Little Fella

Little Fella header


The MacIsaac’s camper trailer is dark brown and white with chrome accents – the perfect color scheme for hiding dirt and mold. But I don’t think Kipper’s barking at mold. He barks at shadows all the time, but it’s overcast today and the shadow under the trailer isn’t really moving, so there must be something out there. Or maybe I’m just dazed from all the low-grade pot we’ve been smoking.

After about 10 minutes, when his buzz starts to recede, Billy goes outside to empty a few cat litter boxes – the MacIsaacs have 17 cats and six active cat litters in total – and I go outside with him just to check out why Kipper’s barking.

I crouch down. The smell of wet dirt under the trailer helps explain the soggy piece of toilet paper lying in the shadow. I can’t believe Kipper has been barking at an inanimate object for what seems like an hour.

But wait. That isn’t a piece of dirty toilet paper. It’s… oh my god. It’s a beige kitten that’s been abandoned by its mom! Why would a post-partum cat abandon its own little kitten? Don’t they need to feed their kittens just to ease the pain from the milk pressure? Isn’t this instinctive? Time freezes for a few seconds because I can’t process what I’m seeing in front of me.

I have to bend over to get a closer look, my heart-rate doubling as my mind focuses and my emotions go red hot. The kitten, like me, has round bulging eyes. But his little eyes won’t open for a few weeks – if they ever open at all. And though his eyes are closed shut and the kitten is silent, I can feel his fear – his deep and unrelenting fear.

I rush him into the house and wash the dirt and placenta off his shivering little body in the kitchen sink. He looks sort of homely and morbid: like an abandoned biology project. But he’s moving and warm – alive.

Not knowing what to give him to eat or drink, I wet a piece of paper towel with milk and let him lick it a bit, which he does. He starts to move in a way that demonstrates that he is, perhaps, willing to live, but only if someone helps him. If someone will just pick him up and do what they’re supposed to do naturally, this kitten just might survive – he just might want to survive.

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An hour later, Billy’s mother gets home from her job at Zellers and I explain what happened. Having raised a few dozen kittens in her time, Mrs. MacIsaac puts my mind at ease as I leave their house to go home to my own – my teenage emotions forever changed.

Eventually, one of the other mother cats at the MacIsaac’s – one who had just had kittens of her own a week earlier – adopts Little Fella and he starts to feed regularly and often. Within a week, he’s as healthy looking as his older cousins whose eyes have already opened as they stumble outside their homemade kitten pen.

Little Fella is always a step behind these siblings, and his biological mother – who is the grandmother of the kittens he is nursing with – seems to have completely given up on mothering. She just paces around in circles meowing for a few weeks, and then calms down. Perhaps she was just too old or too frail after all the other kittens she’s had in her lifetime. Or maybe she had problems of her own when she was a kitten. I have no idea.

When Little Fella got older, he didn’t really act like other cats. His best friend was Samo, the neighbor’s Chihuahua, and Little Fella would always jump up on people and lick them on the face as if he was a dog himself. He rarely meowed, and seemed to love human beings and want to be loyal to them. He liked to chase cars with Samo and even wagged his tail when he saw his favorite people.

Perhaps there’s a lesson here for all cats: mistreat your kittens, and they might reject their own community. I mean, wouldn’t you do the same if your own community had left you to die?

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