Kittens left to die in Grand Forks are gaining a new lease on life thanks to dedicated volunteers and a local seniors’ home.
The four black and white shorthairs were perhaps 10 days old when they were found in a cardboard box under the city’s Darrell Priede Bridge in late September, according to Anne Hawes, now fostering the kittens on behalf of the Boundary Helping Hands Feline Rescue Society (Helping Hands). Little is known about the woman who saved them that day — only that she rushed the four little souls to the city’s Kettle River Veterinary clinic not two kilometres away.
“Unfortunately, I never got a chance to meet her,” Helping Hands President Kimberly Feeny told The Gazette. “Of course, no one came forward to tell us why they would leave a box full of kittens underneath a bridge.”
Whoever abandoned the little ones could have brought them to Helping Hands’ shelter in nearby Johnson Flats, where Feeny said 18 cats were awaiting forever homes as of Thursday, Oct. 28. Leaving them to waste away, “They effectively signed their death warrants,” she remarked icily.
Having tended to the discarded brood at the vet clinic, Dr. Weston Gobbett later qualified that, “Kittens generally have a remarkable ‘will to live’ and can recover from quite severe situations.”
Their situation must’ve been quite severe, indeed, with Hawes recalling how they came out of their box hungry, “smelly” and slow to move, their matted fur flecked with tiny white bumps that turned out to be fly eggs. Maggots pulled from the smallest kitten’s bleeding ears would show the animals had been left alone long enough for some of the eggs to hatch.
“I didn’t realize cats could be so mistreated,” she said.
Where someone had gone out of their way to make sure they’d be forgotten, the Hawes family took them in and gave them names. Anne even booked time off work so that she and her family could bottle feed their new charges.
“We have a routine set up where I feed them in the evening and then again before I go to bed. My son, Jarod, feeds them through the night and my husband feeds them when he gets home from work in the afternoon.”
It was through Jarod that the kittens — Cappuccino, Espresso, Java and Mocha — were introduced to the residents at Phoenix Manor (Phoenix), an independent living centre not far from where the babies were found.
Jarod was 14 when he was diagnosed with high-functioning autism in 2016. His parents soon found that being around cats helped him to cope in social situations, so they adopted two rescues for him.
“They were absolutely wonderful with him and he was wonderful with them,” Hawes said. When Jarod started sharing his love of cats with seniors, “it was the perfect opportunity for him to interact with other people.”
Jarod, Anne and “the coffee kittens” have been a huge hit with Phoenix residents like Jackie Austinson, who told The Gazette she’d had to give up her own cat when she moved in. Joining her friends Stan Rusch and Jane Bradley in the common room Saturday morning, Austinson cradled little Mocha in her arms.
“It’s always an enjoyable hour when she comes to visit us,” she chuckled.
Now almost six weeks old, all four kittens are faring well. The Hawes family has decided to adopt Mocha, whose tiny ears seem to be working just fine.
To donate to Helping Hands, or to inquire about adopting a cat, phone Feeny at 250-801-0519. For more information about the shelter, visit their website at boundaryfelinerescuesociety.org.