but it’ll be a lot of work to take care of it.”
The next day when I called Niki to see how things were going, she said, “I thought we could give the kitten cow’s milk, but research on the computer said that it wouldn’t survive on that. We have to give it cat-milk replacer. I went to the veterinarian’s office and bought some and a tiny bottle. We keep the kitten warm by wrapping it in a towel and placing it in a five quart ice cream bucket. It has to be fed every two to three hours and all it can have in an entire day is what you can put in a medicine cup.”
Wondering if Niki had taken on the kitten’s care, I asked, “So, who’s doing the night feedings?”
Niki said, “Anne has taken on the job. She puts the pail next to her bed. The kitty meows when hungry and wakes her up.” With a small chuckle, she confided, “The little boys know that the mother cat ate her first kitten. They asked me why she didn’t eat this one. I told them she didn’t eat it because she was full. After I told them that, I thought how much that sounded like something Uncle Billy would have said.”
I began to think the kitten would beat the odds, but like a wind-up toy running out of power, the kitten became weaker and lethargic despite the care Anne took in feeding it. One evening a few days later, it died in Niki’s arms.
When the kitten was alive, I had thought it should be named Lucky. After it died, I thought to myself that my daughter’s children were lucky, or more accurately, blessed. Instead of avoiding the likelihood of the kitten dying, she allowed her children to experience trying to save its life. Despite having lost her husband last year in a car accident, my daughter lives in a way that shows her family how to go on living.