In honor of International Cat Day, I would like to share the story of Wiggles. It was a snowy day in March (hey, it’s the Midwest) when I received a frantic call from a former co-worker.
“Lauren, I found a pregnant cat. She is the sweetest thing ever and I want to keep her, but my husband is terribly allergic. Can you help?” she sobbed.
I could already hear my husband’s voice in my head: “NO!” I soon found myself driving in a blinding snow storm to meet my friend in the parking lot of the local Shop n’ Save. She and her daughter had red faces and running noses, not from the cold, but because they were that concerned about the cat and her safety.
They graciously provided me with some supplies. I secured the confused feline in the backseat and started rehearsing the speech I would give my husband as we headed home. Thankfully, we have a room that is next to our house (a former barber shop) where the cat could stay until we found out more about her health.
I made an appointment at our vet early the next morning. The kitty traveled very well in the car and I never heard a peep. Unlike our cats that howl like crazy the moment you take them outside.
Our vet loved her, but had a difficult time handling her.
“She’s very wiggly,” the vet said.
And so she became Wiggles. I waited patiently as our vet took Wiggles to the back to do a blood draw. This reminded me of the very first kitten that we ever rescued. Miracle was just two weeks old when we found her in the middle of Main Street. I was very familiar with all of the tests and numerous appointments we had to make to ensure she would be a healthy cat.
My heart sank when the vet returned with grim news: Wiggles was FIV positive. This was definitely going to hinder the ways that I could care for her. We already have three cats of our own. I knew that she would have to be kept separated so that our cats didn’t contract FIV from her saliva or scratching.
I was treated to something very special. I got to see Wiggles’ ultrasound being performed! The vet proudly pointed to three tiny kittens on the screen. She did tell me that one kitten looked very small and said it probably wouldn’t survive. There is no way of telling if the kittens would also be FIV positive or if they were too far along for the disease to affect them.
She told me I had three options: euthanize Wiggles, spay Wiggles and kill the kittens, or take Wiggles home and help deliver the babies. This was obviously a no-brainer. I then received a crash course in birthing kittens.
Wiggles settled in quickly. She loved rolling over for belly rubs and was thrilled to have a steady source of food. Weeks flew by and she continued to get larger and larger.
One day, Wiggles started pacing in her cage. I looked down at the towel I had placed inside and noticed a spot of blood. The kittens were coming!
My husband was at work and I was all alone. Thankfully, I had my supply kit and The Complete Guide to Cats book by the ASPCA. I said a prayer and moved Wiggles into her cardboard birthing box.
The sweet and loving cat that I had come to know suddenly turned into the Cujo of the cat world. She was hissing and constantly trying to escape the box. I did my best to keep her contained.
Wiggles finally settled down and I noticed a tiny pink tail and feet beneath her. She began licking the kitten…but it didn’t move. Sadly, this was the stillborn kitten that the vet had warned me about. Its legs were malformed and its little eyes never opened. My heart broke as I took the baby away from Wiggles.
That was to be the only kitten she would birth. The next day, I took her to the vet where she had a C-section. I received a call later that afternoon that they had successfully delivered one kitten. My heart broke even further as I wondered what happened to the second kitten. Truthfully, I didn’t want to ask.
As I walked into the vet’s office later that afternoon, I was greeted by one of the vet technicians.
“So, Wiggles is rejecting her kitten,” she said.
What?! Rejecting her kitten? How? Why?
I asked if Wiggles was merely swiping with her paw or actually trying to bite the baby.
“She’s biting,” the vet tech breathed.
I told her that we were stocked up on KMR (Kitten Milk Replacer) and had bought brand new nursing bottles in preparation for the kittens’ arrival. They handed me the crate containing the unhappy new mom and a Styrofoam box that held the smallest kitten I had ever seen in my life.
Baby Addy loves to snuggle.
My husband fell in love the moment that he saw the tiny bundle of fur sleeping on the towel. He immediately volunteered to take the first round of bottle feeding. This had to be done every two hours to assure that the baby would get all of the nutrients she needed to grow properly.
I decided to be brave the following day and re-introduced Wiggles to the kitten I had named Adeline (Addy for short). Thankfully, Wiggles began licking Addy’s fur and didn’t object to nursing. Our best guess is that Wiggles had still been in pain from the C-section when the vet staff had tried to get Addy to nurse and that her tiny little claws were making Wiggles feel less than comfortable.
Addy grew like a weed. Her favorite thing to do was eat and her belly soon became round and pudgy. My heart swelled as I watched Wiggles playing with Addy. There is just something about the sight of a mother bonding with her daughter no matter the species.
Wiggles nursing Addy.
Addy loves her Grumpy Cat toy!
Four months had passed. It was time to take Wiggles and Addy back to the vet to be re-tested for FIV. My stomach turned as my husband and I sat in the waiting room. I didn’t want to give either of them up, but I also didn’t want to risk the health of my established cats either.
The vet soon delivered the news. Wiggles was still FIV positive. Addy tested negative.
While I was saddened by Wiggles’ results, I was thrilled with Addy’s. After much pleading on my part, my husband agreed that we could keep Addy as long as her test results were good.
I thought that we were in the clear…until the vet said that she wants to re-test Addy again in September to make sure that she’s really negative. In the meantime, Addy is to be kept away from our cats AND away from Wiggles.
This presented a great challenge. Wiggles and Addy were already inhabiting the only space in our home that could be truly isolated. My husband worked out a temporary solution until we could find a forever home for Wiggles.
Being known in my community as a resource for all things pet related, I began searching through my binder of shelters and rescue groups. I was specifically looking for places designated as no-kill. Wiggles is such a sweet cat and she doesn’t deserve to be killed for having a condition.
The first shelter I called thanked me for everything that we’ve done for Wiggles and Addy, but said that they were full. I went through my entire binder and was either told that there were no vacancies or (more often) that the shelters didn’t accept FIV positive cats.
I’ll admit, I was outraged. My husband and I just visited an animal shelter in Houston, Texas that specifically has an FIV cat room. How could places that claim to be advocates for homeless animals shun those that are truly in need?
While volunteering at the Animal Protection Agency in Missouri on Sunday, an employee came to pet our tripawd dog, Penny. She helps co-teach the humane education class to birthday party groups. My husband began telling the employee about Wiggles and everything that she had gone through. We almost fell out of our chairs when the employee said that the APA would absolutely take Wiggles.
It turns out that the APA has an area dedicated to FIV cats too! I was beyond excited. Wiggles will be able to go to a safe place where she will continue to be well cared for and, hopefully, find a loving forever home.
Addy (left) relaxes with Wiggles (right).
I know that I will shed tears when I hand Wiggles over to the capable APA staff. She has taught me so much about life and love. I am honored that my former co-worker chose me to help Wiggles in her time of need. When I look at Addy, I will forever be reminded of Wiggles and the wonderful five months that we spent together.