A stray cat showed up in a neighbor's yard, sick, hungry and pregnant.
She was determined to find a safe home, so she could heal and have her kittens.
Megan Hurwitt from Texas heard the loudest cries coming from her neighbor's yard early last year. She looked down from her balcony and saw a stray cat meowing at her.
"I heard the angriest meow I've ever heard and saw this dirty ragamuffin screeching up to me from the yard. She looked hungry," Megan told Love Meow.
As soon as she opened the gate, the cat came sauntering in. Megan quickly set up a makeshift dining area with a box, towels, food and water.
"We have a lot of ferals in our neighborhood, and try to participate in TNR (Trap-neuter-return), so I went to call about getting a humane cat trap," she added.
It turns out that she didn't need one. When she went back to check on the cat, the kitty was happily ensconced in the box.
"I gently moved her onto my lap, and she happily curled up and began purring," Megan told Love Meow. "She was absolutely filthy, and skin and bones… I decided to bring her in, and keep her in the spare bedroom, away from the other cats. My husband was off-shore, but is a cat lover himself, so he agreed that I should take her to our vet."
That's when they found out that she had Feline calicivirus, which explained her hoarse meow, congestion and a bad eye infection. The vet tech later also confirmed that she was pregnant.
The vet warned her that as the cat was so young, she would likely be a first time mother, and that Megan and her husband needed to be prepared that some of the kittens might not survive, and they might have to bottle feed the ones that did.
"My husband told me to prepare our master bathroom as a birthing suite."
They bought a kiddy pool, and stuffed it with soft towels and blankets. "We got a heat lamp and heating pad for the kittens in case she rejected them, as well as KMR, all the supplies we needed to bottle feed, and anything else we could think of that we'd need to help prepare her for birth."
They named the cat Valentine, since that was the day Megan found her. "She was loving, needy, sweet tempered, and got very very big for her petite frame. She followed me everywhere like a typical ragamuffin, and her calicivirus and eye infection healed."
Megan tried to encourage Valentine to spend more time in the birthing suite, but the kitty preferred hanging out with her human in her bed. "I woke up one night and she was giving birth on the bed next to my head. I waited until she was in between kittens, then moved her to her birthing suite."
When the fifth kitten, the runt, was born, he got tangled with the umbilical cord as mama cat was too exhausted to cut it. Without a vet available at the time, Megan went with her gut to untangle the kitten and made sure every kitten would begin nursing.
"I called the vet repeatedly, because while Valentine was doing her best to nurse, she was growing weaker, and losing a lot of blood. The vet assured me that was normal many times," Megan said.
"About 24 hours post labor I listened to my gut and took her and the kittens back to the emergency vet. She had a temperature of 105 and was dying."
Valentine had a massive infection in her uterus and needed an emergency hysterectomy right away. "My husband came straight from the airport to the ER, as we scrambled to figure out whether to pay for the very expensive surgery. We decided to do so, even though the vet warned us that she might not live."
Around noon the next day, they received good news. The surgery was a success and the feline family returned home later that day.
"Over the next few months, Valentine repaid our kindness in kind — she dutifully nursed and cared for all five of her babies, even the runt. After the birth, we weren't sure any of them would live, but they all grew and thrived, hitting all the right milestones at all the right times."
"They opened their eyes at a few weeks, then began to walk, then progressed to kitten food," Megan said.
"They learned to run, and spent several months zooming around the house terrorizing our other cats and waking us up at night like a stampede of tiny buffalo across the bed."
"The vets were all shocked to see them, and momma, thriving so well. We didn't have to bottle feed them — she did all the work. All we had to do was set up a pet cube over the birthing nest so that we could check in on the kittens while we were away from the house."
All the kittens went to their forever homes when they were ready. "They were spayed and neutered, and are very happy in their new homes."
"As for Valentine… Well, we decided she belongs with us, and so we decided to keep her," Megan added.
Valentine was sick, hungry and pregnant when she showed up in the yard. "She was very insistent in finding a safe home with us to heal and have her kittens."
A year later, she still follows her humans around the house, and still has a raspy meow. "But she's put on weight and loves to keep her long fur luscious and well groomed. She's very happy."
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