Tiny black kitten Eartha Kitt may look sweet and sleepy in this photograph. But when I took it, I was trying to demonstrate something else. I was trying to get evidence of a vaccine reaction Eartha was living with, just in case the shelter needed to know a little more about what had happened and what should happen next.
Let me back up a little.
Eartha is closing in on the two-pound mark, and that means she's getting close to the weight and age at which she can return to the shelter and find a new family. While the shelter does a good job of disinfecting and vaccinating and otherwise keeping the shelter environment as safe as it can be for resident cats, it does come with a few dangers. And that means cats that enter the shelter must have their vaccines.
Eartha had been too small for vaccines, which is one of the reasons she came to me for foster care. Since she was big enough, it was time to start the shots last weekend.
The shelter gives combination vaccines, which pack many different kinds of protection into one shot. And the vast majority of cats really have no problems with this vaccine at all, aside from a little soreness or stiffness at the shot site. Eartha was different.
After about 4 hours, she turned into a very bendable, very sleepy, doll-like little kitty. I could put her in positions that shouldn't be all that comfortable for a cat, and she'd hold those positions without moving.
Then, she started vomiting and she stopped eating. I knew we were in deep trouble at that point. Kittens that don't eat can become kittens that become dehydrated. And since kittens rarely have few fat stores to draw upon, they can almost starve to death when they don't eat for a few hours.
I started bottle feeding her, just as one might feed a kitten. And she went into the shelter clinic for anti-nausea medications and fluids. All told, it took her nearly 3 days to recover. Now, it would seem like nothing ever happened. She's perfectly normal now.
The shelter staff is discussing Eartha's situation and what should happen next. She might need to wait a bit longer than normal for more vaccines, and she might need to get vaccines in stages instead of getting one big shot all at once. And she may need to get vaccines in a separate appointment from her spay, which isn't the typical protocol.
I'm happy to be partnered with a shelter that doesn't treat these little kittens like cogs in the machine. If Eartha needs something special, including more time in a foster home, she can get it. Not all shelters have the funding to make similar choices. But I am reminded of how important funding really is, when it comes to cat rescue. Every shot, every reaction and every extra day spent in the shelter system has a charge involved with it. And those charges add up.
If you're hoping to make a difference in the life of an animal, and you're looking for a donor partner, might I consider my shelter: Willamette Humane Society? Your funds would do so much good.
And in the interim: Wish Eartha the best. I'll keep you all posted on her next steps!